Don Davies, Independent Candidate
Policy Statement May 2017
Don Davies, a local resident from Pill, is Leader of the Independent Group on North Somerset District Council. Don is standing in the General Election as the independent candidate for North Somerset.
I am committed to representing all of you in Parliament and will be accountable to you, rather than to a party machine. I believe it is important to commit to being present at debates and to take the voice of the people in North Somerset with me when I am invited to vote on key policy issues.
My guiding principles are:
- to create sustainable communities for us to live in, where properly resourced schools, health and social care services, jobs, retail and entertainment locations are all readily accessible;
- to ensure good quality, affordable housing and transport for us who live and work in these communities;
- to promote an inclusive society;
- to reduce our impact on climate change.
I have been a North Somerset councillor for six years, and during this time I have:
- co-founded a community land trust to build affordable, local housing;
- initiated the development of the county’s credit union;
- set up a cooperative to generate green energy locally;
- set up a food bank;
- taken over provision of village youth services after the Tory controlled North Somerset Council pulled out.
Should you elect me, Don Davies, as your MP for North Somerset on 8th June, concentrating on the needs of the people and communities of North Somerset, I will pursue vigorously the following policy areas by working alongside other progressive political parties in Parliament.
The country voted to leave, not to make ourselves poorer. An independent MP must hold the government to account to safeguard the interests of all constituents in the negotiations, including major international trade employers like Portbury Docks and Bristol Airport. Access to the single market would save jobs. Reciprocal rights of EU and UK citizens need securing. If the electorate demands a sign-off on the final deal when they have the information to make a genuine choice I would fully endorse that.
My Brexit priorities are:
- Free trade in goods and services with our European neighbours with no tariffs or other non-tariff barriers
- Protect the livelihoods and employment rights of all our residents
- Continue with European environmental protections
- Protect the rights of EU citizens in UK and vice versa
- No hard border for Northern Ireland, nor their residents disadvantaged
- Seek to maintain the human rights legislation provided by our membership
- Parliament as a whole to have the final say on any deal
INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE
My priority is to ensure that any Brexit deal fully secures our economic base in North Somerset. Many of our larger employers are heavily dependent on trade, transport and travel arrangements that are part of our membership of the EU.
Far too many North Somerset residents have to commute to work, mainly to Bristol and South Gloucestershire. I will work with others to encourage businesses to locate to North Somerset and generate employment locally. My commitment to adequate funding of education and training is to ensure that we have the skilled workforce in North Somerset to foster the development of new businesses as well as to make North Somerset an attractive place for the relocation of existing businesses.
With other progressive political parties in Parliament, I would seek to prevent key strategic companies being sold to foreign owners and to bring back into public ownership strategic infrastructure companies, such as water companies. Governance of companies must be brought into the 21st century by having worker representative on boards of all companies and encouraging the development of co-operatives. Government finance must be made available to ensure that companies in high tech, IT and similar key industries do not relocate overseas for want of essential investment finance.
Our economic stability is under threat from a number of sources, increasing levels of personal debt funding consumption, falling savings level, inflation, continuing trade deficits, poor labour productivity, lack of investment and an oversized finance sector in relation to the rest of the economy. We are also very exposed to changes in the world economy, given the percentage of our national income associated with foreign trade. Individuals are also under economic stress, since as pay as a proportion of national income continues to fall. It follows that repairing the nation’s finances and ending the economically-illiterate policy of Austerity using only income taxation becomes more problematic as the key source of tax revenue. I advocate a more progressive income tax regime for very high earners. Studies to inform policy development must be undertaken to look at ways to tax increases in wealth, much of which is unearned. Any affordable cut in VAT (which falls most heavily on lower earners) would be welcomed. Changes should be made so that higher earners pay a fair share of National Insurance.
The Tories have made massive cuts to local government. The definition of essential services is shrinking rapidly with continual reductions in direct front-line support for the weak and vulnerable members of our community. Local government must be supported and funded to provide essential services for the people of North Somerset: social care, child protection, youth services, consumer protection, parks, good roads, libraries, street lighting. All are necessary for a civilised way of life. These services are facing irreparable damage if cuts to them are not reversed. More funding must be provided from central government. I will propose changes to the banding of Council Tax to make it more progressive and introduce greater relief for poorer members of our society.
I would promote the abolition of business rates and replace them with taxation related to profitability and turnover, creating a level playing field for all businesses, large and small.
We have very good schools in North Somerset. High quality professional teachers should be allowed to teach without constant interference from central government. Schools have made all the efficiency savings they can, leaving a reduction in teachers as the only remaining option. Large class sizes, classes spanning multiple year groups and lack of support for the academically strongest and weakest will affect a whole generation’s future. Thus, I am very much opposed to the Tory proposed changes in funding formulae. I am also opposed to Tory constraints on local authorities to build new schools.
Theresa May’s grammar school model belongs to the past. All the education research evidence shows that the selection of some children into grammar schools is divisive within communities and families, is detrimental to the development of those children who are deemed to have failed, and is regressive in terms of social mobility. Our priority for secondary and further education must be to improve the skills of all children and young people to enable them to engage actively and effectively in the economy and society of the 21st century. Our economy needs well-educated young people.
University fees and student debt act as a disincentive for many able young people to engage in higher education. This increases inequality by providing opportunities only for the few and our economy and society suffers through closing the door on the potential of all to make a contribution. I do not propose the total abolition of tuition fees rather that they should be set at £3,000 per annum (instead of £9,000), and that education support grants should be reintroduced to ensure inclusivity in university education.
North Somerset has a housing crisis. Too many people are unable to find affordable homes to rent or indeed to buy: there is overcrowding and homelessness.
I will press for significant additional funding for rental housing providers, housing associations, land trusts, local authorities, and for legislation to be introduced to force developers to build houses where they already have planning permission or ensure that they lose that permission. I will actively encourage the growth of local builders’ and small developers’ projects in North Somerset.
I will promote government investment in affordable homes in sustainable locations throughout North Somerset, with good transport links, local jobs and services, prioritising use of brown field land. Any evidence-based changes to our green belt would be in balance, using community-based initiatives to provide those homes in any land swapped.
HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE
Our NHS must remain free at point of use and there be no more privatisation of parts of the NHS and nor more wasteful reorganisations. Money-wasting internal bidding for services within NHS must stop. Funding of the NHS must increase to meet demand. We should reverse the 40% cuts to public health spending foisted on North Somerset Council by central government; when these services were transferred out of the NHS they were then savagely cut back, giving the lie to the promise of no cuts to NHS spending.
In North Somerset, I will work to ensure that there is
- Increased capacity in general practice and in the services offered by GPs
- Reduction in waiting lists by increasing capacity in our large hospitals in Bristol
- Increased resources in A&E units in Bristol and Taunton
- Securing viable futures for both Weston General and Clevedon Hospitals
- Enhancement of community based mental health services
- A proper plan for training additional nurses and doctors in our region
- Improving working conditions to ensure that many more staff are retained
- Scrapping tuition fees for trainee nurses and health professionals is essential
As a society, we must engage in an evidence-based debate on how to fund long term health and social care for our ageing population in North Somerset. Short term fixes to social care funding do not drive the behavioural changes within the council and NHS to find lasting solutions.
Loneliness drives many people to attempt suicide every year. We, as a society, need to be inclusive. Funding should be put behind intergenerational schemes and supporting organisations like lunch clubs and community transport. All can have marked impacts, as can increasing public transport provision, particularly off-peak and in rural areas. Improvements like these improve people’s health and so save money by reducing pressure on the NHS and Social Services.
CULTURE AND SPORT
Support for local cultural and sporting activity has been devastated and hence too many are excluded from participating for want of money. As a result we as a society are lessened and less healthy, mentally and physically. Proper investment needs to be made in this area, especially to counter-balance the excessive use of resources into both London and elite sport and culture.
There are great examples of how greater investment in sport and culture helps to address many of the current social issues, youth disaffection in society, mental health, obesity etc. As your MP I would work to support local cultural and sporting projects. Why hasn’t Portishead got its skate park yet, Nailsea its swimming pool?
North Somerset is amongst the most unequal areas in England where the difference between the richest and the poorest is vast and is increasing. Evidence is such that societies with gross inequalities are not good for anyone. Changes to taxation will impact upon that, but more equal access to services, education, work, housing and so on are essential too. This would be one of Don’s priorities, as will be addressing gender inequality and any disadvantages suffered by our BME community.
I support the triple lock on pensions and preservation of pensioner benefits and am concerned about the lack of fairness within the revisions of the pensionable age for women born in the 1950s and I fully support their Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign. Longer term I will propose that we do need to revise our pension systems to take account of increased longevity, differing patterns of work, the disappearance of good quality employer-funded schemes and, because of falls in real income, the ability of many young and not so young citizens to be able to contribute towards their pensions.
CRIME AND POLICING
The nature of crime is changing: internet-driven, drug related, the increase in incidence of child abuse, modern slavery, people trafficking, terrorism, extreme anti-social behaviour. With Tory cuts to the police services, there are fewer officers, who are finding it extremely difficult to manage their existing workload let alone respond to these new threats. We trust our new Chief Constable in North Somerset will provide the necessary stability for the police service to confront these challenges. As your MP I will work closely with the PCC to ensure people are safe in North Somerset and our police adequately resourced.
We must establish sustainable transport methods for North Somerset. The Portishead railway line must be opened as a priority, as must an affordable, reliable bus service, with public funding to support it, if necessary by publicly owned bus companies.
I will work with others to develop positive alternatives to the car: solving congestion requires us to change the need for the use of cars. Building more roads only creates more traffic. Effective and efficient rail and bus services must be prioritised and cycling must be facilitated across transport networks. Provision of an effective network of charging points for electric cars must be a priority. Walking and road safety should not be neglected either in the transport agenda.
Proper investment in our local rail routes would be my priority, with affordable fares and reliable services, co-ordination with other forms of public transport, such as buses. I rarely fly, out of concern for the pollution and environmental impact of air travel; I recognise that many residents use air travel for business and pleasure but I am opposed to any further expansion of the airport in North Somerset without clear local support.
Air quality levels significantly affect people’s health. Transport must be less polluting, with more emphasis on public, clean transport, including more walking and cycling. Plastic pollution is a dreadful environmental scar. In Parliament, I will argue for all packaging to be recyclable, plastic packaging minimised with an increased emphasis placed on return and reuse schemes.
Climate change is already affecting us in North Somerset, witness much more unusual weather events. North Somerset is at grave risk of flooding as sea levels increase. The UK must meet all its international climate change commitments and work to improve upon these. Sustainable, carbon neutral human activity across all sectors of life is essential and must form the basis of policy for transport, building, industry and energy production. I will work with others to encourage as much green energy generation within North Somerset as is practicable, as well the transition to a low carbon industrial base for local industry.
In Somerset, we host a range of energy industries from the community interest company, Low Carbon Gordano, through proposals for fracking and to the internationally owned Hinkley Point ‘C’ Nuclear Energy Point. I will always support the development of community-based and community-owned renewable energy initiatives. I will back the ban on fracking in North Somerset as I am convinced that fracking is entirely inappropriate and will oppose the development of the seven new Petroleum Exploration Development Licences in the coastal area stretching from just below Clevedon, beneath Hinkley Point, to the edge of Exmoor National Park. These licences allow exploration activities to produce unconventional oil and gas by means such as fracking, coal bed methane extraction and underground coal gasification.
I will call for rigorous scrutiny and continual review of Hinkley Point and, depending on evidence arising from this, with others could call a halt to its development. I will support research and development initiatives with regard to the development of the tidal Severn Estuary as a potential rich supply of tidal wave power.
A government’s first duty is the defence and security of its people, here in this country and abroad. I will press for strengthening our conventional forces, army, navy, air force, to perform this crucial duty, using British made equipment wherever possible, and conscious of the need for new and different resources to counter terrorism in all its forms. Any foreign interventions that put our servicemen and women at risk for purposes other than that duty, and endanger the lives of innocent men, women and children, must only be as permitted through international law and UN resolutions.
The sale of British arms to conflict zones, either directly or indirectly, must be banned.
I will encourage links with countries that share our values of openness and democracy, support those advocating these values in other states, and make sure that the UK is at the forefront of assisting with humanitarian disasters worldwide. I am in favour of continuing current obligations on foreign aid as a proportion of national income and I welcome steps to make the use of that aid more transparent.
I recognise the impact of high levels of concentrated immigration in certain parts of the country, such as East Anglia, and additional demands that follow on local services and resources. North Somerset has not seen similar impacts. Any policy on immigration must be evidence-based as, sadly, current estimates and targets are very subjective. I will press the Home Office to have accurate recording of immigration and emigration in order to establish an evidence-based approach to any restrictions in numbers.
Levels of immigration must be not only be informed by evidence but also determined in liaison with employers, representatives of minority groups, universities and skills providers, to account their impact on wealth creation and service provision. Expert industry organisations are encouraging politicians to exercise caution around immigration policy and to be mindful that the UK is extremely dependent upon current immigration levels to sustain our health and social care services, to meet the seasonal demands of our agricultural sector and hospitality sector, and to provide specialists in our health, university and industrial sectors. With other progressive political parties in Parliament, I will push for the necessary resources to be provided for those communities where levels of immigration are relatively high and where, as such, there is pressure on services and schools. Any restrictions to immigration must be based on a fair and transparent scheme.
Refugees are very different from economic migrants and we must continue our long-standing commitment to welcoming those driven from their homes by terror, discrimination or disaster, especially children.
For a fair, democratic society everyone’s vote must count equally in every election; our current First Past The Post system fails miserably to produce democratic accountability in one of the oldest democracies in the world. The voting system needs to be reformed and the methods of election financing made much more transparent.
In a digital age there also need to be reforms to the ways in which we vote and engage with people in the electoral process, especially to better engage younger citizens.
As your local independent MP I would be led by our needs, not that of any party, and my voting stance in Parliament would be determined solely by that. And since I am in no party I shall be at work for you at all times, not overseas! I would always welcome your opinions on what matters to you and seek to use that to inform my ongoing policies. Decades of Conservative MPs here have brought us no benefits, so choose a real alternative!