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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Housing, parking and cost of living among priorities for Carlisle council hopefuls

Political leaders have set out their priorities for the future of Carlisle as the city prepares to go to the polls.

Civic Centre photo
The Civic Centre, Carlisle

Spending cuts, affordable housing, new parking charges, and the fall in living standards are some of the main issues facing people in the area, according to key politicians.

Ahead of the city council elections on Thursday, we asked each party leader what they think the key challenge facing Carlisle is, and how they plan to tackle it.

Labour is defending its majority in the Civic Centre when voters go to the polls in 17 of the authority’s 22 wards. With 28 of the council’s 52 seats the party holds the balance of power outright.

Colin Glover, the current city council leader, believes the key is to make sure Carlisle is an inclusive city where everyone shares in its success.

He says Labour will protect local people from an “uncaring and out of touch Government”.

“Labour will drive forward Carlisle’s economy with our plan for jobs, growth and homes,” Mr Glover added.

He also stressed the importance of affordable homes for everyone, as well as working with local schools, colleges and the university to train young people.

Keeping the city clean and healthy, and supporting those struggling financially, is also vital, Mr Glover said.

John Mallinson, leader of the Conservatives, says the key is to “keep Carlisle growing”.

He explained: “We have to seize every opportunity to bring people and jobs here and make it as easy as possible for people to trade and live, and be very careful about things that would keep people out of the city centre.”

He added that it was important to create a “friendly commercial environment”, which is not helped by current plans to introduce on-street parking charges.

Liberal Democrat leader Trevor Allison believes the big issue is affordable housing.

He says there aren’t enough starter homes for young people or housing for the elderly. “The council could look at its own resources and brown field land,” Mr Allison said.

“The council should also have more regard to affordable housing in the planning system.”

UKIP have candidates standing in every Carlisle ward in next week’s elections.

The party’s John Stanyer said: “We need to get up off our knees and take back control of our lives for a better future for all.”

Cuts to essential public services and living standards are the main problems affecting residents in Carlisle, according to Green Party leader John Reardon.

Mr Reardon believes the answer lies in expanding the credit union, saying that if everyone in Carlisle invested £1 a week in the scheme it would raise more than £5m in loans to raise funds in the community.

If elected, Mr Reardon says his party would introduce a system where people could invest a small percentage of their earnings into the credit union rather than a pension scheme.

A £5-a-month investment from each public sector employee in Carlisle would raise about £5m a year for the credit union, he claims.

“With the credit union, every pound invested is loaned locally, so the money goes back into the local economy,” Mr Reardon added.

Brent Kennedy, of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, believes the major problem for people in Carlisle is the fall in living standards, made worse by cuts to jobs, wages and services.

His party would see workers get a “fair share” of economic growth by increasing the minimum wage to £10 an hour and scrapping zero hours contracts.

He said: “People are being exploited not only in the local retail and care sectors but also in big factories in north Cumbria, turning up for a shift at 10pm or 6am and being sent home with no pay.”

Mr Kennedy is also calling for a repeal of “anti-union laws introduced by Thatcher and maintained by Labour”.

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