We put some of your questions to Jonny Crawshaw, our candidate for the Micklegate by-election on 8 June. Here's his answers...
Anna Perrett: How do you plan to work with local schools to campaign against per pupil funding cuts, excessive testing, and the narrowing of the curriculum?
As a parent governor and founder member of Rescue Our Schools (www.rescueourschools.co.uk) I have spent most of the past couple of years campaigning on education issues, in particular looking at ways to defend state education and allow teachers to feel supported, valued and able to do their job. Rescue Our Schools is a coalition partner in the More Than A Score campaign (www.morethanascore.co.uk) which pushes to end the excessive and damaging testing regime in schools. I am proud to have come up with the #SchoolsJustWannaHaveFunds slogan which our colleagues at Fair Funding For All Schools have put to great use and we will be joining their Big School Assembly action on 26 May with more details to be announced shortly.
James Harland: How do you hope to protect Micklegate as a great place for the flourishing of small businesses while also recognising the needs of residents?
I am fully behind Rachael Maskell who has led the way in pressing for fair application of the new business rates in Micklegate Ward and beyond. I have been meeting with various traders to discuss any possible action as well as discussing their broader needs. We have a great variety of independent businesses within the ward and I will do all I can to help them flourish. It is important though that all parts of our community feel able to participate in the development of the ward so, as you rightly point out, the needs of local residents must be recognised whilst allowing small businesses the scope to build and develop.
Jake Furby: How do you plan to mitigate flooding in the area and, the questions of all questions, how will you help to improve the bin collections?
In terms of flooding, I think that my approach would encompass both local, national and international elements. We need to think about what is happening both up and downstream of York in terms of slowing the water’s arrival and speeding it’s passage through the city – I have seen interesting proposals for a deflatable barrier at Naburn for example – as well as our wider policy on the environment including our impact on climate change. For York itself, the Environment Agency has a five-year plan which seems to be reasonably well thought through, though I am concerned that as it stands, the demountable barrier for Clementhorpe will not be in place before 2018. I also think it is important to remember that Clementhorpe is not the only part of the ward to experience regular flooding, so I would be determined to champion flood-mitigation schemes in all parts of the ward.
In terms of bins, whilst I think that we do reasonably well in terms of recycling collection, I think there is always room for improvement. The amount of street cleaning that happens in the ward has been reduced quite significantly in the past two years so I would want to re-examine this and I would also like to look at ways of adding at least some element of recycling to the existing – not to mention any new – street bins. Living and working in South Bank I am aware of a number of parts of the ward where we could do with extra bins. In other areas the new bins that have recently been put in are insufficiently large (or not emptied frequently enough) so I would be keen to look further at this in order that the right balance can be found between cost, environmental impact and general cleanliness of our pavements, streets and alleys.
Barra O’Riain: How do you plan to respond to York's growing housing crisis and it's continual evolution as a high-rent, low-wage economy? Good luck in your campaign.
York has below-national-average wages but above-national-average house prices and this has been a major problem facing our ward and our city for some time. It makes large parts of our city prohibitively expensive for significant parts of our community with houses prices and rents in South Bank particularly high. York Labour have been looking at ways the council could improve the situation but there are no short-term fixes. In essence though, we need to find ways of bringing high-quality, sustainable jobs into the city and we need to build more genuinely affordable housing. This should not only be housing to sell but a mix of social housing and rental accommodation too.
One of the exciting ideas I have been party to is establishing a not-for-profit housing management company that could work with public and private sector landlords to moderate the rental market, provide longer-term lets and reduce the fees that are usually passed on to tenants.
Any future developments - such as the York Central Site - must take into account the hopes and needs of the local community, providing the right balance of homes, jobs and leisure space. York still doesn’t have a Local Plan so I am keen to work towards articulating a broad vision of greater inclusivity and environmental sustainability that would help guide us as we develop York for future generations.