Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited Peterborough today to make a key speech to party members and the national media.
But when the television cameras were put away and the 100 or so people who crowded into Paston Farm Centre had dispersed, the Peterborough Telegraph sat down with him in a side room to talk about key issues in the city.
Q: Why did you choose Peterborough to make your New Year’s speech today?
A: “I’m here in Peterborough today because I supported Lisa Forbes in the last election campaign and I like to do things outside London as much as I can.”
Q: Is Peterborough a key seat Labour is targeting in the next General Election?
A: “It is an area that Labour would seek to win. I was here with our council leader and our MEP for the area and I am going to be discussing with them now the issues of housing and health service, the under-funding of the hospital in Peterborough and also the question of the council sale of council buildings when in fact there is a housing crisis going on.”
Q: You’re obviously aware of the St Michael’s Gate issue and Peterborough City Council’s plans to move homeless people into homes where 74 people have been evicted, and the Peterborough Telegraph’s petition against this. What would you do differently?
A: “What I would do is invest in new housing for rent, for council rent, so we maintain a stock of housing which is there for all people who need to be housed. What they have done is sold off council housing to a private company, that surely cannot be the right thing to do, council housing exists for the benefit of everybody.”
Q: Immigration remains a hot topic in Peterborough. What would you say to residents who have struggled to get a GP appointment or struggled to get their child a place in schools because of the pressure immigration has put on the city’s infrastructure?
A: “I would say we should have and bring back the Migrant Impact Fund that Gordon Brown’s government established in 2009/10 which was there to support local government with funding to increase the number of school places, the number of GPs and hospital facilities. That surely has to be the right answer to it, but also recognise that there are many people working within our National Health Service who have come from other parts of Europe who are crucial to the survival of those services.”
Q: If you don’t think we need to stop the number of people coming into this country how do you respond to people who have concerns about it?
A: By pointing out the under investment in our services, but also by pointing out the work that is done by European migrants working within our health service and education service, so the question of under-funding of services is crucial, so in this city, in Peterborough, this council seem to be more interested in selling off council housing to a private sector organisation rather than housing people that are homeless and need to be housed.
Q: So you say if there was more funding in services people wouldn’t be so concerned about the level of immigration?
A: I think sometimes there are issues surrounding shortages of services in which people are unfairly blamed. I think the real issue is the way in which this Government has treated local Government services.”
Q: What is new about the announcements you have made today?
A: “What is new about is we are there campaigning on market access in Europe, about the fact that we are there about investment in a growing British economy, and that we are there challenging the under-funding crisis within national services.