This is Preston Talks, a series of interviews with local politicians aimed at making your life easier. We’ve asked local politicians from the main parties to answer the same questions, and we’re publishing their answers to help you decide who to vote for in the Local Elections. First up, we have Councillor Neil Darby, the youngest member of the Liberal Democrat Group on Preston City Council.
In three words, how would you sum up your party?
Liberty, equality and fairness.
What do the Liberal Democrats have to offer Preston?
In Preston, the Lib Dems want Preston City Council to have the ability to keep our city clean, to make our city green, and to keep the front line services running that so many people rely on. In 2016, this means looking after the city’s finances, because we can’t do anything if the city has no money. Unfortunately, while the Tories in Westminster have cut back funding for Preston harder than most other councils, Labour (who control Preston City Council) have failed to address the financial situation and have left Preston in a situation where services like our parks and our leisure centers are under real threat of closure within the next couple of years. So – Preston Liberal Democrats offer a middle ground for Preston. Not the harsh, ideological cuts of the Tories – drastically accelerated once the brake of coalition was taken away from them. But not the financial irresponsibility of Labour either. By working carefully with our budget and listening to local residents (including students), we can help to build Preston up as a city where our decisions are based upon whether they are fair, and whether they help the equality and freedom of our citizens.
What policies do the Liberal Democrats have for young people?
Liberal Democrats work to make local government open to everyone who lives in Preston – whether they were born here or whether they have moved here. As a student at UCLan you have as much opportunity to influence our city today as someone who has always lived here, and we think that it is right to include everyone in local democracy. But a democracy can only function if you can see what it does and you can hold it to account when you don’t like what it is doing. One of the most powerful ways you can hold government to account is to get involved and stand for election – but at the moment most council meetings are held during the day and that stops many people, including students, from being able to get involved. The Lib Dems tried to change this in the last council meeting, to have the Council look at whether they might be able to move some meeting times to be more open to people like students, but the other parties refused to vote with us and instead backed the status quo.
Why, in your opinion, is it important for young people to vote?
Young people get an awful deal in this country today. The job market is incredibly difficult to get into, the chances of managing to save up for a house seem difficult and remote, and every time we turn around the retirement age for us seems to be getting older and older. The government continues to introduce laws making it harder for young people – if you can get a job, the full minimum wage only applies if you’re over 25, and if you can’t get a job then there are stringent limits on the benefits you can apply for to help you live while you look for work. But why is everything so difficult for young people and so much harder than our parents and grandparents had it? It’s because young people are much less likely to vote – so why would the politicians listen?! At a time when all politicians can sound the same, I understand the apathy and the feeling that it doesn’t change anything. But if young people started turn up on election day, then those politicians would be forced into listening – and forced into acting. The parties who act against young people’s interests would be much less likely to do so if they thought that young people would punish them at election time instead of not voting!
To register to vote, go to https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. Once registered, information will be posted to you about where to go in order to vote.