An Interview With Andrew Austin
April 20th 2013
New town councillor Andrew Austin
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Ros: Pre-election canvassing offers an excellent chance to get a snapshot of public opinion in your ward. What did people tell you?
Andrew: Mostly people were concerned with national issues like the changes to disability benefits, adult social care, ATOS, and the cuts. The bedroom tax is another concern.
Locally people are worried about the Park Avenue development. There's a lack of information. People want to know how much green space will go, what the rent will go up to on the shops, and whether it means the prices in those shops will go up. They want to know if there are any ulterior motives to these plans. Losing green areas is a big no-no. That's something I will definitely improve on.
People are also concerned about thefts. And another issue I heard a lot about was the state of the roads, and potholes. It's causing damage to cars and costing people money.
Ros: The district council recently launched a campaign to clean up dog dirt, and their press officer James Gilbert told me that this is the number one complaint they hear about at ELDC. Did that come up?
Andrew: Dog fouling is a concern. When someone gets it on their shoe and tracks it into the house it's a whole lot of time and expense to clean the carpet, find out whose shoe it was, and so on. So people want to see more bins in green areas, and more signs and pavement markings.
Ros: Is there anything else people are worried about?
Andrew: Residents want more community policing. It's visible in the town centre, but not so much on the outskirts of town. When it comes to thefts, there's a belief that it's organised, that there are people coming round in vans and targeting particular houses.
Ros: Were people concerned about flooding?
Andrew: It wasn't mentioned by anyone.
Ros: How did you feel about the turnout?
Andrew: About 14.6% voted. People are very un-engaged. There's work to be done to engage people and bring trust, and I intend to build on this through things like coffee mornings.
Ros: How do you feel about the role of party politics in local government?
When you join a political party there's a sense of nailing your colours to a flagpole, so people know where you stand. I'm more old Labour anyway.
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