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North Devon's 2015 general election candidates talk about the biggest issues facing the region

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: January 23, 2014

  • LIB DEM: Nick Harvey.

  • CONSERVATIVE: Peter Heaton-Jones.

  • LABOUR: Mark Cann.

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Each week the Journal asks North Devon's parliamentary candidates for the 2015 general election where they stand on some of the area's big issues. This week we ask: "What do you feel are the biggest problems facing the area?"

Nick Harvey – Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon

The tough economic climate has had a huge impact on many aspects of life in North Devon.

North Devon Council has seen annual cuts to its slice of government grant, stretching local services to crisis point.

I've been campaigning hard in Parliament to end the unfair funding bias towards urban areas – the situation is intolerable when people here pay on average £76 more in council tax than city-dwellers.

North Devon's economic development is key to recovery. While our manufacturing industry thrives, this is a low-wage area and we suffer a loss of young talent to cities.

We have some serious pockets of rural poverty and there is a shocking shortage of housing local people can afford.

Peter Heaton-Jones, Conservative Party

The local economy: The Government's policies are securing economic growth nationally. This must continue so that businesses, families, young people and pensioners in North Devon all benefit from a stronger economy locally.

Planning and Development – with growing pressure to build more houses, we must have a robust and sustainable planning framework. Local people's voices must be heard whenever new developments are proposed.

Rural funding: Currently, North Devon doesn't get a fair share of funding. This is especially so in rural and farming communities. The Government is making improvements, and I will work hard with all parties to ensure we get more.

Broadband: North Devon needs fast broadband coverage for residents and, vitally, for small businesses. I am concerned that this is not happening quickly enough.

Transport infrastructure: The A361 is not fit for purpose. Despite the cost, this cannot be ignored. Public transport, including the Tarka Line, also needs improving.

Steve Crowther – UKIP

North Devon has a unique charm as a tourist destination, but it has been left parlously short of other economic activity.

Throwing up turbines (built in Germany) and solar panels (China), or creating an artificial boom in house building, provides no long-term jobs for our young people.

So they leave, and we import thousands of over-64s. That does create an economy of sorts, but is it the one we want?

One in six North Devonians work in tourism, our largest industry, which depends on the sun staying out – not a recipe for economic growth.

If North Devon had serious investment in high-speed broadband and other business infrastructure, it could now be becoming the "knowledge economy" powerhouse that the EU says it should be (instead of agriculture, which they apparently want us to stop doing). That's our future – building world-beating businesses without geographical limitations, in a place that people actually want to live.

Then we can get earnings up, and maybe our youngsters will be able to afford to buy a house here.

Mark Cann – Labour

North Devon has some of the lowest pay rates in the country and the lack of affordable homes is a local and national disgrace.

We need investment in jobs, more help for small businesses, more help for the young unemployed and more help for people in housing need. That is why Labour is committed to building at least 200,000 new homes a year.

This will help tackle the lack of supply in the housing market which forces up prices and rents and will create more jobs in the process. Labour will also abolish the iniquitous Bedroom Tax.

Labour will get more people into work by guaranteeing young people and the long-term unemployed a job and will support measures to promote the Living Wage and so stop the nonsense of the state subsidising low pay.

These policies would have a major impact on our local economy and help improve living standards and life chances for all.

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