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The Candidate Interviews: Shailesh Vara - Conservative (North West Cambridgeshire)

Shailesh Vara

Shailesh Vara, the Conservative candidate for North West Cambridgeshire, was the constituency’s Member of Parliament for the past 19 years.

“I have helped thousands of individuals on any number of issues and problems that they've come to me about, and I've also worked with and supported a significant number of local businesses, organizations, charities and community groups.

“I have a proven track record of delivery.”

Addressing the challenges young people face getting onto the housing ladder, Mr Vara said: “I recognise it's a difficult issue, and people do need to be helped to get onto that ladder, both in terms of good quality jobs and some financial assistance.

“Anyone buying a property for the first time up to £425,000 would not have to pay stamp duty,” a Conservative manifesto pledge Mr Vara believed would help first-time buyers.

Meanwhile, he noted that although the vast majority of landlords are reasonable people, there is a minority of unscrupulous landlords who may mistreat tenants - including young renters saving for their first deposit.

“If there’s a property where the conditions are awful, or there’s damp, local authorities should step in very quickly and make sure that the landlord is brought to account.”

In terms of tackling NHS waiting lists, Mr Vara largely attributed the backlog to the Covid-19 pandemic, stating: “Its consequences lasted quite a while, so that has built up a backlog - a huge backlog, which we are trying to deal with.

“We’ve certainly put in the investment for doctors and nurses. We have put in record sums of funding into the NHS to help them deal with the battle.”

Mr Vara was confident that more community diagnostic centres could help tackle waiting lists in local hospitals.

“They will be places where people can more quickly and efficiently get scans done, tests done and checks done which previously would have been done in hospitals.”

160 community diagnostic centres have been built around the country thus far.

Mr Vara said of climate change: “The government is working directly with Anglia Ruskin University to develop hydrogen technology.”

He hoped that Peterborough exploring hydrogen technology as a future means of generating renewable energy could put the city on the map - similar to how “Cambridge has a specialism with pharmaceutical companies”.

Mr Vara also revealed the combined authority is receiving funding from central government for a bus depot in Peterborough powered by electricity.

Responding to the increase in young people experiencing poor mental health, the Conservative candidate said: “We should be treating mental health illnesses in the same way that we treat other physical illnesses, and there should be absolutely no stigma attached. 

“People, if they're suffering, should not be afraid to come forward and we should encourage them to come forward.

“The government has provided record sums of money to help people with mental health illnesses and I'm very much in favor of that.”

For young people who may feel isolated, Mr Vara suggested his party’s national service plan could provide them with a new sense of purpose and identity.

“They would be with many other people. They would develop a feeling of camaraderie, a feeling of community, and they can come out at the other end a lot more confident as individuals than perhaps they would otherwise.”

He said that many young people don’t know what to do when they leave school, and that national service could help ease their transition out of post-16 education, whether that be volunteering with the army, or volunteering for community service, both for a year.

“The world is an increasingly dangerous place, and it can be no bad thing that our young people have some training,” to be prepared for future conflicts, Mr Vara explained. 

He believed national service would teach young people a range of transferable skills useful for the rest of their lives.

In terms of education, Mr Vara said that whilst university leads to great opportunities for many, it isn’t the only avenue to successful careers.

“We need to ensure we have the facilities to get the maximum potential out of every single individual.

“It might be that some people don't need the academic side and go straight into an apprenticeship or some vocational course, so I think we need to be open minded, because we need people to fulfill all those jobs.”

Mr Vara argued that his party plans to cut less valuable degree courses from universities out of compassion for young graduates who struggle to find a well-paid job with their qualification.

“There's no point having a degree which then, at the end of it, you graduate but you end up with a massive debt that you can't pay.”

Addressing knife crime, Mr Vara called for a “change of attitude in terms of people thinking it’s perfectly right to have these dangerous weapons - we need to enforce the law much more rigorously.” 

“The Conservatives will be recruiting an additional 8,000 officers, and if I’m re-elected, I would secure our fair share of those officers.”

He was proud to have secured 200 additional police officers for the county and said: “A message is sent loud and clear that (carrying knives) is not acceptable.”


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