1. Tell us about yourself and why you’re standing
I am Paul Bowers and I am the Green Party candidate for the Chester by-election. I have lived in Chester for the vast majority of my life and many of my best memories come from within the city walls. I now live in Tarvin with my wife, 3 children and dogs. I was the first elected Green Councillor in Cheshire and I balance that with my trade as a painter and decorator (Contact me for reasonable rates 😉).
2. What qualities can you bring to the role of MP ?
Being a Green Party candidate, I am not tied by party Whips and having to do as I am told by the party leadership. This independence allows me to support and represent the people of Chester in a way that the other parties cannot. I come with a lot of experience that is different to the other candidates. This experience gives me a genuine understanding of the effects the cost of living crisis is having the working families of Chester. I am also the only candidate that is actively fighting to stop the climate breakdown we are experiencing.
3. How would you assess the record of the current Government ?
A total dustbin fire!
4. What would be your 3 main priorities for Chester ?
1) Tackling the cities growing issues with homelessness which has been made worse by the cost of living crisis and will continue with the Tory Austerity 2.0
2) Ensuring people across Chester live in warm homes. Well insulated and low cost housing is a right we should all have.
3) I pledge that I will fight to stop Chester becoming a seaport again. By that I mean pushing the UK to meet its legal carbon emission targets and slow the rate of climate change and sea level rise.
5. How would you support constituency SMEs through the economic crisis?
We need UK wide regional devolution. Devolved powers have more idea of how to solve regional problems. What will support SME’s in Hackney will not do the same in Huntingdon. Linked to this we need to return to the European Single Market. This will give our local SME’s the opportunity to take advantage of the tariff free imports and exports. We should also help with the energy costs that are crippling many SME’s in the city. By creating local energy hubs we can reduce those bills and the carbon emissions for each business.
6. What works well in Chester ?
When the wonderful diverse community we live in acts together and embraces change, it is the most powerful thing in the world. We see this across the city with Storyhouse, The Share Shop, The Garden Quarter community activities and how the community came together with other parts of Cheshire to reject Fracking. We can see this happening again to fight off the destructive Hynet Hydrogen Project.
7. What doesn’t work well in Chester and how could you improve it?
One word…Transport. We need more and better active travel solutions, better bus services to rural communities, a tram system linking the main city attractions. Building a huge car park and charging the earth is not a solution.
8. What steps should Chester take towards relieving the climate crisis ? How would you encourage green investment ?
Instead of over £3 Billion going to fossil fuel subsidies at the destructive Blue/Grey Hydrogen Project Hynet, we need a green industrial revolution. Insulate people’s homes and businesses to cut peoples energy bills. We need to focus on retraining people into future proof industries such as solar power and heat pump fitting and maintenance. We need to invest in public transport and active travel to clear out the congestion and poor air quality we have in the city. If we show leadership then others will follow.
9. Do you support sending asylum seekers to Rwanda?
No, it is illegal and shows off the worst instincts of a populist Tory regime.
10. How has Brexit affected Chester and how could we maximise any current/future benefits?
There are very few future benefits of Brexit, if any at all. It has been a catastrophic failed experiment by the Tories, supported by Labour. In fact Brexit has only had negative effects on this city, a city that voted to remain. Chester relies on hospitality jobs, banking, manufacturing (Airbus etc) and tourism and all these industries rely on access to the single market and free movement of people. We are also denying our younger people the opportunity and right to live, learn and love in the E.U.
11. What are your aspirations for the next phase of the Northgate development?
I think that the first phase of the project was a huge, missed opportunity. Initially it should have focused on getting good quality affordable and social housing at its heart, with a city garden to capitalise on what we already have. Making the first thing that opens an 800-space monstrous car park gives off all the wrong signals when the local council declared a climate emergency a number of years ago.
12. How can we better maintain and support the city walls , in particular the collapse of 2020 which remains unrepaired?
The Walls are an internationally important attraction and after 12 years of Conservative Government cuts it is not reasonable for the local authority to shoulder the ongoing cost of their maintenance. I would propose a tourist tax similar to the one in Edinburgh which would be ring fenced for the maintenance of the walls and other historic attractions and sites in the city. It would be good if we could even find some money in there to fund the building of an international quality museum, but that might need a private partner.
13. Dee House remains in a state of disrepair, how could we speed up progress on this divisive issue?
I think that Dee House is a symbol of how Chester lacks confidence in itself. We have the biggest amphitheatre in the UK, historic Walls, a Castle and the Rows, amongst other amazing things. In Council meetings we always look at Cheshire Oaks and the Trafford Centre as our main competition, but never Bath and York, never mind Lucca and Tallin. We are a European historic city and must utilise this as our USP. We cannot do this with a derelict ruin right in the centre.
14. Would you support the Ginger E scooter trial being made permanent ?
Yes…without a doubt. It must be one spoke in the cities decarbonisation plan.
15. Our former MP said he would fight the closure of the Countess with every drop of blood in his body – do you enjoy the same level of conviction?
Yes it’s obvious that a city of this size should have its own, well-funded, major hospital and A&E.
16. What are your views on the future use of Chester castle ?
This is yet another asset that has been overlooked for decades. It needs bringing back into the portfolio that makes the city attractive. Active and honest discussions with the owners is the first step.
17. How would you tackle the further regeneration of the rows?
The Rows are a unique asset that need treating as such. The Northgate Development will attract and be filled by National Chains. We must ensure that we facilitate local independent businesses to thrive in the Rows. With out these businesses we just become a clone town destination.
18. What support could you offer to Chester FC?
I honestly don’t have much experience in football management past the PC game in the 1990’s. This should be left to those that know the industry better. We should however kick the LFC shop out of the city and replace it with a Chester FC shop.
19. What is your definition of a woman?
I believe that individuals should have to right to define their own gender and identity.
20. What are your views on a form of proportional representation for Parliament and House of Lords reform?
This is the only way we can make any substantial change to the democracy of the country. As the Green Party we regularly get over 1 million votes nationally in a General Election but only have 1 MP to show for it. Proportional Representation is the only way every vote counts and everyone has a voice. Sadly, the leadership of both Labour and Conservative see it as a threat to their dominance of the political system.
21. What are your views on the cost of parking in the city particularly the new Market Car Park ?
In our own (CWaC) Climate Emergency we committed to reducing the private car use in the city by 25%, yet we build more car parks. Investment in public transport and active travel are the only answer to hitting our targets.
22. How would you improve transport links to the city. Manchester/London/Flintshire etc. Also rural transport links
Because of deregulated public transport, it is actually impossible to make any impact on this no matter what anyone promises. That is why we need to nationalise our public transport and make it the most desirable, affordable and easiest option. We only have to look at Germany and other European countries to see how well it can work.
23. What are your views on an English assembly/ Parliament ?
Regional devolution with an EU framework would be a far better solution. Our centralised London-centric form of Government has neglected the North West for decades. This will only continue if we have an English Parliament.
24. What are your hopes for the local housing market ?
We need to improve the standards of insulation required in the local building regulations and we need to plan more high quality affordable and social housing. New developments need better access to public transport and active travel links. New estates should employ a level of localism with shops and services, such as doctors, dentist and child care, within that area. Just building 500 houses on the outskirts of the city and expecting families to commute to access services that are already overwhelmed is not acceptable.
25. How would you tackle the increasing number of street drug/drink users?
Decriminalisation of drugs use and providing safe spaces and health facilities, similar to they do in Portugal, would greatly reduce the criminal activity linked to drugs. By engaging with users instead of punishing them we can move this long standing issue on to the next stage.
26. The Chester constituency has a collection of varied wards , some affluent, some not, how would you bring economic equality to the city so all residents are involved in opportunities and investment ?
It is a Green Party Policy, that I fully support, to bring in a Universal Basic Income to replace the current benefits system with proactive taxation. I would personally also like to see a carbon allowance that people can buy and sell units to raise income and redistribute wealth. These policies will allow people to worry less about finances and focus on ways to improve their lives through education, training and social mobility.