General Election 2024: Questions to candidates – Steve Roberts Green Party for East Thanet

Thanet Green Party parliamentary candidate Steve Roberts

On July 4 the country will go to the polls for the General Election.

Nationally, Electoral Calculus predict Labour will have a 272 seat majority.

Predicted votes are 21.9% Conservative; 41.4% Labour; 10.8% Lib Dem; 14.8% Reform; 5.6% Green and the remaining 5.7% going to SNP, PlaidC and ‘other.’

In the 2019 General Election, before the boundary changes that have come into force this year, Conservative Craig Mackinlay took the South Thanet seat with more than 56% of the vote.

He polled 27,084 votes, some 10,587 ahead of nearest competitor, Labour’s Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt, who gained 16,497 votes.

Mr Mackinlay announced he would not stand in the forthcoming General Election due to the continued medical appointments and procedures that he continues to face.

On Wednesday, May 22 he returned to Parliament after eight months, having had his arms up to the elbows and legs up to the knees amputated due to an extreme case of septic shock.

However, that same day Conservative leader Rishi Sunak called the snap election and Mr Mackinlay made the decision not to fight for the seat.

Mr Mackinlay was first elected to the South Thanet constituency in 2015 where he stood against UKIP leader Nigel Farage and comedian Al Murray, among others including the bizarre Nation of Oog candidate.

Veteran Conservative Sir Roger Gale, who held the North Thanet seat since 1983, was  elected with 30,066 votes – equalling 62% of the poll. Labour’s Dr Coral Jones took 12,877 – 27%.

However, for this election in East Thanet the poll has Labour with a 91% chance of winning the seat and Conservatives on 9%.

In Sandwich and Herne Bay – which includes areas of Thanet – the prediction is currently 45% Conservatives and 55% Labour.

In East Thanet there are eight candidates vying to become the area’s next MP.

We have asked the candidates to answer some questions on issues that matter to Thanet.

Here Steve Roberts, standing for the Green Party, tells us his views on subjects ranging from housing development to the NHS:

Housing development- particularly on farmland – and the housing numbers dictated for the Local Plan are a concern for many residents.

What is your view on this, can government reduce housing need figures due to them being based on 2014 ONS stats which do not seem to reflect the 2024 situation and need?

Alongside this Thanet needs more social housing, how would you tackle this?

Thanet has 1,500 families on the waiting list for a home and finding them somewhere to live should be our priority.

It is generally acknowledged that the Office of National Statistics data on which our current housing numbers are based on is wrong. As a result, we have been lumbered with a Local Plan that designates so much of our prime agricultural land to build too many, mostly unnecessary, houses. It didnt need to be this way. The main responsibility for this does not sit with Thanet District Council. It sits with the Tory Government who forced the council to adopt the flawed Local Plan and whove consistently refused to allow the plan to be revisited. 

Government housing policy needs to change. We need to be focused on providing the homes we need rather than the houses developers want to build. The Green Party has pledged to create 150,000 council houses per year, building the right homes for the right price in the right place, which isnt on our prime agricultural land.

Minster Marshes – There is a campaign against the National Grid plans for a converter station as part of the Sea Link project. What are your views on this?

I was involved in creating and actively support the Save Minster Marshes Campaign. National Grid is a privately owned ‘for profit’ company. It is responsible to its shareholders not the public. We fully support green energy, however the nature of National Grid means that they are seeking the cheapest not the most appropriate option. National Grid must find a better location, one that does not destroy a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Southern Water sewage releases in our sea – how would you tackle this?

Water companies have had 34 years to invest in infrastructure. Instead, they’ve paid out £78 billion to shareholders and built-up debts of over £60 billion.

Water companies should be taken back into public ownership. Doing this would involve a similar process to the one the current government is following to create a publicly owned Future Systems Operator to plan for net zero by taking some duties from National Grid.

It would be for Parliament to agree an appropriate level of compensation but if we gave the shareholders back what they put in (i.e. the equity value of the shares) it would cost just under £15 billion to buy back the water companies. We would save around £2.5 billion a year because we wouldn’t have to pay out shareholder dividends and borrowing costs are lower in the public sector. Bringing water into public ownership pays for itself in around 6 years on that basis.

One option that wouldn’t cost the public anything and that we could start right now would be to take shares not fines from water companies when they pollute. This would kick off the process of taking back our water, help clamp down on profiteering polluters, and give local communities more say.

There is only one way to stop water companies dumping sewage in our seas, to bring them back into public ownership. Only the Greens have the courage to commit to this.

Cost of living – Thanet families are struggling to make ends meet, businesses also struggle as a result and there are a large number of empty shops in our towns. How will you help the economy to recover and how will you help our families and businesses?

Brexit has hit Thanet hard. The Green Party recognise this and are the party truly committed to rejoining the European Union. This will give our economy a much-needed boost.

I am passionate supporter of local businesses and the thriving High Streets that make our towns great places to live. Thriving high streets made up of independent businesses also attract tourism which our economy depends on. Businesses need more notice of road closures, especially when businesses are given short or no notice and when bus routes are impacted. Business rates need a complete overhaul.  Making all online retailers pay their fair share of tax would create a level playing field.

NHS – Thanet has a severe shortage of dentists and there are not enough GPs, getting an appointment is problematic.

There is also desperate need for improved mental health services, both adult and child. What are your views on this?

My view is that the damage done to the NHS over the past 14 years has caused untold illness, distress and suffering. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are one of the hardest hit areas.

Compassion in healthcare and the prevention of illness should be at the forefront of our healthcare service. The Green Party would:

  • Maintain a publicly funded, publicly provided health service, and oppose NHS privatisation and treating healthcare as a market.
  • Decentralise healthcare responsibility to local government, ensure that minimum service levels and national guidelines are provided to prevent a postcode lottery, and oppose further health service centralisation. Thanet will clearly benefit from this.
  • Keep the health service free – abolish prescription charges, reintroduce free eye tests and NHS dental treatment for all, and ensure NHS chiropody is widely available.
  • Maintain the principle of a free NHS by implementing in England and Wales the scheme that provides free social care to the elderly in Scotland. If the Scots can do it, so can the rest of us. This would be phased in, costing about £3bn in 2010 rising to £8bn pa, and could create 120,000 jobs.
  • Provide accessible, local community health centres that provide a wide range of services, including out-of-hours care, and are an additional tier of healthcare rather than a replacement for your GP.
  • End phony patient choice. For most of us patient choice is much less important than getting good treatment at our local hospital or health centre – which is often, for many, the only practical choice.
  • Oppose a two-tier health service. The quality of your care should not depend on the depth of your pocket.
  • Treat patients with dignity. Patients have both rights and responsibilities – they are not customers who can come and go. Their dignity should be recognised, but they should also treat NHS staff with respect.
  • Use increased taxes on alcohol and tobacco to fund overall real growth in the medium term of at least 1.2% per annum in the NHS budget.

Youth services: There has been a loss of funding for some youth services (such as Pie Factory and The Pavilion in Thanet). What are your views on provision of youth services and how this should be done?

Youth services are an essential part of any community. Attacks on youth services are an attack on society. And the savage funding cuts we have seen are attacks. They are attacks on our country’s future. I praise Pie Factory & other youth services for achieving so much with so little and the Greens are proud to have supported them for example through Ramsgate Town Council’s financial partnership with Pie Factory since Kent County Council withdrew funding. 

We think it’s unfair that young people are demonised for hanging around on our streets. In most cases they simply have nowhere else to go.

The Green Party will fight for a fair deal for young people and their parents by investing in their future. We will pledge to double spending on youth services, spending an extra £1bn a year so that local councils can provide a variety of activities that give young people fun and affordable things to do.

The Green Party’s plan to fund 2000 Young People’s Centres would create dedicated spaces for young people to meet and be creative. The centres would also offer access to information and specialist support for teenagers in difficulty.

Every young person under the age of 18, and in full-time education would also be entitled to off-peak free bus fares.

Manston airport – the DCO is now confirmed and it appears there will be no further legal appeals. What is your view of the airport/cargo hub scheme and what involvement , if any, will you have with the scheme going forward?

The Green Party is opposed to aviation expansion while it continues to be a source of carbon emissions, pollution and environmental damage. We agree with the Planning Inspectorate that the current proposals are unnecessary and unviable. We know jobs are needed and look forward to seeing these develop in sustainable 21st century industries – for example, through the planned Green Hub at Ramsgate Port.’

My focus, if elected, will be to invest my time and energy in addressing real concerns of residents that I can influence, as outlined in the answers to the other questions here.

Asylum – what are your policies on asylum and small boat crossings?

Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer’s recent comments regarding the Tory Rwanda plans echo my own beliefs:

“The Green Party stands in stark opposition to the political leaders and MPs in parliament who are competing with each other to be inhumane to refugees.   

“We need a system that welcomes refugees through clear, open, safe and legal routes, that offers quick and efficient determinations and support for resettlement into local communities with properly funded local services.”  

“Instead of creating an asylum system that works, the government is deliberately making it chaotic and inaccessible to put people off using their right to seek asylum.   

“Everyone deserves to be treated in a way that is fair and humane. This new legislation will remove fundamental legal protections designed to protect us all from the arbitrary power of the state.”  

We will publish responses from the East Thanet and the Herne Bay and Sandwich candidates as we receive them.

17 Comments

    • Taken from the answers above.
      “There is only one way to stop water companies dumping sewage in our seas, to bring them back into public ownership. Only the Greens have the courage to commit to this.”

    • Taken from the answers above
      “The Green Party is opposed to aviation expansion while it continues to be a source of carbon emissions, pollution and environmental damage. We agree with the Planning Inspectorate that the current proposals are unnecessary and unviable.”

  1. I’d vote Green if getting the Tories out was not such a priority and if we also had national proportional representation. Until then, unfortunately for the Greens, my vote has to be tactical.

    • That’s a shame Ian. We certainly agree that we want the Tories out, and it’s pretty certain that they will be looking at the polls. A vote for the Greens is a vote for real, meaningful change.

  2. What are your thoughts on Green Party members who belong to Extinction Rebellion & sit in the roads blocking traffic?

  3. I’m finding Steve’s answers much more compelling than Polly’s. All if these issues clearly sit within the remit of Green values so he can give his real opinion based on his lobbying work and passions. I usually vote labour but have voted Green occasionally – based on the interviews with Polly and Steve printed here today Steve would get my vote. Helpful being able to see them side by side with same questions asked, thanks Kathy.

    • I’m more impressed by him too, and may have voted for him if I was in East Thanet instead of Herne Bay and Sandwich. As it is, I’ll probably vote Labour, but look forward to seeing Helen’s answers on here first. Hope they’re not as disappointing as Polly’s.

    • Thanks Liz & thanks to IoTN for organsing this. Lots of people have told me they find the format really helpful – candidates answering the same questions about local issues

  4. You say 1500 families on the waiting list for a home, but how many of these are homeless ? Ie how many actually do need a home as against those that would like a subsidised home to live in?

  5. Whoever wins, we will need a strong opposition in Parliament. I believe our best hope lies with the Green party. It is the only one that has a chance of winning seats in this election that is not beholden to oligarchic power. Its manifesto offers everything a UK Government, fit for the 21st century, should be promising.
    Tactical voting got us into this mess ; lets not make the same mistake again.

    • I am genuinely interested in how the Reform party intend to deliver on their rhetoric. As a supporter can you say what you expect the Reform Party to do specifically if in power?

      • There’s no need they won’t get more than a couple of seats, even if they beat their vote count of 2015. All they’ll be doing is seeing what sort of support their message has and if it’s enough will they be able to attract sufficient donations to enable them to build a proper party in time for the ‘29 ge. Very much a long term game for them

      • In the absence of any coherent explanation of what the Reform Party would do I can only conclude that they are a waste of time.

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