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Local elections 2011: Stuart Stockdale (Lib Dem) – Boley Park ward

As Lichfield and Burntwood voters prepare to go to the ballot box for the local elections on May 5, The Lichfield Blog has offered each of the candidates the chance to have their say.

We’ve sent out questionnaires to all District Council candidates and will publish their responses on the site to help you decide where to put your cross on election day. If your local candidates haven’t responded yet, why not chase them?

Name: Stuart Stockdale
Party: Liberal Democrat
Occupation: Retired teacher
Ward: Boley Park

What has made you decide to stand for election?
Obviously because I hope that, as an elected councillor, I could contribute to improving life for local residents. Why else would you stand? Local people need an advocate to communicate their views to the council establishment, which for years has been an unrepresentative ‘one-party state’.

Where Liberal Democrats are elected we work extremely hard to maintain contact with residents and communicate their concerns to the council. That is something I am determined to do if elected. Even in a relatively prosperous area like Boley Park there are pockets of deprivation and people who need help in securing their interests.

What are the key local issues for you in your ward?
The green Belt must be defended against developers, The City has already absorbed as much extra housing as the infrastructure can cope with. Stronger action is needed to ensure empty properties are brought into use for residential purposes and we must ensure that the bulk of any new housing is affordable, to cater for young aspiring house buyers and renters, rather than top of the range homes that will encourage inward migration from beyond the city.

Our council needs to be much more aggressive in greening the city – which would bring financial and economic as well as environmental benefits. There is a pressing need for a new station on the south side of the city with adequate parking facilities, to obviate the need for the early morning on-road parking scramble and the excessive congestion on streets near the city centre.

I am sceptical about the proposed High Speed Rail Link, especially in its present form. The environmental impact is very worrying and it is likely to blight homes to the south of the city centre. The business plan appears flawed and the economic benefit analysis does not do much for the Lichfield economy. I would favour the alternative of Rail Plan 2 – which envisages further development of parts of the West Coast Main Line – and additional funding to reopen the lines to Burton and Walsall as a start to improving rail services that Lichfield people could actually use. We need more imaginative schemes such as Park and Ride and Cycle Routes.

We need to restore sanity to the Council’s finances – the reserves from the sale of council houses have been all but frittered away on prestige projects like the Garrick Theatre. This is a cultural amenity which many enjoy, but it has a flawed business plan and the massive subsidy it consumes is not justifiable – it should be operated privately with a much smaller public subsidy.

If you are elected how do you plan to keep your constituents informed of what you are doing to represent them?
Liberal Democrat Councillors in Lichfield keep people informed through Focus, a community newsletter dealing mainly with local issues. That is something I would extend to Boley Park.

I currently work voluntarily with a councillor on North Lichfield where we also organise regular ‘street surgeries’, targeting smaller local areas to visit residents and deal with any concerns or queries. My experience of this scheme shows that this is  very worthwhile.

How do you feel you will be able to make a difference to your constituents?
That is going to be very difficult if a single party is returned again with an unrepresentative majority. Liberal Democrat Councillors on the current council have worked together with independents to hold the majority group to account, but there needs to be more of us.

The most important difference residents would notice is the high quality contact between electors and their representatives through the means outlined above.

Anything else you would like to add?
I am a committed campaigner, having been an active member of the Liberal and Liberal Democrat parties since 1958. I am a governor of a local secondary school, working to assist the school’s learning support team, and secretary of the Lichfield Twinning Association. I am a member and/or active supporter of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, The Woodland Trust, The National Trust, The Angling Trust, The RSPB, The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, The Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, The National Union of Teachers the Refugee Council, Mencap and Shelter.

Finally, I would like to urge all Boley Park residents to turn out on May 5 and vote in the ‘Fairer Votes’ Referendum. This is a once in a lifetime chance to change our unfair and undemocratic voting system, put pressure on MPs to work harder for us, end the scandal of safe seats and jobs for life that enables many politicians to take us for granted and give more power to voters. Please don’t leave it to your neighbours!

Also standing in the Boley Park ward (once they have responded, these will link to the response):

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.