Wednesday, 21 April 2010

FSB Hustings 20th April 2010 at Little Heath School 7pm

FSB Hustings 20th April 2010 at Little Heath School 7pm
Chaired by Hilary Scott, Deputy Editor of Get Reading
Panel: Daisy Benson (Lib Dem), Naz Sarkar (Labour), Alok Sharma (Conservative), Adrian Windisch (Green)

About 50 people attended in the large main hall of Little Heath School.
Bruce Hay from Ukip didn't show up.

There was a short presentation from the FSB.
Small businesses are at the heart of our communities and employ 13.5 million people yet:
•Independent shops are disappearing from our community
•Pubs face closure due to soaring costs
•Parking charges are at the detriment of business
•Over regulation is stunting the growth of small firms
•Business rates falls disproportionately on small firms

Below are some notes taken during the hustings, apologies for them being terse, if anyone wants to amend them please comment or contact me. (Comments in brackets)

Opening 1 minute speech from each candidate.

Q1. How do small businesses get onto the procurement list of Reading Council.
L The devil is in the detail.
LD More power should be devolved from regional to local authority, who are elected.
C. Framework contracts. Anything over £10,000 online.
G. More open and transparency in the way we do this, and in lobbying. The FSB should be able to help put small business in touch with relevant contracts.

Q2. Impact of lack of parking near the Oxford Road, and elsewhere.
LD. Oxford Rd is the worst in Reading for fines, more accountability needed.
G When they built the Tesco we were told that people would park there to use the local shops. (The Greens were the only politicians to campaign against this Tesco, unfortunately our predictions that it will hurt local shops have proved correct). (I wanted to get into methods of reducing car use but we were limited to 1 minute answers. eg cheaper buses, cycle facilities, school bus etc)
C. Rogue clamping a problem.
L. Lets look at other areas to see what innovations they have.
Q to L. Has RBC got it wrong?
L. We need to look at it.
LD. Has anyone heard of car club? Audience shook their heads.

Q3. What if the candidate disagreed with their Party.
C. Stick with manifesto promises.
L. Martin Salter was very good on this, top down and bottom up.
G. I started to explain that we had no whip. (everyone laughed!) Greens support policies because they are decided openly at conference (not by a small secret group)
LD Recall MP.
C. Anything else is disingenuous.
LD. Link between safe seats and MP not listening.
Q Elizabeth Filkin resigning should have been a warning.
C. Instant recall put MP on firing lines.
Q from audience, comment that if MP was in the firing line in Iraq they would be less likely to go to war.
C None of us were MP, probably all against these expenses and Iraq war.
G I think the questioner is onto a good thing, if we can apply it to other issues, such as putting the MP in the middle of a road with problems, it would lead to instant recall (this got a laugh)

Q4. What to do about school leavers facing unemployment.
G. Apprenticeships, expand the numbers.
LD. Scandal that there aren't more apprentices and intern-ships.
L. Invest in training, £3.5 million academy at Denefield, as a teacher I have seen it working, mentors, job centres are demotivating.
C. Apprentice, help companies, no NI increase, bursary ; I was helped by a scholarship to do physics. Problem with apprentice is finding a matching college.
L. Labour guarantee a job or training to anyone 6 month unemployed,
Q to L, how can you guarantee a job when we are letting people go? Small businesses hammered by the banks.
Q to L, no jobs in the NHS, where will you find them?
L. Devil is in the detail.
LD, not 6 months, we would have 3 months.
L. 700 out of work in Reading West,
Q from audience, Brighton and Hove have innovative scheme on apprentices . Thought through long term trends.
LD. So Reading is not recession proof, we would manufacture jobs, almost like a Green New Deal. Shipbuilding can be converted. (This got a laugh, no shipbuilding in Reading.
Q Our hands are tied, there is too much red tape.
C There have been 14 new regulations every day, for every new one we would remove an old one. Reduce the number by 5%. We have the largest tax code book in the world.
LD I agree with Alok.

Q 5. Banks are not helping, despite the public subsidising them.
C Banks are not behaving, they are schizophrenic.
LD End casino style investment banks.
L. Question was humbling, we don't have all the answers, contact me later.
G. I'm with Vince. (This got a laugh, as I had hoped)
We are in the worst of all positions (this got applause) Why not just nationalise the banks.
LD Were all with Vince (no laugh)
N The big picture is this was global
Q from audience, no it wasn't.

Q6. What of the proposed raise in NI next year.
L. We have been vary clear. [Heckle: clear as mud]
LD Vince has a costed manifesto;
Comments from FSB Nikki; loans and overdrafts, national post bank, run the nation as a small business.

Q7 How to get young people heard by MP.
G. Surgeries, email, social networking. Unfortunately young people are less engaged than older ones, we need to change this, get them involved.
LD Vote at 16, social media, I've got a young electorate (Redlands?), tell your friends to vote.
L Visit schools and talk to people, social media is not the only thing.
C Talking to 6th forms, send a birthday card to all 18 year olds in Reading West, designed by an 18 year old. Only had 1 reply. Youth Parliament helpful.
L You should have had an internet or text response to the survey.
C. We did.

Q8 Immigration
L Skills shortage means benefits of immigration.
LD. Endorses Naz, points system exit checks.
G. How great to hear a positive discussion on immigration, it so often gets nasty. In construction industry we needed people, lots came from EU to work, there were so few young people trained. But there are limits. (resources strained in the SE region)
C. We may see an MP from an Asian background.

Q 9 Bankrupt companies restarting but leaving debts affecting other companies
C Its a problem,
G we need more regulations (got a laugh)
LD I'm with Alok.
L Devil is in the detail (actually I cant recall what he said, but it was something like this)(my notes from here became very brief)
Q 10 Moral thread running through today's questions, are the lunatics running the asylum
L Devil is in the detail (I cant recall what he said, but it was something like this)
LD sustainable growth
G. Good question. Michael Moore film 'Capitalism' addresses some of these issues, but this may not be the bast audience for it.
C. Transparency needed.

FSB - The UK's leading business organisation 215,000 members nationally, 7600 Thames Valley

This was reported here, they have a video of Q2 and Q4. They picked up on the audience heckling Naz, but not that he floundered on more than one occasion. One funny thing, the audience thought Labours policy on guaranteeing a job for unemployed youths after 6 months was rubbish (no jobs are secure now), so how would they respond to Daisy saying she would make it 3 months? Daisy got a bit of an easy ride here, they ignored the hilarious moment when she talked about converting the shipyards to a green new deal. No shipyards in Reading.

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