How will local issues affect the election results in St Albans and Harpenden?

Thameslink train

Thameslink train - Credit: Archant

Our election team, made up of a diverse selection of Herts Ad readers, have been asked for their thoughts on the key issues in this election, and what they think could sway voters to support different candidates, and we will be publishing their comments over the coming weeks.

Green Belt land in Harpenden along Luton Road, earmarked for possible urban expansion in St Alban di

Green Belt land in Harpenden along Luton Road, earmarked for possible urban expansion in St Alban district council's draft Strategic Local Plan - Credit: Archant

Although events on the national stage are obviously crucial in determining the result of this election, we asked what were the key local issues which could have an impact on how people voted.

Alan Morton, 67, who is a retired floating voter, said: “The rail freight decision may well have an impact, especially for voters to the south of St Albans.

“Whilst Mrs Main and the district council have been very active in fighting this proposal I don’t think that county did enough, soon enough. Also it may be deemed that the Secretary of State is the real villain of the piece.

“Whilst talking of Mr Pickles MP, the continuing government cuts to local authority funding are now really evident. Both county and district councils removed inefficiencies within their respective organisations but over the last two years the real cuts to services are coming to the fore, people want the grass verges cut, roads maintained, libraries and social care. Moderation must be applied to any further cuts. The lack of progress to provide affordable housing within the district will also impact on a significant number of voters.”

Labour voter Steven Poxon, 49, who works for the Salvation Army, said: “Locally, I can envisage a situation whereby Hertfordshire is almost a micro-representation of key national issues: namely, the NHS and its future, the impact of an economy in deficit, the thorny question of immigration, and social housing.

“Every one of these issues is key at national level, and also at local level – perhaps increasingly so. Essentially, these issues touch at the heart of everyday life, which is where politics shifts from ivory tower theory to hard practice. Personally, I fear for the NHS if it remains much longer in the grasp of the Tories. As a Labour Party member, I would love to see the NHS once again in the hands of its rightful owners.”

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Blogger and mum Penny Carr, 36, said: “On a local level I think the same key issues keep coming up as they never seem to get sorted.

“In my mind the main ones are: the cutbacks to NHS services in St Albans – especially A&E and maternity services, the threat of building on Green Belt land around St Albans, crazy house prices and people being priced out of the area, lack of school places especially where new housing has been built without additional facilities, the state of the train line into London, the number of empty shops in the town centre, the quality of council facilities – in particular rubbish and recycling collections, the cuts to the police force and the state of the roads across the district.”

Retiree Philip Webster, 87, who is a floating voter, was less convinced of the impact of local issues.

“I think local issues will have little impact on a national election.

“The freight terminal is somewhat parochial. Train services are pretty awful but are probably not a governmental issue. The quality of NHS services locally seem to compare favourably with the national average and I do not meet many people who are dissatisfied.

“We have some excellent state schools in St Albans and the one gripe here is that not all parents are able to get their children into their first choice school which is not a national issue.

“The most contentious issue appears to be immigration especially with the free flow across EU borders and a consequent perception that they are all coming here to sponge on our generous welfare benefits. This is leading to a situation where people are afraid to highlight this position for fear of being branded racists.

“Defence too is making a late surge for the headlines with the question of honouring our obligation to NATO and at the same time honouring our pledge to continue with a substantial contribution to overseas aid.

“Tactical voting is going to play a huge part. The Lib Dems seem to be a spent force. Labour looks like losing swathes of Scottish seats so a hung Parliament is the likeliest outcome with Cameron having to form a coalition with whoever will have him.”

Brian Moores, 64, a Conservative voter who works in the street lighting industry, agreed: “I am not sure that local issues will be particularly influential in determining the election result but there are some key issues which do have a local resonance in our area particularly this year where there has been a lot of focus on the new secondary free school location, the proposed housing developments and the busy through routes on all roads through Harpenden.

“Green Belt protection must surely be very near the top of all residents’ list of local issues. Our MP and other politicians do understand this and have worked hard to ensure our Green Belt remains protected.

“This work must continue and incursions must only be allowed after rigorous investigations to find ‘least worst’ solutions.

“The Strategic Local Plan will not be welcomed by many residents; arguments will rage for months to come on the plan’s detail.

“We can build as much as we like in Harpenden but demand for housing will never be satisfied as long as we have such excellent schools, transport links to the City or allow property rich migrants from London to buy up local property and supersize it.

“Not only are our roads and road infrastructure are in very poor condition but they are incredibly busy as well. There has been much in the press about how busy the Lower Luton Road is, as if that was the only busy road. Everywhere is busy and the two issues above will not help. So who is going to be brave enough to suggest a solution?”