By Rhodri Sheldrake Davies
On May 3rd, Durham is set to go to the polls to choose our fresh batch of councillors.
To find out where your local polling booth is, click here.
With key issues arising seemingly focusing especially around the university and student cohesion with the local population, getting student voices heard will certainly prove more vital than ever. Thus, as the election draws in, we’ve contacted local candidates and parties to ask them why they think they should get students’ vote.
Durham Labour (15 candidates across wards):
Students make up 50% of the new Parish Council electorate and deserve to be involved in how and what our City provides.
The Labour Party candidates include four Durham University students and our key pledges for you are:
- Engaging young people – we will consult frequently with JCRs, DSU and in our neighbourhoods to ensure that students are never overlooked.
- University expansion – students need assurance that the University will provide the study resource space and support services required. Rapid expansion has led to pressure and anger in the local community. Any further expansion must be sustainable for the whole community.
- Housing & Landlords – many students experience difficulties with landlords, such as poor maintenance of properties, often leading to problems with neighbours. Labour will work with the DSU, University and County Council for ‘good’ landlord registration and enforcement action when required.
- Safe Clean and Green – preserving green space, street lighting, ensuring safe pedestrian flow, and improving night-time safety will be prioritised. Many students tell us how icy conditions made your walk to lectures treacherous – that’s why we’ll improve bin provision, both litter and salt, to keep your streets tidy and safe.
Bring Students and City together by voting Labour.
Durham Conservatives (15 candidates across wards):
The signs of the steady decline of our city are all around us, from the growing number of empty shops to our poorly kept streets.
As businesses suffer and close, over-priced student accommodation increasingly dominates the city, with no thought being given to the long-term housing needs of residents or students.
We need to make sure that the hard-work is done so there’s a real plan that will benefit Durham and all the people who live and visit here. Some difficult choices need to be made. Issues like student accommodation, business rates and parking need to be looked at. But we need to deal with these issues – carrying on avoiding them will only make the problems worse.
Real consideration needs to be given to the University’s large expansion plans that will disrupt local communities and ultimately devalue a Durham degree. The cosy relationship and the complacency of those running our city, such as the Labour-run County Council and the University, needs to end.
Conservative Councillors will fight to protect our beautiful city from overdevelopment, ensure our streets are made clean and safe, help local businesses build a stronger economy, and invest in community facilities that we can all benefit from.
Durham Liberal Democrats (15 candidates across wards):
The Parish Council elections are on Thursday the 3rd May and will cover the whole of a city which is already represented on a County level by the Liberal Democrats.
We are fielding candidates for all 15 seats and have tried to find people who live in the division they wish to represent. With this team we hope to gain a united body of Parish Councillors working in partnership with the County Councillors to give this new Council the very best of starts. Without its own voice the City’s heritage, economy, retail heart, community links and social fabric have all suffered badly.
The Lib Dems will work with local businesses to improve Durham for everybody. We hope to cooperate with the University to enhance links between the student population and the local community which has worked well at Sheraton Park.
This brings me to the elephant in the room. Staff and students have privately expressed doubts to us as to whether the University needs to expand so far and so fast.
Lib Dems will fight for a managed expansion so students and residents can both reap the benefits of living in such a wonderful city.
Mark Gilbank (Independent, Elvet & Gilesgate):
My vision is for all to work and live in harmony with your vote I can facilitate and be your voice within the parish council.
My name is Mark Gilbank (50yo) I am your local INDEPENDENT candidate, I am a parish councillor in a village on the outskirts of the city I spend my time volunteering in the city as I am now retired.
I would like to see the following:
- You policing yourselves with student special constables.
- Temporary toilets on a Wednesday and Friday, Saturday night.
- Work with the DSU to develop a plan to combat the rogue landlords.
- Have a monthly meeting with the college’s president’s to discuss your ideas and concerns so I can present them to both the university and the parish
With a bit of blue sky thinking and working with ALL the stakeholders together, we will live in harmony.
So remember to vote this Thursday, I will be the voice for you.
All candidates and parties for Elvet & Gilesgate ward were contacted; those who responded have been included.
Photograph: mrgarethm via Flickr