Thursday, May 05, 2005

VOTE POSITIVELY FOR A BETTER FUTURE

At last the General and County council elections are finally coming to a close and it is time for everyone - except the 20% who have already voted by post - to make their cross.

I hope everyone will use their vote, and use it positively for a better future.

Once in five years we are all equal, and we all have a chance to say
where this country should be going. For me, and for many people, this is an opportunity. For others it seems to be a threat.

We can campaign for a positive agenda for tomorrow, or we can resort to childish scare tactics. I have lost count of the number of times the Labour campaign in Copeland have warned that a vote cast for anyone but themselves might result in my winning, and this is presented as the end of civilisation as we know it. Usually this is based on gross misrepresentation of Tory policies, sometimes it is downright silly, as when the Prime minister appeared to suggest that the Conservatives would sack every teacher, nurse, and policeman in the country. Needless to say our real policies do not involve a single lost job among any of these groups.

Instead of the tactics of fear I want to put forward positive policies for Copeland. First of all, we must work, not just to retain existing health services in West Cumbria, but to improve them. I want to see the NHS Trusts, Copeland Council, and the new University campus at Westlakes work together to develop a serious long-term strategy for a recognised teaching hospital in Cumbria. This cannot be achieved overnight, but the very fact that a positive strategy for the long-term future of local hospitals is being put in place would do a great deal to address the concerns of poor morale and difficulty in recruitment and retention which are a real threat to the service. We will not solve the problems facing local hospital services either by denying that they exist or by
the kind of language which makes morale problems even worse. We will
solve the problems by recognising them and addressing them.

A Conservative government will ring-fence the money currently being
spent on the NHS and increase it each year in real terms. We will scrap national targets and give hospitals and GPs more freedom to address local patient needs, while redirecting the resources currently used to administer these targets towards front-line improvements such as cleaner hospitals and more dentists.

West Cumbria desperately needs more jobs, and a wider range of jobs. I support new nuclear build at Sellafield but this will not be enough.

The new University campus represents an enormous opportunity to improve the local skill base and we must make the strongest effort to properly exploit it. We must also do more to develop opportunities for modern apprenticeships and training. We must reduce the burden of bureaucracy and centrally imposed rules on teachers and give heads more power to improve school discipline.

Improvements to our transport infrastructure, both road and rail, are also essential. I am the only candidate who actually put himself down to speak as a witness at the A595 inquiry - we need to improve that road, not downgrade it. I also support the Duddon Estuary crossing project and improvements to the A66.

We should also improve the quality of people's lives by providing more police and scrapping some of the paperwork that keeps them in police stations so they can spend more time on the beat.

Since moving to West Cumbria with my family I have enjoyed life here
immensely. But it could be even better, and that is what I want to
achieve.

The Conservatives have a positive agenda for change which I am proud to support. And I would say to people in Copeland, however you vote, vote positively.