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Pippa Hepworth is running as the Liberal Democrat Party candidate for Councillor of the University and Scotforth Rural Ward in the upcoming by-election.
Hi Pippa, tell us a bit about yourself – how have you involved yourself in student life and what brought you to stand this election?
I have lived in Lancaster since 2014, I was President of the LU Lib Dems from June 2015 to September 2016. I was elected North West chair for Liberal Youth England in January 2016 and still hold the role. I was the co-chair in the LU students for Europe during the referendum campaign. I’m in my second year studying politics and IR. I’m also an LGBTQ+ candidate and a passionate campaigner for human rights.
I wanted to run to represent the views of everyone in this ward, I have lived here for nearly 3 years. I have met some wonderful people and I want to try my best to address issues and make a change. My policies are based on the key issues that affect students and residents that affect Bailrigg and Scotforth rural currently. If elected I will make these changes and go on to address any further issues that arise in the future.
I was selected as the candidate for the Liberal Democrats by LU Lib Dems and Lancaster & Morecambe Liberal Democrats because I have a great deal of experience and I want to make a change in this ward.
What are Lib Dems plans more broadly – nationally and for the city?
There is currently no Liberal Democrats on the council in Lancaster, I think the council should have councillor’s from all parties so ideas and plans are discussed with competing views, I think better ideas come from discussion and debate of many different viewpoints. I think there needs to be a liberal voice on the Lancaster Council, I think Liberalism is needed now more than ever.
Our biggest issue as a party nationally is keeping strong relations with the EU. We believe that British people should have the final say on the Brexit deal in a referendum. Voting for a departure is not the same as voting for a destination. British people have a right to have their say on whether the deal they are offered is the right one for them, their families, their communities and our country.
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?
The fragmentation exist because there’s a big age gap—there are a lot of students and older people living in Lancaster. I’ve always been pro-European, I’ve done work on the referendum campaign, I will represent the views of those who voted remain and will support the liberal democrat values of keeping the EU as close as possible. Even though I am pro-European I respect democracy and acknowledge the views of citizens of Lancaster, however I do believe that we should have a second referendum on the terms of Brexit, this is the only way to legitimise our exit and create an outcome that is truly supported by the public.
I think a second referendum would integrate students into the city as we would all be voting on a direction for a future Brexit Britain, this would diminish the current tensions in society between remain and leave campaigners.
Will your priorities representing students be different?
I will campaign for the Uni and Scotforth ward constituency to be part of the Morecambe and Lancaster constituency. Due to the new boundary changes likely to take place before 202, the ward would be part of the new constituency of north Lancashire and not in the Lancaster and Morecambe constituency. The largely rural North Lancashire constituency runs from Silverdale to river valley and wyre valley down to the rural outskirts of Preston. The university contributes a lot to the town and therefore it makes sense if its part of the city’s constituency—its unnatural to separate them.
Fight for fairer buses—I want to keep the route 2 and 2a buses running at the usual times in the vacation period at Lancaster Uni I believe that students that stay on campus during the vacation and local residents still need this services.
I will work to block the building of student homes being built next to the Sugarhouse, which are endorsed by the Labour council. The building of these student homes could cause the closure of the club due to noise complaints.
Keeping strong relations with the EU. I am both British and European, I want to both travel and study in Europe I don’t want to be cut off from it. I want to live in a country where trade, scientific, medical research and culture are shared with our neighbours.
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?
I oppose this bill, I believe that there is a great deal of uncertainty around the bill and I do not see how it would make things better for universities and students. I believe that tuition fees are already too high, and should not be increased in any circumstances.
Competition is a capitalist concept and should not be used in terms of education. There should be greater access for people from all backgrounds but the increase in tuition fees will have the reverse effect of limiting access for students from poorer backgrounds who may be deterred from attending university.
On a related note, I support the current Lancaster University and Scotforth rural councillors petition to review student finance and tuition fees.
What plans do you have to tackle the “cost of living” crises facing many students, particularly high accommodation costs on and off campus?
I think the University could subsidise accommodation for those from disadvantaged backgrounds or students who are struggling with financing. I will pressure the University to invest more in students, not buildings, students are at the heart of the University and should be prioritised over everything else. Introducing another store on campus could reduce prices and increase competition, Central and Spar have a monopoly on campus. I think there should be increases in free buses for students to town such as the Sainsbury’s bus.
What are your views on the proposed plans to convert offices in St Leonard’s Gate nearby the Sugarhouse into student accommodation?
I will work to block the building of student homes being built next to the Sugarhouse, which are endorsed by the Labour council. The building of these student homes could cause the closure of the club due to noise complaints. Lancaster city council is labour held and it is fair to hold them to account for a planning application that may cause the closure of the Sugarhouse. The fact is a labour controlled council can stop this planning application. Despite both Labour councillors in this ward raising the issue with the Night Time economy task group, this application is still under consideration.
How can students make their voices heard both locally and nationally in a political environment increasingly hostile to the interests of students?
I think that due to the low voter turnout, major political parties do not take into account the views of students because they appeal to the older voter who are more likely to vote for them in the future. I think now is the time to start a liberal movement especially in a world of increased nationalism. I think students should openly express their feelings on social media and in society, I feel there is a lot of ageism in politics that causes students to be put off from speaking about their views.
How will you balance studies and casework?
I can’t sit still, politics is my life. Casework is fun, university work is fun. I put a lot of hours into politics. As the north west chair for liberal youth, I spend a lot of time dealing with issues and concerns. So as councillor I would be able to cope quite well will extra work as I have done for so long.
Finally I would like to wish the other candidates all the best of luck. I will be happy if any of the candidates win the byelection, I think they will represent the views of people in this ward really well.
The by-election will take place on Thursday 8 December 2016