Will Gallagher is Conservative party candidate for the General election on June 8th
Tell us about yourself and why you are standing ?
I was born in Chester, at the Countess, I went to school in the city. After university I came home and ran my family’s business. I feel a genuine attachment to the city and I want the best for it. I think being the MP will allow me to improve the quality of life for the people who live here, and to do the best by the city.
What are our top 3 priorities for Chester over the next 5 years?
I think the first is to make sure Chester gets its voice heard in the Brexit negotiations. We have a number of really important industries who employ a lot of people in this constituency, financial services, we have automotive and aerospace on our doorsteps. The success of these industries is really linked to the kind of future we set up for ourselves post Brexit.
The next thing is to lock in the economic progress that we have made. If we want things like the Northgate development to go ahead, if we want taxes to keep falling…since 2010 40,000 people in Chester have seen a reduction in their income tax. We have to lock in the progress we’ve made. Also in terms of that economic progress, in terms of keeping the city centre busy and bustling and filling those empty shops with new businesses.
The third one is making sure we have the infrastructure. That’s about transport links, about getting rid of some of the traffic problems. Also about making sure that the next generation are not priced out of living here, so we need the affordable homes to go with that. If you have the family homes you have to have the infrastructure to match, making sure the quality of life is better.
How would you describe record of former MP Chris Matheson ?
Chris seems a perfectly affable chap and I think … the most important thing for an MP is, can they make sure their voice is heard by Government. Chris says he has written a lot of letters and done a lot of campaigning , but what does that actually lead to in terms of outcomes? What I would argue is a Conservative MP with more experience of government, and knows how to engage with Ministers will be better placed to get a good deal for the city.
What do you think Chester does well as a city and what can it do better ?
Chester is a city with a really rich history. It’s got some amazing architecture, beautiful river, those sorts of things, its great in that sense. It’s good that we have a new cultural hub opening with Storyhouse , and new businesses starting up.. You are seeing a change with places like this (Ginger, Northgate street) and that’s really good. But what I want to see is that we capitalise on our potential and do more. We have some great history like the amphitheatre but we seem to make some bad decisions. I think theres a lot of unfulfilled potential. How do we attract more tourists and make sure the city centre is as vibrant as it needs to be? I think there’s a number of things, Hoole Bridge should be a gateway to the city, its one of the things I was talking to Chris Grayling about today, how do we open up these gateways? A lot of gateways send the message that its clogged up, not that its open for business and its welcoming..
Also I think we should be thinking about how we draw people into the city centre with new tourist attractions. What’s going on with Storyhouse is great, but if we make it more expensive for people to park here or we don’t have the bus services , then actually, are we making the most of it ? When you think of the Vikings you think of York.. with Chester our Roman history is unparalleled , so how do we put Chester more on the map as a Roman city?
How do you think Brexit will affect Chester ?
As I’ve said there are a number of industries that rely heavily on our relationship with the outside world so we want to get that right. At the moment they are tied up in our relationship with the EU, whether that’s financial services , nuclear, farming. One, we need to get the right relationship with the EU so we can continue to have these industries strong here. I think with some of the developments we’re seeing, we actually need to not only get the right deal with the EU, but in how we approach the rest of the world I think that can be a fantastic opportunity for Chester. From a tourism point of view, the more we reach out to the world as a whole, the more we can tell an amazing story about this city.
Why do you think your party leader is the best choice for PM?
I think what Theresa May has shown .. is that at this crucial point in our history, getting this deal is one of the most important things, both for our prosperity and our security. I think she’s shown she can be calm and measured and determined and she is someone who engages with the detail and sees them through. Its an important set of skills to have, what you’ve seen from Jeremy Corbyn is he doesn’t have the qualities to do the right deal for this country.
What can we do to encourage turnout from younger voters?
In this election we’re looking to debate the issues, you’ve got to engage, I’m doing a lot of social media, I’m doing hustings and knocking on as many doors as I can. If I can visit schools I will, I know we need to be non partisan but we need to get the message out that we are willing to engage Also, to have a proper debate. When you’re slanging at each other, it doesn’t look very grown up and people think “really?” and they get turned off. I used to work for an organisation called National Citizens Service, which got people thinking about how they could contribute to their community. If you did NCS, it increased the likelihood of voting. If you engage people and make them think about the issues it does increase their propensity to vote.
The university has 19,000 students and is rapidly expanding. What do you see as the pros and cons of this ?
I remember when I was growing up in the city. I lived in Hoole for a while, I went to Kings. I was the first person in my family to go to university and I remember my dad saying on the school run, ” a city like Chester should have a great university”.” It now does have a growing and thriving university and that’s really happened over the last few years. Its a great thing that bright people are coming here and developing more skills. What we do have to make sure is that we don’t end up with student housing put up my private developers that crowds families out of the city . Where the density of housing has increased, we need the transport connections and the infrastructure to go with it.
What else can be done to help the homeless in the city ?
I think, theres no doubt homelessness is an issue. I spent a number of years working in the justice arena and often a lot of the issues were about how do we help people when they are homeless, how do we support them? In many cases they have to find a job and get themselves on the straight and narrow before they can be housed. I want to start housing people before, once they’re in a stable living environment, you start to move them back in the right direction and its easier for them to get a job and build relationships. But go back, one of the things I am very proud about, when I worked in the Ministry of Justice, it used to be that when you were released from prison after less than a year, you were given 46 quid and you got no support or provision. Its not a surprise a lot of those people ended up reoffending and living on the streets. By giving them a year long period of supervision and support it reduces the reoffending and chance of homelessness. In some ways we need to deal with the issue in hand, and dealing with the root causes of why people become homeless in the first place.
Food bank usage is on the increase. How can the government address this?
Food banks are doing a tremendous job in making sure people get the help and support that they need. Its good that the community can come together. Obviously we don’t want people to be needing food banks as much as that, and what we should be dealing with why the reasons that happens. One, making sure we help people into work, that the welfare system is responsive and where there are issues and sanctions we get them resolved quickly. The great work that we are doing , helping them into work, lifting their taxes, liftest the lowest earners out of tax altogether, all of this makes it easier. But we do need to also need to deal with the issues in the benefit system and I know a lot of MPs, Labour and Conservative alike get involved in that in their casework. Its not that people have bad intentions, its that the system doesn’t always work as well as it should. When that happens the MPs need to get involved and help those individuals. The fact that communities do come together with food banks, they are to be congratulated for what they do.
What is your personal political ideology ?
I must say I don’t really think of myself as being particularly ideological. I’m quite pragmatic and I’m interested in not what some political thinker says, but theres an issue that needs solving, how do we solve it and who do I need to work with to get that solved. What I do fundamentally believe in, is that human beings are actually more often that not, good and well intentioned. And when they come together and work together, they can achieve really good things. Bureaucracies don’t always do that but people working together can. There’s a role for the state, but its how you galvanise people and I don’t think the answer to every single problem is always the state, its finding the right balance to solve the problem.
In terms of developments across the city, Northgate, bus station, Storyhouse, how do balance the historic city with the need for modern facilities ?
I’m not really sure these two things are in tension actually. One of the things that attracts people to this city is its rich history. That doesn’t mean we should be stuck in that history and we need to think about how we can have new facilities, things like making sure we have modern transport links, improving air quality by having electric charging points, these kinds of things. This can all be very forward looking, all of these things can sit alongside the history of the city. What we are seeing with things like Storyhouse is you can take an iconic building and give it a new lease of life and gives the city a new heart. I can’t believe there aren’t other buildings in the city, that done right, can capitalise on our history and maximise on our future.
Fracking was a big issue in 2015, will it be in 2017?
I know Labour want this to be an issue because they want to avoid the big choice about whether its Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May as best placed to lead this country at this crucial moment. However its an issue on which there is not a huge amount of disagreement. If you don’t want to see fracking in Chester , then you can vote for me, because I’m very clear I won’t support fracking in Chester.
The Conservative party thinks there is a role for fracking in the energy mix, but it doesn’t get into where it should be done and I don’t see how, if you’re choosing where it should happen, it should be happening right on the edge of a big conurbation. When the evidence that it is safe, the support from the community just isn’t there. Fracking is not an issue that divides me and Chris.
Would you dig up Deva?
I think we should not have given a developer a 100 odd years rights over the amphitheatre. We need to make sure that we preserve and promote our heritage. To excavate , you have to do it properly, make sure the remains are properly preserved, we need to think about how we raise the funds and put together a project and then make the most of our history. At this rate our grandchildren will never get to see the other half of the amphitheatre and I don’t think that’s right, I don’t think there was a need to bury our history for so long.
There have been a variety of schemes.. I understand that some people think Dee House is a beautiful piece of architecture, I don’t agree with that. I think we need to look at what the scheme should be, rather than just selling it off to a developer.
How would you vote on fox hunting if there was a free vote ?
It’s not an issue I feel particularly strongly about! It’s not an issue that is coming up all the time on the doorsteps and I don’t think a Conservative government will be prioritising it when elected. I tend to not be in favour of banning things unless there’s a really good reason.
How would you describe the record of the government ?
Record levels of employment, record levels of spending on the NHS, record levels of investment in schools and reducing peoples taxes, cancer survival rates improving, that is a government that is delivering. Yes there are still challenges but we are making progress, we are one of the fastest growing economies in the world. We face a critical few years ahead and can’t throw that progress away.
Why should people vote for you ? video