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What do residents in Newmarket and Haverhill care about ahead of the election?





With a general election right around the corner, here are the issues residents in West Suffolk care about.

Mirroring most others across the county, the constituency has been a Conservative safe seat for its entire history, having only seen two representatives since 1997, Richard Spring and Matt Hancock.

With Mr Hancock announcing he would not run for a fifth time, after having the Conservative whip removed when he signed up for the ITV reality programme I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here!, eight candidates have stepped up.

Newmarket town centre. Picture: Google Maps
Newmarket town centre. Picture: Google Maps

I took to the streets of Newmarket and Haverhill to ask residents on the street what was on their minds ahead of the vote on July 4 — 29 took time to share their views.

Healthcare and the NHS were by far residents’ biggest concerns, being mentioned 26 different times. Some said waiting times (13) should be the focus, while others mentioned dentistry (7) and funding as points of concern — a further five residents also brought up the need to have a new hospital that’s fit for purpose.

More often than not, residents also spoke about still feeling financial pressures, with 11 saying they’d want their candidate to ease the cost of living in one way or another, while others singled out low pensions (5) and benefits (3).

Also mentioned a significant number of times was the need to invest more into the town centre (11), and immigration (7).

Cropping up more sparingly were concerns about affordable housing (3), the poor state of the roads (3) and public transport network (4), crime and antisocial behaviour (3), sewage (3), and overall mistrust in politicians (2).

At the end of each conversation, I took the liberty to ask residents whether they had already decided on who to vote for — 21 said their minds were set on a candidate, while only eight said they remained undecided.

Although those who spoke to me were not representative of the constituency as a whole, and candidates might have had a different experience on the doorstep, their responses gave a flavour of what’s on voters’ minds ahead of the ballots.

So, what do candidates think?

Henry Batchelor. Picture: Henry Batchelor
Henry Batchelor. Picture: Henry Batchelor

Liberal Democrats:

Representing the Lib Dems next month will be Henry Batchelor, who has worked as a councillor at South Cambridgeshire District Council since May 2014.

Two of his top priorities would be not only to reduce waiting times for GPs and NHS dentists, through investment and calculating demand locally rather than centrally, but also to support town centres by removing business rates and replacing them with a landlord levy.

Mr Batchelor also said he would push for water companies to stop spilling sewage into rivers and waterways, with the end goal of turning them into public benefit companies.

Rebecca Denness. Picture: Rebecca Denness
Rebecca Denness. Picture: Rebecca Denness

Labour Party:

Rebecca Denness, who is standing as the Labour candidate has also got some councillor experience under her belt, having been elected to the City of Ely Council in 2019.

She said she would work to secure investment in the constituency to provide high-quality local jobs for residents, as well as rejuvenate town centres through initiatives such as bringing back Newmarket’s high street.

Ms Denness also said she would make sure residents are heard and would request urgent meetings with the minister for energy security and net zero to demand a review of the Sunnica Energy Farm project.

Nick Timothy. Picture: Nick Timothy
Nick Timothy. Picture: Nick Timothy

Conservative Party:

The Conservative candidate to try and take on Mr Hancock’s mantle will be Nick Timothy, the former chief of staff for Theresa May.

He said part of his focus would be on pressuring West Suffolk Council to put people before profit to make sure new housing is meant for families and in the right places, as well as working with ministers and officials to deliver a new train station in Haverhill.

Mr Timothy also said he would push for a relief road in Mildenhall to tackle traffic concerns as 1,300 homes are planned for the area.

Mark Ereira. Picture: Mark Ereira
Mark Ereira. Picture: Mark Ereira

Green Party:

Representing the Greens for his fourth time will be Mark Ereira, who served two terms on Suffolk County Council as the party’s only member in West Suffolk.

He said he would focus on ending political turmoil and making sure people are cared for through funding for key public services, as well as reversing the decline of town centres by working with local communities, businesses, authorities, and faith groups to make their towns more attractive.

Mr Ereira also said he would push for the resolution of the international conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine.

David Bull. Picture: David Bull
David Bull. Picture: David Bull

Reform UK:

Dr David Bull, Reform’s co-deputy leader, will be standing for the constituency next month, after coming third in Sedgefield in 2019 with the then Brexit Party.

He described the coming election as the ‘immigration election’ and said he would work to achieve net zero migration as a way to address issues with public services and housing.

Dr Bull also added he would work to ease the cost of living pressures such as high rents and prices, as well as push for reforming the healthcare systems in a bid to reduce waiting lists.

Katie Parker. Picture: Katie Parker
Katie Parker. Picture: Katie Parker

Independent:

One of two Independents to run for West Suffolk will be Katie Parker, a former Bury St Edmunds town councillor for four years, first with Labour and then with the Breakthrough Party.

She said reducing health care waiting lists, for GP services, dentists and mental health, would be a priority she would work on immediately.

Ms Parker also said she would work on easing the cost of living pressures, including high prices and low wages, as well as improve youth services, including youth clubs, counselling, arts and sports resources, and SEN provision.

Luke O’Brien. Credit: Luke O'Brien
Luke O’Brien. Credit: Luke O'Brien

Independent:

Luke O’Brien, who has recently become a parish councillor at Barrow cum Denham, is the second Independent candidate running next month.

After speaking to residents, Mr O’Brien said he would focus on improving access to GP surgeries and NHS dentists, particularly after reports of children being admitted to A&E due to a lack of NHS dentists.

He also said he would address the lack of adequate public transport, including infrequent buses and issues affecting disabled people, as well as concerns over the overdevelopment of villages which aren’t matched by proper public services.

Ivan Kinsman. Picture: Ivan Kinsman
Ivan Kinsman. Picture: Ivan Kinsman

Social Democratic Party:

Standing with the SDP will be Ivan Kinsman, a businessman living in Newmarket.

He said he would attract visitors to Newmarket, Mildenhall and Haverhill with more events as well as improved public transport, particularly local bus services, with more frequent scheduling.

Mr Kinsman also said residents have raised concerns about migration numbers and how these put increased pressure on frontline health services, leading to long waiting lists.