Why do you want to represent Salisbury?

I want to represent Salisbury as our MP for the simple reason that I am passionate about making our community a better place and I want to make a positive difference in local people’s lives. I have lived in South Wiltshire all my life and I now run a solar panel business here, it is my home. I’ve experience of Westminster, which will help if I’m elected, but most importantly I understand the people, places and local issues – and I think that will best equip me to get things done for Salisbury.

What would you most like to change in Salisbury?

In terms of a physical change, I would like to see Churchfields broken up and moved from its current site. I think that it is crazy to have an industrial park 5 mins walk from the heart of a mediaeval City and that it is the single biggest cause of the traffic problems we have in Salisbury – moving it would massively improve the quality of air, atmosphere and life in the City.

In terms of a more “cultural” change, I want us to renew a commitment to being a vibrant and ambitious community as we move into the future. With the wrong choices we risk becoming a “sleepy backwater” town, a danger I think we should reject. We need to ensure that there is a thriving economy with jobs and opportunities for local people; that the standard of local services remains high and investment improves in our underfunded areas, like schools and road repairs; I want us to reinvigorate our local democracy, taking back as much power as we can from the Trowbridge-based Wiltshire Council and putting it into the hands of local people; and I want to see us leading the way on making Salisbury an environmentally friendly city, increasing recycling rates, improving air quality and investing in public transport options (including opening new local train stations). I believe that because I have lived in Salisbury all my life, this local experience makes me best placed to lead our community towards this vision of the future.

What do you think of reducing the tax take on veterans’ pensions? (David Bruce (davembruce) on Twitter)

This is an interesting idea David. Liberal Democrat party policy is to reduce taxes for everyone on low incomes, including pensioners, by raising the tax allowance meaning that you would pay no tax on the first £10,000 you earn. This would be paid for by closing loopholes on the top earners. I believe this progressive policy should apply to everyone on low incomes and I don’t believe we need a special tax exemption for veterans.

Do you support boundary changes? (Simon Marks (simonmarks100) on Twitter)
Could I ask a question regarding boundary changes? It would be interesting to find out when it happened and why we haven’t been informed. (Ann Robinson, Donhead – via email)

The boundary changes to the Salisbury Constituency happened because Salisbury and Amesbury have grown in population in the last decade and the Electoral Commission try to keep all Constituencies the same size. I don’t ever remember being informed officially, I think that is a good point Ann. In terms of whether I support them or not Simon, the changes to do reduce the Tory majority and make the seat more winnable for the Lib Dems :-) but that aside I don’t think that people in the Nadder Valley share much culture with Westbury (having lived there most of my life I know that Salisbury is where the people there “look”), equally I don’t think that Larkhill, Durrington or Bulford to the north of Amesbury feel like part of Devizes, so these communities feel disenfranchised and these things are much more important than party political advantage and so no, I don’t support them.

What are the best and worst things about Salisbury council? (Simon Marks (simonmarks100) on Twitter)

Best thing: The City Council is a forum where local issues can be discussed, there is plenty of cross party discussion and the best interests of Salisbury seem to be put first. It also provides something of a balance to the concentration of power in Trowbridge with the Wiltshire Council.

Worst thing: They have far too little power, they are little more than a parish council and so have very limited ability to change things for the better. The Liberal Democrats want local government like this to be strengthened and given more power.

If you win, will you be singing on the balcony of the White Hart? (Simon Marks (simonmarks100) on Twitter)

No. Firstly, I want people to elect me on the basis of my ideas, character and policies not my ability to sing :-). Secondly, while tradition is important, there are some things that just need to change. I think the symbolism of the newly elected MP belting out some song from a balcony just after having been elected is just plain silly, and quite odd, it seems very “separate”, putting distance between the MP and the people they are supposed to represent. I have a general rule in politics which is that I try to keep to a minimum those things which a “non-politician” would never do. So for example I never wear a rosette –“ they make you look like a prize winning horse, when do you EVER see a normal person walking around with a rosette on!? They are a symbol that separates the politician from the people, and I don’t think that is the point of politics –“ I’m a human being first, politician second. Likewise, I think the singing from the balcony is one of these things that separates you from people so I won’t be doing it. What I have said is that I will make an address and take questions on the Guildhall steps the Saturday afterwards. Oh and finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m a rubbish singer ;-)

What’s your position on the Digital Economy Bill? (Mark Timms (Pimmsoclock) on Twitter)
Do you think that there are more questions to be asked about the Digital Economy Bill and its new powers ? (StuRobson (StuRobson) on Twitter)

I recognise the need for some reform to the way the Digital Economy is regulated, but I really disagree with many of the proposals in the Bill (or indeed the Act as it is now, having been passed in the “washup”). I’m outraged about how it has been forced through by Labour and Conservative with hardly any debate. So Stu you’ll probably be pleased to learn that the Lib Dems opposed its passage and called for it to be delayed until the next Parliament where it could be properly discussed. More recently, Nick Clegg has said that we would repeal the Act should we have sufficient support in the next Parliament.

How do you plan to engage with young voters? (Mark Timms (Pimmsoclock) on Twitter)

Mark, I’ve worked hard over the last two years to engage with younger people on Facebook and Twitter, reaching 2000 friends and 700 followers. I’ll continue to communicate and engage with these people throughout the election period and indeed if I am elected as the MP. I’ve also got a good team of young people helping the campaign and I think this makes our campaign more approachable than most others for younger people. Also, the substance of what we have to say as a party is attractive to young voters I think, we represent a different way of doing things from the previous 65 years and the two old parties, and I think that the success of the “Rage Against the Machine / vote Lib Dem” Facebook group shows that we have a huge amount of support with younger people.

The current illogical situation of charging nothing for alterations to listed buildings but charging VAT at standard rate on repairs and maintenance is not in keeping with the pressure for a sustainable approach to building. Do the candidates support removing or reducing VAT on Building Repair and Maintenance work? UK MEPs from all parties backed a VAT cut in February last year but no obvious action has been taken on this. Are any of the Parties committed to this? (Jill Pearce, Publisher, Donhead Publishing)

Yes, I support removing or reducing VAT on Building Repair and Maintenance work. We’ve proposed a small increase on new builds to pay for this.

What’s your stance on the closure at Porton Down? (Cliff Sullivan – Cliffsull’s Blog)

Cliff, I’ve been campaigning hard on this issue ever since it came up earlier in the year. I had attended a briefing at Porton Down in September last year about their plans to redevelop their site, which would have provided a significant amount of investment into our area. It came as a huge shock to everyone to hear that they had changed their mind and that they are planning to relocate to Essex. It would be a big blow not only to the local economy but also the our country’s health protection capacity. The new site is not as suitable as Porton Down, the move goes against recommendations in the Lyons review (which calls for public sectors jobs to be moved away from London), many of the scientists would not make the move therefore disrupting the strong culture, tradition and history of health protection expertise that has built up locally and finally there is no significant cost saving to the HPA in moving the site to Essex – the reasons why the management are proposing the move are frankly baffling. I have campaigned against the relocation since it was announced earlier in the year. I’ve been up and down the Winterbourne Valley talking to local residents and business owners about the impact the move will have and I’ve also been collecting signatures for a petition to the Prime Minister calling for him to intervene – which you can sign here http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/keepHPAatporton/ I will be best placed to keep up the fight if elected as Salisbury’s MP.

What actions will you each take to minimise your individual cost to the taxpayer? (Anon. from Twitter)

If I am elected as Salisbury’s MP I have promised the following measures to reduce my cost to the taxpayer:

1. Not to claim for a second home mortgage.
2. Not to take 1st class rail travel at the taxpayers expense.
3. All my expense claims will have receipts.
4. All expense claims will be published in full on my website.
5. My guiding principle will be that I will only ever make an expenses claim for items directly incurred as a result of my duties as Salisbury’s MP.

If I don’t do these things, you can kick me out at the next election.

I would like to know how far reaching the support for small business really is – will it all vanish once elections over? (Tracy Ronan, Gaggle Gifts)

The answer to your question Tracy will depend on the result of the election. I run a small business myself (installing solar panels) so I understand the challenges that we face. One of the biggest problems we’ve faced is that banks are still not lending properly. Vince Cable our Shadow Chancellor is the right man to lead our economy and he is committed to getting the banks lending again. To give help to small businesses we want to put an end to the so-called “gold-plating” of EU rules, so that British businesses are not disadvantaged relative to their European competitors. We want to reform business rates, creating a fairer system where rates are based on site values rather than rental values and are the responsibility of local authorities, and we will make small company relief automatic.

Do you think the city of Salisbury should show more involvement with the football club, i.e sponsorship etc. ? (Michael J. Hill (MicKarchie) on Twitter)

Michael, I think that the football club is well supported by local people, crowds are normally between 1,000 and 4,000. I hope this continues because I think it is good for the community to have a thriving club. Should we show “more” support as you ask, well maybe, I think that is probably up to the football club to make itself attractive to local people (and businesses if it wants sponsorship) so that it is something the local people *want* to do.

What do you think of the plans for the Market Place?

I think that it is important to invest in “civic infrastructure” like the market place. The market place is the heart of our city and it is important that it is an attractive place that people want to come and that helps local business to thrive. I’m not convinced by the architecture competition that was held and I think that the Council have done a poor job of “taking people with them” in the project – it would have helped if our roads had been properly fixed before they embarked on this project. Finally, there are still outstanding questions about the existing traders getting their same spots back after the resurfacing, which I think needs more attention.

Are ‘Open Primaries’ a good thing?

I’m yet to really decide about this. They are a good thing because they “open up” the political process, but then it does devalue what it means to be a party member. I think if pushed I would say that they are a good thing.

If elected would you continue to communicate via Twitter?

Yes, I’ll continue to use Twitter whether I’m elected or not, it is very much part of my life.

What is your favourite….

….piece of music? Such a hard question, though right now its The Magnificent Seven theme tune, I find it is a great way to start the day on a positive!

….film WALL-E

….book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

….view of the Cathedral From the Cockey Down Site of Special Scientific Interest on the chalk down hills behind Laverstock.

Is there anything in the Salisbury Festival that you’re particularly looking forward to?

The talk by John Simpson, he’s a legend.

The main theme of http://salisburyandstonehenge.net is the meanings of Salisbury’s road names. If you were asked to choose the name of a new road, who or what would you name it after?

As one of only 4 places that has a copy of the Magna Carta on display in the City, I’d would choose “Magna Carta Lane” as a tribute to that ground breaking civil rights document.

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