Nouse interviews students standing as candidates for the local council


Student council candidates share their thoughts in the run up to the local elections

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Image by Arian Kriesch

By James Clay

Over the past week, Nouse sat down with four University of York students standing for election in the upcoming local election for the City of York Council.

Representing the Labour Party for the Hull Road ward, Anna Baxter is a second year Politics student. Also standing in Hull Road, Ellis Holden, a second year Politics and IR student, is representing the Conservative Party, with Caleb Pell, a second year Economics student, standing as the candidate for the Liberal Democrats. Standing in the Heworth ward for the Green Party, Erin Dyson is a second year Social and Political Sciences student.

In the interview, Nouse asked key questions for students to understand their local candidates.

Why are you standing?

Anna: “I think York deserves better and it can be better, and I think this administration has let us down. I think you can do a lot of good as a councillor, even if it is in a small capacity.”

Ellis: “To give students who are Conservative or right of centre a candidate, who is also a student, for the upcoming election.”

Caleb: “First of all, I love York. I think it’s an excellent city and I’d really like to play a part in shaping its future and I want to give young people a voice. Too often, young people are excluded from democratic processes so I think having more young people involved in these processes will lead to better outcomes.”

Erin: “I am standing because during this election, there has been a big push by York Greens to ensure that everyone can vote for us.  This is critical in ensuring there is local democracy and something that I am passionate about supporting. This election York Greens have a record number of candidates standing which is critical in furthering our proposals. The more green councillors elected, the easier it’ll be to get climate change more central to the councils agenda.”

If elected, what are the main issues that you would campaign on/aim to tackle?

Anna: “Number one is the Blue Badge Ban, so we should just reverse it as soon as we can. I think housing is a massive issue for students and non-students and it discourages graduates from staying in the city because it is so unaffordable.”

Ellis: “I’d like to tackle potholes and road repairs, mainly because it affects motorists quite a lot. If they go over potholes on a regular basis, that ends up with car repairs which are really expensive. Also, just generally when you are going to work in the morning, you want a smooth car ride.”

Caleb: “I’m quite a keen cyclist and I think the state of cycling in the city could really be improved so that would involve creating more safe segregated cycling routes and improving road surfaces. The thing that comes up most on the doorstep is potholes. I think involving community groups in decision making is really important because they have a lot to give but they are not always given the resources that they can really benefit from.”

Erin: “For the purpose of this question I’d like to focus on two key issues that need addressing in York - the cost of living crisis and climate emergency. If I am elected, I will support the continued implementation and improvement of the climate change strategy and action plan, which aims to achieve carbon reduction targets each year for the next ten years until we reach net zero. Additionally, I would aim to maintain Citizens Advice and other voluntary organisations to provide debt and housing advice during this cost of living crisis. Similarly I would back the lobbying of government for a local trial of a basic income scheme in York.”

Why should students get out and vote in the upcoming local election?

Anna: “Because they can make a difference, even if it is a small one. They can tell the council they don’t accept the discrimination caused by the Blue Badge Ban and they want a council that supports affordable housing and a fairer city for all. I think most students agree with that.”

Ellis: “You interact with the council more than you may think you do and in first year it is hard to realise that. When you go into second year, you are then pretty much flung into council business, for example sorting council tax exemptions. The local elections are a good way to change that.”

Caleb: “Politicians listen to the people that vote and it is just a fact that students and young people have quite shocking turn out figures so the more young people vote, the sway we have. There are a number of very talented students on the ballot and there is now a great opportunity to elect hard-working students.”

Erin: “Student voices are often underestimated within York but we are just as important as local residents and a lot of us see this as our home too. Engaging in local democracy is a great way get our voices heard and create a city that we are proud to live in. Students should consider voting green in this election as we tend to gain the most support in wards with lots of student housing and are projected to increase our seats by six this election Additionally, students must remember their voter ID if they do choose to vote; more information about this can be found on the government website.”

How can the council help promote the interests of students?

Anna: “I think housing is a massive point, in the sense that it affects students and non-students. I think there should be a forum across the city where all the universities come together and talk about how they can look after the students.”

Ellis: “The council already does a fair bit in helping out students. In the rental market, there is currently an increase in properties being turned into Airbnb. We are trying to tackle this because it is becoming a real problem for students. The short term rental market isn’t really something students want to deal with as we just want to come and focus on our studies.”

Caleb: “There is the licensing of landlords scheme which is being extended across the city. This will ensure that houses are a better standard and that landlords, who let students down, are held to account. I think the council should really be building more houses, given the ret figures for the coming year. By building more affordable houses, that will ease the burden on housing supply and stop the escalation of house and rent prices.”

Erin: “Before engaging in local politics, I was unaware of the impact of council elections on student life in York. However, the council has supported numerous actions and policies to supports students. This has included action to control rogue landlords through extending HMO licensing which is critical as student rental prices have sky rocked in the last year. The council also organises end-of-term waste collection at universities and works closely with the universities and student unions to put on reuse events which we want to encourage more of.”

How would you review the current council administration?

Anna: “This isn’t meant to be a pun but it’s a shambles. People don’t trust the council. People don’t feel welcomed in the city centre. People don’t know where their council tax goes. I could go on.”

Ellis: “I’d say it has been poor. There is obviously the one headline thing which has caused protests - the Blue Badge Ban. Looking at the reason for the Blue Badge Ban, there is a supposed terrorist threat. Looking at proportionality, I don’t think this outways disallowing people to have access to the city centre.”

Caleb: “On balance, the council has done a good job. Since 2019, we’ve had Covid-19, the implications of Brexit and Ukraine. The council has had numerous achievements, such as the building hundreds of affordable houses, passing the local plan and keeping York out of the North Yorkshire super council. I think more can definitely be done in terms of the green agenda and promoting public transport and infrastructure.”

Erin: “The Green Party currently has 3 of 47 councillor positions in this council administration. Whilst working with other parties, we have achieved a lot, including an action plan for council housing and an economic strategy focussing on creating green jobs. However, they’re certain areas we disagree on, including wanting faster changes to sustainable transport and not wanting to dual the ring road. Once more greens are elected, we can build on what we have already started and advocate for further advancements.”

How have you found campaigning during the run-up to the local council election?

Anna: “Exhausting but also really fun and I think it is rewarding when knocking on doors. That is the thing that informs me the most in my politics, speaking to people who have real issues.”

Ellis: “It has been absolutely tiring. The wards I campaign in are in the outer regions of York itself. I could be in Wheldrake in the morning, which is in the southeast of the city, then in the afternoon I could be in Poppleton, which is in the Northwest.”

Caleb: “It’s been really interesting. The ward I’m running in is a very diverse ward as we’ve got quite nice estates, areas with lots of students and council estates. Over the weeks, you talk to hundreds of people and you realise things that you wouldn’t have thought have. I think it’s the interaction as an individual which is really important while campaigning. You find that most people are really appreciative and I find it really fulfilling actually.”

Erin: “This is the first election I have campaigned in, and I have found it incredibly insightful to engage with local residents and hear what they want to see change in York. Through this campaigning cycle, it is clear that people feel frustrated with the state of politics in York at the moment regarding trading insults and political name-calling. That is why the Green Party insists on creating a more inclusive and collaborative committee system.”

Editor's Note: These interviews were conducted on Friday 21 April and Thursday 27 April.