Fringe Box



Candidate Interview: Susan Parker – Guildford Greenbelt Group

Published on: 28 Apr, 2015
Updated on: 29 Apr, 2015

Martin Giles of The Guildford Dragon NEWS has invited each of the parliamentary candidates for the Guildford constituency to take part in a short, ten question interview. Each response was limited to 100 words.

He has marked each response out of three for the directness and quality of the response as he sees it. See if you agree. Marks have not been subtracted if a candidate appears to have diverged from his/her party policy but this may be mentioned.

Susan Parker GGGSusan Parker

1. Isn’t more austerity necessary to tackle the deficit and the huge national debt? Aren’t more cuts and/or tax rises inevitable whichever government we get?

We do need to control both the deficit and try to reduce the national debt so unfortunately we are likely to get both cuts and tax rises. It would help if governments made sane decisions about spending rather than rushed decisions when in power and unfunded commitments beforehand – that’s all the major parties. As ever, there is a tendency to make crude decisions without thinking through the consequences, often with poor economic impact e.g. Help to Buy or the increases in student loans, both of which increased national debt very substantially and won’t have a positive impact on our economy.

Score 3 – Easier perhaps for Susan to answer this directly as she will not have to make the difficult decisions but she has answered directly and said why.

GGG logo2. How can we afford to fund our NHS services when there is ever increasing demand?

We can make sure we don’t waste money but not by cutting services. Money has been wasted through the PFI contracts and also through not employing nurses – and using agency nurses. Efficient and sensible use of public money should lead to proper funding of NHS services. I am concerned about medicines being rationed on price so our survival rates are sometimes lower than other developed nations. “Paying by outcomes”, i.e. depending on recovery rates, is a good way of funding the most current medication, otherwise unaffordable. Delays in care, where conditions worsen, can be more expensive than prompt efficient care.

Score 1 – Reduce waste, no cuts, – motherhood and apple pie. Where’s the beef? It is more than reducing privatisation and waiting lists. There is likely to be a serious shortfall in NHS funding as more of us grow older and require more care.

3. Would you put any limit on immigration or do you think the UK has the capacity to absorb the current net immigration figures of over 250,000, year on year?

I think that some form of points system might be appropriate for non-EU migrants. I think that the net figure is only an estimate, because the statistics for emigration are not properly collected any more, and haven’t been for years. I understand that the estimate of net immigration is believed by some to be overstated, but presumably no one actually knows. We should be aware that within the EU, as prosperity has grown in the newer member-states, people return to their countries of origin – for some groups the number of UK residents is falling – so we shouldn’t overstate the problem.

Score 1 – But even if the ONS stats are out by an order of magnitude – and the 2011 census did not indicate they are, in fact to the contrary – we have a significant problem. Surely the increase in population increases the demand for housing and pressure on the green belt? I am afraid, Susan is another candidate who is largely ducking the immigration question. Perhaps it shows the true power of perceived political correctness? (See my answers elsewhere on the points based system and embarks control.)

4.  Do you think population growth globally and nationally is a problem? Doesn’t it inevitably cause more damage to the environment and isn’t it a major reason why we need more houses?

Globally, population growth is a problem. It creates increasing environmental and food supply pressures, and so we should try to limit the global population increase through birth control. However, in Europe population levels are stable. The link between population and housing need is perhaps overstated.

We have 700,000 empty homes, not including homes over shops; several times the incoming number of immigrants per year.  Developers tend to exaggerate the housing need arising from an increase in population in order to justify building. Population increase is a good reason for keeping agricultural land in the temperate zone available for food supply.

Score 2 – So, we do have an admission that global population is a problem but then a swerve on national population. Instead Susan talks about European population but it is migration within Europe that is a major cause of our national population increase. Good points though on empty houses and the need to maintain the amount of agricultural land for food supply which has increased the score to 2.

5. Hasn’t the UK ceded too much sovereignty to the EU to be truly in charge of its own destiny?

No – although the EU does need to be more democratic, the European Commission is too powerful and needs to be more representative. If we were to leave the EU, we would become marginalised economically and politically, and would probably see the end of the UK (Scotland has said it would leave the UK if we left the EU).  I think our economic prosperity depends in part on being the gateway to the EU and we would be poorer if we left.  We need to reform the EU from within, and can then control what happens and our destiny.

Score 2 – Well Susan answers a clear ‘No ‘ but I am not sure that there is much evidence that our sovereignty has not been diminished. David Cameron admitted today (April 28) that the UK government is even powerless to scrap VAT on sanitary towels.

6. Do you think that the UK should get rid of its nuclear weapons?

No. I don’t think we need four nuclear submarines; to economise I might cut back to maybe two and no more than three; but we are in an increasingly dangerous world, and we have a resurgent threat of a new Cold War, and so we probably do need a nuclear deterrent.

Score 2 – Another clear ‘No’ but what is the reason for thinking 2 or 3 is sufficient? As I understand it we have four to ensure that there is at least one on patrol at all times.

7. All polls indicate that UKIP will have a higher share of the popular vote than the Lib Dems but, under our “first past the post system”, win fewer seats? Do you think that is fair?

No, it’s not fair, but UKIP isn’t the only party we should care about. This is an argument for proportional representation – but in this election it’s become clear that a local candidate, such as myself, would stand no chance in some forms of proportional representation. We need a list system of PR which allows the local connection, with local candidates, but then a top-up from a list to ensure that we have a correlation between votes cast and representation.

We also need boundary changes, with better correlation between local and general election boundaries, and arguably fewer MPs overall.

Score 3 – Susan is right, this is not just about UKIP, it was just that it is a topical example. Clear answer with reasons and a suggested solution.

8. Do you agree with the Guildford Residents’ Association that the house building target for Guildford Borough should be between 300 and 350 rather than the 650 figure put forward by Guildford Borough Council in the Draft Local Plan?

Yes, I agree with the GRA figure. Guildford Borough Council is now even considering a figure of 816 homes per annum, under the current SHMA, not the 650 proposed in last summer’s Draft Local Plan.  GGG’s position is that the lower number suggested by the GRA and other community groups, including us, is in line with that enforced by the High Court in 2010; it can be supported by the most recent Office of National Statistics projections for our local population growth, and it can be supported as a target for our borough for the next 15 years.

Score 3 – Clear, informative answer with reasons. But Susan loses one point for being happy to rely on ONS data here but not on net migration.

9. How do you rate the performance of Guildford Borough Council over the last four years?

Guildford Borough Council has performed badly. It failed to provide social housing. It didn’t listen to local people, or prepare a legally sound local plan.

There are still derelict areas in the town centre.  Large sums have been spent on commercial property, not on building council homes, which they could have built instead. Guildford has squandered our money and threatened our way of life, and the councillors responsible for making those decisions are now seeking re-election. You can fool all of the people, some of the time, but I hope that all of the people won’t be fooled this time.

Score 2 – Clear answer with evidence but Susan has ignored the areas of good performance by the council where much routine work goes on, to a good standard, without fanfare, every day.

10. Do you think local people should be prioritised for any “affordable houses” that are built? If you do, how could that be achieved?

Yes, we should prioritise affordable homes targeted for local people. We can have restrictions on houses built or managed by housing associations which limit their use to local people. Tied homes, which GGG supports, would also be usable only by key workers working in our community. We can ensure that the housing list for social housing administered by the local council has an emphasis on local connections to allow access to the housing list. All the main parties believe the only way to provide affordable homes is by developers as a proportion of commercially built homes – which is not sensible.

Score 3  – Another clear answer. Of course, only social housing can be prioritised in this way.

What do you think of Susan Parker’s answers and of Martin Giles’ scoring and comments? Your view is just as important. Have your say by using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below.

Click here to see other candidate interviews.

These candidates are standing for the Guildford constituency in the general election:

Hustings Notice feature

Share This Post

Responses to Candidate Interview: Susan Parker – Guildford Greenbelt Group

  1. David Bilbe Reply

    April 28, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    The candidate should answer why she does not agree that housing development should be spread across the 23 parishes of the borough.

    If the true number is 350 pa in total, then that equates to 15 per parish per annum. Totally manageable when one takes out windfall, brownfield and other and reduces the number further. The reason is that there is no appetite to share in the problem, and it would mean that it comes too close to home.

    GGG have fielded candidates in all parishes except those which do not are not green belt – Stoughton, Ash Vale, Stoke, Burpham to name but four. Why is this? Fancy having a councillor backed by an MP who votes for development in that ward when ‘colleagues’ are voting against in their green pastures? This is just a form on Nimbyism.

    • Susan Parker Reply

      April 29, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      There is a lot of brownfield land in Guildford and we believe we can meet our housing need by using that brownfield land for housing, without building on any green fields.

      There is no requirement to build on any green fields here, although developers around the borough and in the constituency are understandably eager to persuade everyone that this is inevitable or desirable. We think it is neither necessary nor desirable, but we can all see that it is profitable.

      There is enough brownfield land in the country for 1.5 million homes, enough in London for 500 000 homes. We think that a target of 300-350 homes per year in Guildford represents rational need for the foreseeable future. We also think that can be accommodated on brownfield land, including windfall sites in settlement areas.

      Quite apart from being government policy, building on brownfield is also in the interest of everyone in the borough and constituency. If we don’t use available brownfield for more retail development and offices (which the current Conservative council want to do and have proposed in their draft plan) then the land available within the borough will meet all reasonable needs for the future.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      April 29, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      I think you will find that GGG stands for NIYBY (Not in Your Back Yard)i.e. not in yours, mine, theirs or ours.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    April 28, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    A very unconvincing answer to question 3. Uncontrolled immigration is destroying this country. I believe that the net immigration figure quoted is very much an understatement as it does not include the masses of illegals pouring in. Which party is going to do something about it?

  3. Bernard Parke Reply

    April 29, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Perhaps the English are just a dying race?

  4. David Bilbe Reply

    May 1, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Staggering that Sue Parker and Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG) can not only talk generically about the brownfield land, they can say exactly where housing should be developed.

    GGG should have the courage to try and represent all residents of Guildford and should have fielded candidates in those wards which have that land.

    The GGG strategy is a negative one – do not build on my doorstep – only on someone else’s and that happens to be away from the east of the borough.

    The candidate list for GGG breaks down very conveniently. Those wards where GGG are not interested and have brownfield land – have no candidates. Then there are wards where they hope to get a candidate in to dominate the council but do not really care about the ward itself and finally those wards which are sacrosanct – more towards the east of the borough and Surrey Hills. It is so blatant and uneven in approach.

    In my village of Normandy, a small number of houses could be accommodated over the next few years without going anywhere such as the huge tracts of land as proposed in the Guildford Borough Council plan.

    This could be done under current government policies and laws and would not be disruptive nor worrying to villagers. We are being led to a Utopian view depicted by GGG and it would not work – however good it sounds.

    • Neville Bryan Reply

      May 3, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      In response to Mr Bilbe.

      I believe his ill informed assault on GGG [Guildford Greenbelt Group] forgot to mention that in fact he is the new Conservative candidate for GBC Normandy Ward, and reader comments therefore need to be taken in that light.

      For the record, GGG are a brand new political party, and have in 3-4 months got 24 candidates to stand across town and rural wards of the borough, including those wards which include substantial brownfield sites, a distribution balance which we hope is also reflected in our policies.

      GGG exists because our current Conservative led local council (one presumably Mr Bilbe supports as he is now standing for the party which has run GBC) has brought forward a local plan which proposes to drive a massive 25-30% growth in the size of Guildford in not much more than 16 years.

      I am sure those Guildford wards which have brownfield areas are as interested in how their previously developed land is used in future, as those looking to prevent 10,000 houses being built in the green fields.

      Therefore the GGG manifesto covers good design, as well as transport, finance, and governance – all areas we feel have been weak or misguided in the current administration.

      GGG believe that this plan was not in the best interests of the people of Guildford, whether resident in the town or village, and so are very pleased in the extremely short time available to field a wide range of good quality candidates, ready, if elected, to make a big commitment to Guildford to get this situation corrected.

      This positive reaction – rolling up our sleeves to get involved – to us shows the strength of feeling on these matters, and how wrong the “trajectory” of the Local Plan has been. Should we have had more time, the GGG candidate list of 24 would have been longer, and extended to all wards of Guildford.

      As regards to the Normandy ward specifically, anybody can look up our GGG response to some of the Normandy sites, as they can the Conservatives’ too. Just go to the Guildford Borough Council consultation web site pages.

      GGG want to protect green fields in Normandy from being safeguarded and taken out of green belt, as we do for all green fields. Having an openly decided, logically calculated housing number, properly constrained will ensure this is deliverable within brown fields.

      GGG are flattered that there is so much concern for our new local party’s policies, but I must admit my immediate reaction to your post, is along the lines of a quote I have used a couple of times recently, from the late, great, Terry Pratchet, which runs something like this: “Something is only worth doing, if somebody were rather you were not doing it.”

      Neville Bryan is the GGG Candidate for Worplesdon ward.

  5. Andrew Backhurst Reply

    May 1, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    I wonder if the Guildford Greenbelt Group would like to comment with their opinion on building on land beyond the green belt.

    What are their views on building on the beautiful fields around Tongham and Ash? I hope they will be honest as they posted GGG flyers through the doors of all of Tongham yesterday.

    These things need to be made public now rather than after the election.

  6. Harry Eve Reply

    May 1, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Susan Parker had some good suggestions for reducing costs in the NHS. If Martin Giles was not happy with the answers given by the interviewees (any of them) then perhaps he should have said so at the time and pressed for more complete answers as the audience did in the leader debate on TV.

    As to increasing demands on the NHS the simple answer, in my view, is that we have to foot the bill through higher taxation – and not by hammering the poorer end of society. Why should we expect more of something for the same or less. Its clear that the cost has to be borne by those who can pay rather than those who cannot and its also clear that it would be unwise to borrow too much.

    On population Ms Parker made an excellent point that has been ignored by nearly all the politicians who, basically, have their heads in the sand regarding the most difficult choices facing humanity.

    The UK is one of the countries that might actually retain or improve agricultural output under a modest degree of climate change but vast areas of the global food output are under real threat and we import food from many of them.

    We have to import food because we do not have enough land left to meet the dietary needs our existing population let alone the increases from uncontrolled immigration.

    It makes no sense to me to encourage an increase in the population of the UK at the expense of food production for future generations.

    How do we expect to feed our population when other countries no longer have a surplus to export to us. Will we take it by force or rely on corrupt leaders to sell us food while starving their own people?

  7. Garry Walton Reply

    May 4, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Harry Eve makes a good point about food production.

    Building on green fields and green belt doesn’t just destroy scenic beauty and natural habitat, it removes food source. The UK only produces about half (53% source ONS) of what we consume.

    Removing the food production at Three Farms Meadows (the former Wisley airfield) removes one million loaves of bread from our output which is suicidal.

    The point needs to be made that you can live in bricks and concrete but not long without food.

    Take a look at harvest time:

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *