The Lewisham Deptford Elections: Gemma Townsend

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. Gemma Townsend, the Conservative Party candidate for Lewisham Deptford, answers our questions. Click for Tam Langley, Darren Johnson and Joan Ruddock's answers.

1. Outside of morning peak time, overland services to London Bridge have been cut from 6 trains per hour to four trains per hour. What will you do to restore the levels of service, which were promised until last year?

I’ve already met with Conservative Assembly Members on the London Assembly and other Conservative candidates in SE London to discuss the problems, identify other services being effected and consider solutions. I will also be raising the issue with the Party’s Shadow Minister for London when she comes to visit the constituency later this week.

If elected I’ll take two clear steps. Firstly meet with Teressa Villiers and Stephen Hammond (Shadow Transport Secretary and Minister), to highlight the local impact of cuts. Secondly, I would work with others set up a cross party working group of elected representatives from across SE London to agree clear priorities for transport in SE London and a clear plan for lobbying on these issues.

2. Do you support the local campaign to revive plans for the South London Loop service to Crofton Park?

I live one minute walk from the station and sadly rarely find the service of any use, meaning Brockley is my local station. It’s vital we get a decent service running through the station if we want more small businesses to continue investing in Crofton Park. It’s also vital that the area as a whole has proper transport links with SW and central London.

I’ve discussed this with Conservative Assembly Members and they and the Mayor have been clear from the start, the Department for Transport must fund these plans. The Mayor has asked TfL to conduct a study with London TravelWatch to consider the options. The report is due next month, by which point we will have a clearer idea of the situation and what the next steps may be.

3. What, specifically, will you do to ensure that the Surrey Canal Station gets built during the extension of the East London Line to Clapham Junction?

The Government promised us that if Boris (through TfL) and Lewisham Council could find £3m of the £10m needed to build the Surrey Canal Road Station, then the Government would fund the remaining £7m. Boris and Lewisham worked hard to fund their side of the deal. The Government has failed to deliver on this promise. My first step would be to meet with Teressa Villiers and Stephen Hammond to discuss the proposals. Secondly, I’d work with the Mayor and Conservative Assembly Members to put more pressure on the Government. I’d also want to explore what other options are available.

4. What will your top priority for Lewisham Deptford be and what are you going to do about it?

Education. I want parents to stay in Lewisham as their family grows and not feel that moving is the only option for decent secondary education. A Conservative Government will restore discipline in the classroom, raise standards by raising the bar for trainee teachers and give heads more power. We want to make it much easier for educational charities, or groups of parents and teachers cooperatives to start up Academies, like the successful Haberdashers Aske Federation.

I’ve worked for Ofsted and I’m currently on the management board at Abbey Manor College in Lewisham. In my professional opinion all schools benefit from sharing good practise. I would encourage the council to establish more formal links between schools to share best practise on tackling specific issues.

5. How will you reduce crime and improve policing in Lewisham Deptford?

I work developing policing and crime policies for the Mayor of London. I speak to police officers every day and they tell me form filling is completely out of hand. Conservative’s will let the police do their job with less form filling, they will completely scrap the ‘stop’ form and restore discretion to police officers, so they can respond quickly and easily to minor misdemeanours.

Locally I’d promote better communication after serious incidents occur, like the Brockley shootings. This could be as simple as having local police notice boards to communicate the facts and regular updates. It’s particularly important that locally we find better ways to communicate the facts to groups that don’t always access to the internet, like pensioners.

6. How can national government help Lewisham Council improve its performance and achieve its aims?

Of the councils with the top 20 highest ‘overall satisfaction’ ratings by their residents in the country, 16 are Conservative. They also provide better value for money, in London Conservative’s charge £38 a year less than Labour on Council Tax and £307 a year less than the Liberal democrats. As a priority the Government must do more to share existing good practise to help councils like Lewisham.

A Conservative Government will allow councils to return to the committee system of local government, promote ward budgets for councillors and scrap flawed predetermination budgets rules which hinder councillors from championing the interests of local residents. Local residents will also be able to petition to hold a referendum on any local issue.

7. What is the one policy you support that you would most like Brockley Central readers to know about?

As crime is such a concern locally, I want readers to know about our plans to help people exit crime. Currently over half of offenders re-offend within a year.

Conservatives want to see a rehabilitation revolution, with post rehabilitation service providers paid by results. It means the company or charity commissioned to deliver the service has to think long and hard about the individual needs, and if they get it wrong, they don’t get paid! This is what the Mayor has done in Feltham, a Young Offenders Institute, so far there have been amazing results. The Conservatives will also try out a new scheme to create Prison and Rehabilitation Trusts, which would mean the right support could continue after prison.

8. Name one thing in the party manifesto with which you personally disagree?

I personally would like to have seen some specific focus on tackling emerging crimes like the use of dangerous dogs in London. It comes up a lot in certain parts of the constituency and it’s a real problem for London as a whole.