Tees Society Forum’s spotlight has turned on to the General Election with members outlining what they would like to see on the political agenda that would improve society.
The Forum, which is chaired by Peter Medd, a director of Redcar-based Cygnet Law, provides leading community figures with a platform to examine key social issues affecting the Tees Valley.
This month’s question was: ‘Putting political parties and allegiances aside, what would be your one General Election wish that would help improve society and why? ‘
Peter Medd said: “The wide-ranging membership of the Forum is demonstrated by the spectrum of opinions on what should be top of the political agenda for the fast-approaching election.
“It will be interesting to see what stance the parties take on issues such as housing, welfare benefits, education and the economy, as the manifestos take shape, and whether they tally with any of our Forum members’ wishes.”
Lawrence McAnelly, Chief Executive of the Junction Foundation, a charity which helps vulnerable children, young people and their families, said: “At The Junction we are privileged to work with so many children and young people, who are brimming with potential, but more often than not they can be held back.
“Young people can face significant challenges depending on their personal circumstances, eg being a young carer and carrying the responsibility for caring for a family member, having poor mental health, the social environment, the confidence and self-belief to identify, seize and make the most of opportunities.
“These and other issues present significant barriers to young people being able to make their way in the world. We believe, and feedback from young people informs this, that by investing time and effort and working with young people we can empower them to achieve.”
Councillor David Walsh, of Redcar and Cleveland Council, said: “By focusing on the deficit as against looking to Keynesian growth, mainstream parties simply carry on viewing the economy through the wrong end of the telescope.
“The plain fact is that the deficit is a function of the health of the economy (its share falls when the economy is expanding and rises when the economy is failing). Because it is a function of the expanding or contracting ‘cake’ that is the economy, government is not able to control its size – as George Osborne has found to his cost. Why would we want to repeat this catalogue of errors and failures?”
Iain Sim, Chief Executive of Coast & Country, one of the largest regeneration and housing companies in the region, said:“The housing crisis is affecting people from all walks of life and all parts of the country; we must unite and commit to end the housing crisis within a generation to help stimulate development and growth in our communities. Investing in housing generates growth in the economy, creates new jobs and ultimately provides people with a place they can call home.
“At Coast & Country, we believe everyone has the right to a decent affordable home, a home they can call their own.
Martin Shutt, Managing Director of estate agents Parker Stag, said: “I would say that the General Election needs to focus on what I perceive to be the real “divide” in this Country i.e. not North v South but those in society that are prepared to work hard and contribute to the country and those few that are happy to sit back and choose a lifestyle of simply taking from the country and not giving anything back. A radical overhaul of the long term benefits culture would be my wish.”
Richinda Taylor, Chief Executive of domestic violence charity Eva, said: “To choose just one election ‘wish’ is not easy! As someone who works in the voluntary sector, I would hope that whoever leads the next Government would recognise the value that the sector can bring to a community. By working in partnership with statutory agencies, EVA is able to attract a large amount of additional funding from the private sector to support members of our community that would otherwise not be available. This enables EVA to help improve the lives of those in the Redcar and Cleveland area. Importantly, this has also allowed me to publicise recent projects and, therefore, attract national interest to projects being undertaken in the North East. I would, therefore, hope that the new Government would acknowledge the North East as being a vibrant, progressive and productive region that contributes a great deal to the UK.”
Rev Rachel Harrison, Vicar at St Peter’s Church, in Redcar, said: “Society benefits from good education that should be a right for all your children. I would hope that one of the political parties would declare that education policies should be above party politics; that there should be a shared policy that all parties adhere to for the good of our children and young people.
“With our schools we have wonderfully talented teachers, who work enthusiastically, but who are often thwarted by an ever-changing landscape of ideas and new initiatives from politicians. Society would be strengthened by a secure education system where children reach their full potential and head teachers and teachers receive the recognition they deserve.”