Election 2015: St Albans' Labour candidate Kerry Pollard
PUBLISHED: 12:01 17 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:23 17 April 2015
Having picked potatoes for just one day as a teenager, Labour's parliamentary candidate for St Albans Kerry Pollard reckons there is no doubt that immigrants make a positive contribution to society.
Speaking to the Herts Advertiser last Friday, as part of the paper’s ongoing Q&A sessions with all of the St Albans candidates in the run-up to May 7, he was asked whether more government controls were needed to stymie the free-flow of immigrants from the EU.
Kerry, the city’s MP between 1997 and 2005, said that although it was an emotive topic, he supported the status quo.
He added: “People come to the UK because we are a welcoming society, and I’m proud that we are. But I agree they shouldn’t get benefits until they’ve been here for a while.”
Kerry said he appreciated immigrants taking on jobs such as picking potatoes as “our own people don’t want to do it any more.
“When I was a kid, I went potato picking and I vowed I would never do it again as it was back-breaking.”
Commenting on the district’s “housing crisis”, Kerry said it was an outrage that 103 families were currently staying in bed and breakfast accommodation in St Albans.
He called for more ‘genuinely’ affordable houses to be built, with those living in social housing to pay “no greater than 55 per cent of market rent. [That would mean] there is dignity restored to people, to not have to beg for benefits any more.”
Kerry added: “There are brownfield sites within St Albans that should be used – there is no shortage of space, it is about ambition and getting on with it.”
Houses, preferably as part of an eco-village, should be built at the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street, according to Kerry.
The High Court recently dismissed an appeal against a government decision to give the controversial Strategic Rail Freight Interchange planning permission.
The parliamentary candidate explained that 12 years ago, he suggested homes should be built on the site.
However, “I was howled at in Park Street village hall for daring to suggest that. If they had taken notice of me then and put houses on the site, we wouldn’t be talking about rail freight. That was a wartime airfield site, then it was quarried and backfilled with rubbish.
“It is not virgin Green Belt – that is where we should be building houses. That site is big enough for a new primary school, small businesses - it could be an eco-village, to serve London Colney and Park Street.”
When asked who was to blame for the rail freight decision, Kerry responded: “Eric Pickles.”
St Albans Hospital
An integrated health and social care system would benefit St Albans, says Kerry.
He added that the city hospital, “has been downgraded for many years, including when I was in Parliament - no question of that.”
Upgrading the hospital to an urgent care centre with round-the-clock doctors present would be ideal.
Labour and SNP alliance
Talk of a possible post-election alliance between his party and the Scottish National Party have been scoffed at by Kerry.
He said: “I pray there won’t be any need for a coalition at all and Labour wins outright. I don’t want a coalition.
“If we do have one, it should be on the basis that we have agreement beforehand.”