Vote Jesmond 2017: Conservative Party candidate

Ahead of the general election on June 8th, JesmondLocal will be profiling each of the five candidates standing for election in the Newcastle East parliamentary seat. Starting our five days of profiles, Morgan Ayre meets Conservative candidate, Simon Kitchen.

Conservative candidate Simon Kitchen is a former pupil of Heaton Manor and a graduate of history who works in the charity sector with particular interests in national disability charities and the Dementia Action Alliance and is “very passionate about the care sector”.

Growing up in the 1980s in a strongly Labour-voting area and with a brother who is a self-avowed Corbynista, Kitchen was drawn to the Conservatives  because “they weren’t the party that was trying to make people dependent on government, they were trying to build people’s independence to support themselves.”

Why should people vote for the Conservative party?

This election is about voting for grown up government. There are lots of challenges the country face and that Newcastle face and we’re just being honest about how we’re going to tackle those.

For example with the economy, having lower taxes and lower regulations means that you get more businesses and in Newcastle East we’ve seen 17% more businesses now than when we came to power.

Unemployment is down to its lowest level for generations, it’s lower than London now. The city is really starting to buzz now. There’s a lot more that we want to be able to do. We need more time to make sure everyone see the prosperity that we have here in Jesmond and in Heaton as well. Jesmond is always going to be a prosperous area, but there’s no reason why Walker and Byker shouldn’t have full employment.

Brexit: how will the North East benefit?

It will give us more control over our government to make decisions in our interest. [The EU] was set up to create a more prosperous more cohesive continent and it was starting to do things that were damaging. The North East did benefit from being a part of the EU: I used to evaluate government monies coming from the EU and some was spent well and some less so.

A lot of the monies we were putting in we were getting back as net contributions  and at least now we’ll be in control over how that money is spent. The government will have more accountability.  A lot of people did vote to reduce immigration and Newcastle has benefitted a lot from immigration especially with the universities but research does indicate that those with lower skills at the high level of immigration will probably suppress wages so you could see if there’s a shortage of labour.

By definition, people will have to pay more to get people to do that type of work. There could be opportunities there in terms of being able to reduce unemployment. It’s about giving people more a sense of control in their lives. They are having things done with them rather than to them.

Are there too many students in Jesmond?

The students are a benefit overall to the city, it’s just about making sure you’ve got stable communities and that Jesmond stays a family area as well. In Heaton, a lot of the student houses are going back to family homes, which I think is a good thing.

The universities are the future of this city, both from the research they do and the students they bring in. They are more of an asset than a liability but it needs to be managed. We also need to make sure it’s kept clean, which is a priority as well.

What’s the biggest issue facing Jesmond? What would be important to voters?

That’s for them to tell me! I can tell you what we would do for Jesmond. We are going to keep taxes low because we believe that lower taxes brings in more tax revenue and we can raise more money for public services. We’re committed to increasing the base rate up to £12,500 so those on low income would see their taxes go down.  We’re going to increase the upper threshold up to £50,000 so those on middle incomes would also benefit.

People will be using the NHS and under the Conservatives, the Newcastle foundation trusts has one of best CQC reports in country. Staff levels are going up, there have been high levels of care so that’s something people will continue to benefit from. On Brexit, there was a big split in constituency between those voting to leave and a lot of people in Jesmond will have voted to stay but everyone can agree that we want the best possible deal and that’s why we need a strong government.

Jesmond can benefit from Brexit. We’ve got to protect what we’ve got for the universities’ funding. In terms of a trade perspective there will be opportunities to trade abroad and not have to face the barriers they would otherwise face with being in the EU. If I was Conservative MP for Newcastle East, I can guarantee that I am much more likely to be able to talk to Liam Fox or David Davis and be able to talk about what Newcastle’s needs are.

How will the Conservatives will do in this election and in a post Brexit world?

I think we’ll do well, in our manifesto there were no flashy giveaways, we’re very honest about things. The social care policy was obviously unpopular, I personally will probably lose out from that but I believe it was right thing to do. That was an example of where the Conservatives have said there’s an issue with an ageing population and we need to make sure we can provide good quality care for people.

We don’t think it should be funded by younger people who will be general taxpayers, it’s better that people who own property they should be the ones that pay for it. It’s proved unpopular but I think it’s a sign that we do grown up for politics for people who live in Jesmond. The alternative is a government under Corbyn who promises everything to everyone and not really thought about how they’re going to raise the money to actually do it.

How would you improve transport in the area?

We want to invest in infrastructure going forward. We want to talk to local economic partnerships and find out from local businesses about the type of infrastructure they want to see improve. The Conservatives drove forward the Metro and we’ve seen money coming in over the last couple of years to get the ticket gates going in to make sure they protect revenue so those practical things can make a difference. We’re also looking to extend the high-speed rail up to the north, which would hopefully cut down journey times.