Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Interview – Ashley Gunstock

This is the fourth of a series of interviews with the Leaders/Spokesmen of five local political parties published in the order that they were received. UKIP did not respond to the invitation.

Ashley Gunstock is Leading Spokesman for the Redbridge Green Party.

What are the main priorities for Redbridge over the next 4 years?

To tackle ‘waste’ and provide the high quality services that residents deserve, in order to give them good value for their Council Tax. Key to this is the enabling infrastructure that allows the borough to develop in a positive way for both residents and business. I would press for better local public transport links and a more appropriate approach to highway layout and use. I would support local traders, by lobbying government to review business rates and job taxes which stifle small businesses. Doing this would also encourage new enterprises to take up the borough’s empty shop-floor space, which would in turn stimulate the local economy. It is only a healthy local economy that can provide the local public services we all rely on.

What do you see as the most difficult challenges facing the new administration?

The budget. The Council has a massive deficit which needs to be addressed. In the short term, there is no alternative but to give priority to essential front line services and to direct cuts at extravagances. There can be no favourites within these priority services which must be funded proportionately, so that the impact is fairly and evenly distributed. The difficulty, for some, will be in identifying what is and what is not an extravagance - for example Jaguar Cars and Redbridge Life. Do you want a monthly ‘newspaper’ or a care visitor for your elderly next door neighbour? Do you care if the Mayor arrives in a Jag or on a bike?

How important is co-operation and consensus between all parties in running a council?

Vital. We are at a critical and crucial stage, locally as well as nationally, when co-operational (as opposed to confrontational) politics are essential. In the last year, here in Redbridge, we have had a glimpse of what co-operation can deliver with a minority Conservative administration consulting and listening to other parties and the public at least some of the time. This is a fundamental aspect of Green politics and does not need to be forced upon us.

Assuming you are in opposition, on what single issue would you most like to influence the council, and why?

Planning: For far too long planning proposals have nearly always favoured the powerful developer over the local community. This issue needs to be addressed, by local as well as national government, as a matter of priority. We would seek to use the Sustainable Communities Act to achieve this end.

What do you consider to be realistically achievable over the next 4 years?

As well as looking to improve planning laws, I would also introduce positive initiatives such as home insulation, and free healthy primary school meals. I would also seek to implement 20mph speed limits in residential areas, which has been shown to dramatically reduce pedestrian accidents while having a very small impact on journey times. I would work closely with other partner authorities such as the PCT to ensure high standards of cleanliness and accessibility to well maintained services, as well as the Police to minimise crime and disruption to our lives.

Which environmental/community issues are of most concern and how would you deal with them?

Climate change is the most pressing issue affecting us all and should be at the core of all policy, locally and nationally. We cannot do this alone but we can play our part. Locally the Greens would provide free insulation to all households to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and demand more accessible and affordable public transport. We would also seek to preserve and protect our open spaces and the bio-diversity it contains, as well as opposing inappropriate and/or over development which has no funded or planned provision to upgrade infrastructure and amenities.

Which business/economic issues are of most concern and how would you deal with them?

I believe that the economic collapse is the most important issue. However any plan to cut public spending at this time would be economically devastating, creating a depression rather than helping the country out of the recession. I would push to provide support for local businesses and local green initiatives, especially those which promote renewable and alternative energy. Investment in social housing would also have a high priority. Where possible renovation of existing empty properties and the building of new homes to high environmental standards should be undertaken. With adequate local infrastructure and amenities, this would also serve to stimulate the local economy and provide employment opportunities.

What one thing could central Government do to make the job of running a local authority easier?

Reduce petty central targets – so that councils could concentrate on providing the best services possible – and stop the pressure to privatise. In a time of economic hardship, the temptation is for governments and councils to take the one-off cash injection that comes with selling off public services, but there is often a much greater price to pay in the longer term, as these services are remoulded according to the needs of their new owners rather than those of the public. Public services are best kept in public hands, and managed in a way that allows, rather than inhibits, the front line to do its job.

If elected what would you wish to be judged on after 4 years?

A successful record of achieving my promised work on behalf of the community and the fact I am known as being a genuine, committed counsellor who cares about the lives of Redbridge residents. My hope would then be that people will be further encouraged to elect more Green councillors in future.


  1. So at a time of economic collapse (Mr Gunstock's own phrase) he would also wish to spend more on 'free' insulation, more public transport, more social housing, more this, more that -

    and just where would the money come from, sir? Does it grow, unbeknownst to me, on some rare trees in Valentines Park? or hide in baskets amongst the rushes of the River Roding? Oh no, that's right, it comes straight out of the suffering taxpayer's pocket.

  2. This is the same parliamentary candidate who campaigned against a Tesco Metro in Wanstead high street, but found no contradiction in shopping at Tesco's in nearby Leytonstone. Wanstead High Street is a very important location in Redbridge with independent shops that must be preserved. Most people would agree that the supermarkets have a lot to answer for in terms of local high streets being eroded. But surely the Greens need to practice what they preach. Kevin Madden, Chadwell Heath.