COTSWOLD parliamentary hopeful Andrew Gant, who has been a member of the Liberal Democrats for more than 25 years, has said he will be ‘realistic and practical’ in his approach if elected.   

A composer, singer, author and teacher, Andrew was elected to Oxford City Council in 2014, before being re-elected in 2016, and becoming leader of the city’s Lib Dem group the same year.

“That is really relevant,” he said. “I’m the only candidate who has actually been a councillor.

“It is absolutely imperative to the trade because you’re working with the community day-to-day.”

Andrew’s time as a councillor included working on a planning committee and he was quick to condemn the Tory-led district council’s handling of the controversial plans for 2,350 new homes on Chesterton Farm in Cirencester.

“I understand the pressures of the housing crisis but the fact is this development is too many houses all in the same place, I’m not convinced the infrastructure is in place,” he said.

“The biggest thing of all is the Conservative-controlled district council has not adopted a Local Plan and that means when it comes to planning issues there is no reasonable plan to test it against.

“You essentially get planning by developer rather than by the authority.”

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard:

Nationally, Andrew considers the major issues which his party will address as the NHS, education and Brexit.

In regards to the NHS, he said: “We are realistic about it, we're telling people if you elect us you will pay a penny in income tax more.

“That money will be ring-fenced to provide support to the NHS.”

“We know that money on its own is not enough but at the same time we're going to be grown up about looking at the structure of the organisation.

“You've got to integrate health and social care, it doesn't work treating the two things differently,” he said.

Using the closure of Cirencester Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit overnight in October last year as an example, Andrew said: “NHS provision locally is sort of withering away”.

“We're committed to being realistic about the challenges we face with the NHS nationally and the way they work out locally.”

He said if he had “to pick one thing I’m most committed to and most proud of” is ensuring young people with mental health problems are “finding access to the right treatments at the right time”.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard:

Andrew described the Lib Dems’ manifesto as “very much about building a better world for young people” – which includes allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

Following last year’s referendum, he said he has spoken to many young people, some who were too young to vote, who “were so upset at what the older generation, my generation, had done, in a decision which effects them far more than it affects us”.

In regards to education, he said the Lib Dems are determined to reverse “the negative effect of this terrible school funding formula”.

Going on to describe the pupil premium as “one of the best policies of modern times”, comparing it to the “great reforming radical tradition” of the Attlee government, Andrew also said the party wants the teaching profession to be “better valued” and to protect free school meals for those who need them.

He said Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who has held the Cotswold seat for 25 years, “doesn’t represent the views of his constituents” – citing his campaigning to Leave the EU when the constituency voted to Remain as a prime example.

And despite not wanting to “make a single issue campaign” he said the Conservative government is “trying to railroad through a hard Brexit”.  

“They don't want the eventual deal to come back to the people, we do.

“We trust the people to say: is this what you voted for or not?”

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard:

Andrew Gant joined residents and councillors for a protest against the proposed Chesterton development this month