Constituency focus: Bexleyheath and Crayford
PUBLISHED: 13:39 01 May 2015 | UPDATED: 13:39 01 May 2015
Housing, travel and health at top of list.
Across the area the lack of genuinely affordable housing is a growing issue for many.
In Bexleyheath and Crayford, the topic could prove to be one of the key issues come polling day.
As with many northerly Kent/south London constituencies, in incumbent David Evennett’s seat, ‘generation rent’ is starting to lose patience with the lack of truly affordable housing.
The Ukip candidate for the constituency, Chris Attard, says that he believes that people priced out of the housing market are beginning to demand change.
He said: “There are thousands of new properties being built all over the borough; unfortunately the vast majority are for sale and not social housing.
“This government has to get to grips with the fact that if more social hous-ing was built, along with reductions in private rents, this would not only get more people out to work but reduce our benefits bill by a huge amount.
“Why should so many hard working taxpayers pay for private landlords to buy their houses?”
Mr Evennett says that, while it is a big issue, housebuilding is taking place and is a priority for not only him, but also the Mayor of London.
He told KoS: “The council has done a good job in getting new, affordable housing built. It is still an issue, but there is a commitment from the mayor to get more built, and the council are also doing the right thing by helping new development along.
“We don’t want development on greenfield sites, but for brownfield are-as like the old Crayford town hall, there have been some good developments taking place already.”
Stefano Borella, Labour’s candidate in the constituency, says that is not the case, with many not only struggling to get on the housing ladder, but also to simply rent.
He told KoS: “We’ve got to build more housing, and it needs to be the right type – social housing, council housing and genuinely affordable housing. There are 30-year-olds still
living with their parents because rent is no longer affordable for them, while homeless people in the area are being sent to Bolton and Manchester because there’s no housing available for them.”
Labour could well steal the election in Bexleyheath and Crayford, especially if the Conservative vote is split, or dissatisfaction with austerity begins to bubble over.
Mr Borella is measured about his chances, telling KoS: “There’s a big Tory majority at the moment, but this is a seat we’ve held in recent past, and I think we can get back.”
Another big topic Labour and Ukip agree on is austerity, with both candidates saying enough is enough.
Mr Attard said: “My wife is a carer in and around the borough and I have been fortunate enough to meet some of her clients.
“I have listened to their fears and concerns in an uncertain future with so many austerity cuts.
“We should be giving carers more time to spend with the elderly and not the usual in and out, 15 minute dash before they have to get to the next client.”
Mr Evennett says that while care is a big issue, healthcare for all is likely to be the critical piece of policy when voters come to make their choice this May.
He told KoS: “The NHS is the critical issue, with big challenges faced by the local hospital and in the local health service.
“It impacts all constituents, young or old, and that’s why I’m intending to help make the NHS work for everyone.”
As part of the commuter belt, the area has a large number of voters who make a daily pilgrimage to work in the city - something which hasn’t been easy according to the sitting MP.
Mr Evennett says he intends to take aim at train operator Southeastern.
He said: “The rail services, which so many of my constituents use, are abso-lutely appalling with Southeastern at the helm.
“It has been a big problem for some time now, with commuters being left stranded with reliability problems, failures to communicate issues with passengers and simply poor service by the company.”
Mr Borella agrees that something needs to be done, but he takes aim at fare prices.
He said: “Commuters who have to work in London are being squeezed, and I want to see it stopped.”