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The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

Devizes Constituency covers the towns of Devizes, Marlborough, Ludgershall and Tidworth, together with the large villages of Bulford, Durrington and Pewsey.

Jo Waltham - Our Parliamentary Candidate

Jo Waltham - Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for the Devizes Constituency

I live in Marlborough with my husband and children and where I also run a web design agency. My priorities are to stop Brexit, to protect our local schools, hospitals, transport system and other vital public services. We need to support everyone who lives in our constituency by building more affordable homes, support local businesses and protect the vulnerable. We need to tackle climate change as a matter of urgency to ensure our children's future.

Something is fundamentally wrong with our political system and economy - when working hard and playing your part in society is no longer a guarantee of a warm home to live in, food on the table, health and social care when you need them, and a good education for your children. No matter what Johnson and Farage say Brexit will not fix it. It will make matters worse as our economy falters and there is less tax revenue to spend on public services.

Parliament needs to be more representative of the people it serves. The large Conservative majority here in Devizes has enabled the council and the government to cut services. The Conservative Party take our vote for granted. Right now there are no MPs in Parliament, no majority, no two biggest parties. You get to decide who you want to represent you and Parliament starts again renewed.

I plan to bring a fresh perspective, a new insight and an effective voice when representing your interests in Westminster.

Stop Brexit

Jo Waltham visiting Epoxy Technology in Marlborough

Jo Waltham visiting Epoxy Technology in Marlborough

This week I went to visit a Marlborough business that produces a specialist resin which has to be kept frozen in transport. 85% of their business is in Europe and currently it makes no difference to them if they are delivering to Birmingham or Barcelona. New delays at customs borders will increase the risk of their product being defrosted and spoiled on arrival. Their business relies on the UK being in the single market. They employ 12 skilled people, have invested in their processes and technology, and have a great international reputation. They have done everything right, but their business is threatened by Brexit. I know first-hand how Britain leaving the biggest trading block in the world is affecting local business.

Brexit is also a real threat to our farmers' livelihoods with the risk of higher tariffs and the loss of the payments which many farms rely on.

Brexit is a risk to our NHS, not only through us losing experienced EU nurses and doctors at a time when the NHS is understaffed, but that the reduction in our economic output by Brexit will result in less funds for the NHS.

But remaining in the EU isn't just about protecting jobs. For me it is about identity. I am English. I am British. I am European. I have enjoyed my rights to live, work and study in other EU countries and I want the same for my children, and for all our children. I'm worried about losing workers' rights in Johnson's deal and about what a trade deal with the USA will mean for our economy, our food and our NHS. Simply put I don't trust the Conservatives to protect us and not to turn us into a low regulation, low tax, no public services, offshoot of the USA.

Climate Change

Jo Waltham and husband at Westmill Wind and Solar Farm

Jo Waltham and husband at Westmill Wind and Solar Farm

Here in Wiltshire we might be sheltered from the worst effects of climate change. As global warming continues, and weather patterns become more extreme, flooding and droughts will get worse. But in the short term climate change won't threaten our existence here as it will in other countries. We all have a global responsibility to take this threat seriously. We should aim to be a world leader in tackling climate change.

I think we're so overwhelmed by the complexity of getting to net zero that we are not getting properly started. First let's invest in renewable energy. The Liberal Democrats propose that 80% of our electricity by 2030 will come from renewable sources. The technology exists but there hasn't been the political will to implement it at scale. For example, in Wiltshire we have many windy hilltops but no wind farms. We need to change that. We need to do what can be done now. That will buy us a little time to tackle more difficult issues such as aviation fuel.

The Conservatives recently announced a temporary ban on fracking, but we need to make this permanent. We can't burn all the fossil fuel we've already found, without exceeding the 1.5 degrees warming threshold, so why look for more?

We have some lovely woodlands in this constituency, and it would be good to join patches of it up, for example Savernake Forest with West Woods. Not only is tree planting good for reducing our CO2 emissions, wildlife corridors are critical for allowing the movement of animals and the continuation of viable populations.

We need to encourage our farmers to farm in a nature friendly way by paying them for the conservation services they provide. I recently spoke to one farmer who complained that everyone is happy to tell him how many tonnes of CO2 is emitted for one tonne of lamb, but no one tells him how much CO2 has been sequestered in the peat bog he manages, or the woodland he has planted, or the hedgerows he maintains. Farmers are a vital part of the solution.

NHS

Jo Waltham at Savernake Hospital

Jo Waltham at Savernake Hospital

The NHS is being failed by the Conservative Government. The Marlborough and Pewsey surgeries had to merge due to a shortage of GPs. Recently when I needed an appointment, I had a two week wait, I can only assume that others have had the same. Due to Brexit we are losing our EU nurses and doctors just when we are critically short of them.

Liberal Democrats plan to invest urgently in our NHS and Social Care Services, and to deliver equality for mental and physical health. We will put a penny in the pound on income tax to give the NHS and Social Care Services the additional resources they need. In the medium term we will establish a cross-party commission to setup a realistic long-term funding program.

We have no accident and emergency facility in the constituency with people having to go to Swindon, Bath or Salisbury. We need to campaign to retain, and if possible expand, the remaining services at Savernake Hospital and the Devizes Treatment Centre.

Education

Jo Waltham speaking to Rowdeford Headmaster, Mike Loveridge

Jo Waltham speaking to Rowdeford Headmaster, Mike Loveridge

Education for children and adults is the best investment for our country.

85% of our schools in this constituency have a funding gap. All our secondary schools receive less money per pupil in real terms that they received in 2015. No wonder our schools are cutting teaching assistant numbers.

It is our most vulnerable children who are losing most. We have seen an increase in children with special educational needs, but our councils have not had additional funding to meet this demand. Wiltshire Council's SEND transport goes over budget each year despite the cuts they've made to the number of taxis and minibuses; cuts that mean our children are now taken on longer routes around the constituency before being taken to Rowdeford school, on the outskirts of Devizes.

The Department of Education's guidelines state that children of primary school age should not travel for longer than 45 minutes, and secondary school children no longer than 75 minutes. But children with special educational needs may have to travel longer. This results in children, who live just 40 minutes away from their school, being on buses for two hours each way as they pick up other children from different towns and villages. I've been campaigning to change this advice so that where possible children with special educational needs are not expected to travel longer than their mainstream counterparts.

In addition, I campaigned against the closure and merger of the three special schools in Devizes, Chippenham and Trowbridge. I was worried that our children, already with long journeys, would face even longer journeys if the nearest special school was on the far side of Wiltshire. We had a partial victory - the super school, replacing the three schools, is still going ahead, but it will be based in Devizes, on the Rowdeford School site.

Affordable Housing

Marlborough New Houses

We are in the middle of a housing crisis. Simply not enough affordable houses are being built and our rental market is not working for the young in particular.

We need to build more houses, but not just any houses anywhere. First, they need to be sited where there is appropriate infrastructure to support them, or at least with funding to provide additional infrastructure at the time the houses are built. In addition, these houses need to be built to be as fuel efficient as possible.

Existing housing stock needs to be made energy efficient. This will help people who are living in fuel poverty as well as help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2015 the Conservatives pledged to build 200,000 starter homes. Not one has been built according to the National Audit Office.

Armed Forces

I'm proud of the close links that the Devizes constituency has with the Armed Forces. Liberal Democrats support the Armed Forces Covenant and ongoing work to support veterans' mental health. We must look after those that have served our nation.

With many personnel moving back to Wiltshire, we also commit to improving the quality of service housing by bringing the MoD into line with other landlords, giving tenants the same legal rights to repair and maintenance as private tenants.

We plan to scrap the application fees for members of the Armed Forces who were born outside of the UK but who now wish to apply for leave to remain.

Transport

In Wiltshire, Transport currently accounts for half of our greenhouse gas emissions (source National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory website), one way to decrease that is to increase our public transport and decrease reliance on personal cars. Currently you can't even get a direct bus between Devizes and Marlborough. We have only two train stations in the constituency - Pewsey and Bedwyn - which typically have a train service to London every two hours.

I attended the recent Pewsey Vale Rail Group meeting where GWR were answering questions about the new timetable which will bring Pewsey one more train per day. But, as a result, the 8:17 train would now be 7 minutes earlier and become a peak-time train at more than double the price! This is counterproductive at a time when we should be encouraging people to use the train rather than cars.

GWR also suggested that travellers buy their tickets in advance to receive a reduction, which is great if you can. Attendees to the meeting also suggested options such as getting discounted bulk buy tickets for any time use, Carnet tickets. We should pursue these ideas.

Over to You

Jo Waltham Canvassing

These are many of the things that matter to me and that is why I want to represent you. I also want to hear what matters to you. Please get in touch:

I'm standing to be YOUR representative.

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