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Xeina Aveyard is running as the Green Party candidate for Councillor of the University and Scotforth Rural Ward in the upcoming by-election.
Tell us a bit about yourself – how have you involved yourself in student life and what brought you to stand this election?
I tried to find either the Green Party or Labour stalls at Freshers Fair. Having met the people there I thought the Green Party was definitely for me. I went to their meetings, found there’s a lot to do such as campaigning against fracking. I heard there would be a by-election—I thought “there’s no chance they’d stand a first year!”. Will, our president called me and said we’d like to stand you. The chance to get involved is great. I know first-hand about the concerns of students. I’m extroverted and like to get as many perspectives as I can. I’ve also always wanted to be involved local politics, it’s exciting!
What are Greens plans more broadly –nationally and for the city?
Our specific policies for the city involve getting the council to stand against fracking. The party as a whole disagrees with fracking and it’s what brought me to politics.
We’re passionate about what is happening with international students after Brexit.
We’d like to support them and make sure they have the right to stay. Affordable housing is a big concern—there’s a lot of student housing but it’s expensive housing and we’d like to make more affordable.
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?
This divide is definitely a big issue. This depends on the specific reasons people voted to leave and why students voted to remain. Students do get a lot of help from the EU with Erasmus, which doesn’t apply to local residents. I’d like to find out about these concerns. The referendum question didn’t focus on why people want to leave or remain, so it’s important for the government to find out what people were motivated by—whether its immigration, bureaucracy, economic anxiety or something else.
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’m concerned about the bill. The Green Party is officially against any increase in fees. Under this bill Lancaster could put their charge £250 extra on top of the £9000 student already face. The works by allowing the ‘best’ universities to raise fees, which is inherently bad for education because it discourages students from disadvantaged backgrounds applying for university. Debt also discourages everyone from applying to university. This is an issue I’d like to campaign and educate students about this.
What plans do you have to tackle the “cost of living” crises facing many students, particularly high accommodation costs on and off campus?
On campus, accommodation prices have been raised again. We’d definitely try and put pressure on the university to stop an increase. Many people applied for cheaper halls but couldn’t get in. Travel cost is also a big issue—the Green Party would like to see this go down. Encourage cheaper public transport won’t save students money, it will help students get home from a night out safely and by reducing the environmental benefits if we reduce the number of cars on the road.
What are your views on the proposed plans to convert offices in St Leonard’s Gate nearby the Sugarhouse into student accommodation?
This is an issue the party are concerned about. The council asked sugarhouse to improve soundproofing but tests have proved this difficult. The sound levels would be detrimental to students and this would be detrimental to LUSU. We would like to find out more about this and protect the interests of the students living in the area.
How can students make their voice heard both locally and nationally in a political environment increasingly hostile to the interests of students?
There are a lot of ways students can get involved but aren’t often heared about. Societies are a great starting point. In the Green Party I’ve met people from LGBTQ+ communities, people and planet, Friends of Palestine etc campaigning on similar issues. It’s easy it is to get involved than it seems—even on a national level. Talking to MPs can be an interesting experience—I spoke to Savid Javid face to face and got surprisingly positive results. There are also plenty of demonstrations and campaigns you can get involved in for instance the National Demo against the Higher Education and Research bill.
How will you balance your studies and casework?
Being a first year, this will be easy for me. I do have a lot of work, but I also have a lot of free time. I’m studying politics, which overlaps with issues the council faces. You could say that council work will be a form of learning!
The by-election will take place on Thursday 8 December 2016