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Luke Brandon is running as the Conservative Party candidate for Councillor of the University and Scotforth Rural Ward in the upcoming by-election.
Hi Luke, tell us a bit about yourself – how have you involved yourself in student life and what brought you to stand this election?
I am a second year undergraduate studying Natural Sciences (MSci). Since coming to Lancaster I have taken part in intercollegiate events and have joined several societies. Currently I am Chair-man of Conservative Future at the university. I have chosen to stand in this election as I see it as an opportunity to bring something new to the city, improving it for all whether they are residents, students or visitors to the area.
What are Conservative plans more broadly – nationally and for the city?
We want to have a more efficient bus service to and from the university. Route 3 is generally overcrowded so more buses on this route would be a very good thing. We’d also like to see another bus route connect the university with the park and ride at junction 36.
The city as a whole to be made more presentable including greater general upkeep of roads, hedgerows, flower beds etc, and I’d like this to include campus and the rural areas.
I’d also take a stance against the proposed flats near Sugarhouse club and I’d like to promote the night time economy and the student lifestyle which in part supports the local economy for everyone in the area.
While students voted to remain in the European Union by a margin of six to one, Lancaster overall voted to leave the European Union. Why do you feel this fragment exists and what could you do if elected to ensure that students feel integrated into the city?
A lot of students voted to remain in part because they feel the EU protects them, they have not known a life outside of the EU. In contrast many residents in Lancaster are older and for a variety of reasons take a different view. The life experiences of the two groups to date have definitely shaped the demographic variations in voting. However, many students did not vote anyway so I would want to encourage all political parties, the city and university to come together and engage with students and residents alike, bring them together through city events and make sure their voices are heard.
Will your priorities representing students be different?
Representing students means that I must focus more on higher education and student needs, however the ward is also home to many local residents whose needs are fairly similar to those of students in many ways, from public transport to provision of disability and mental health care. My priorities will be to ensure everyone I hope to represent can benefit from my policies and the council’s policies.
What are your views on the Higher Education and Research Bill that will involve fees going up, a focus on increased access to education, centralisation of research funding, a new Office for Students and increased competition?
Personally, I disagree with further increasing tuition fees, not because students will be worse off as in reality they won’t as the repayment terms are not changing, but because the fee levels could be demoralizing and off putting. However, the rest of the bill provides an opportunity to simplify the higher education and research sectors which would enable more people to access quality university education and research which I fully support.
What plans do you have to tackle the “cost of living” crises facing many students, particularly high accommodation costs on and off campus?
I would use my influence as a student and city councillor to pursue cooperation between local government, the university and private landlords to keep rents at affordable prices. Also by working to increase housing supply to meet demand, rents would remain at sustainable levels. In addition, the city council and university could work together to produce financial literature and host workshops that help students budget, find the cheapest places to shop and/or to find part time jobs in the city or on campus.
What are your views on the proposed plans to convert offices in St Leonard’s Gate nearby the Sugarhouse into student accommodation?
The Sugarhouse is one of the main clubs in Lancaster, which is very important to students. By turning the buildings into student accommodation or for any residential purpose, Suagrhouse’s ability to operate will almost certainly be affected. Closure as a result could be a possibility. This would leave some students without a job, and others with a smaller choice of bar/club to attend on nights out. Many other businesses from taxi firms to fast food outlets would subsequently suffer. The plans therefore would have a detrimental effect on student life and the city economy.
How can students make their voice heard both locally and nationally in a political environment increasingly hostile to the interests of students?
Students could join a political society on campus. Conservative Future has regular contact with the local party and national government for instance. If students have an issue, we could raise it with these bodies for them. Additionally, students can work with LUSU to raise any issues and lobby on their behalf.
How will you balance your studies and casework?
I’m very efficient. I get my work done early. It’s easy for me to balance student life with the responsibilities I’d have if elected as a councillor. I’d get my work done in the week days and dedicate my weekends to the people I’d be elected to represent.
The by-election will take place on Thursday 8 December 2016