THE country is going to the polls on Thursday and we're running a series of Q&A's with all the candidates vying for votes across south Essex.

Here, we speak to those hoping to top the poll in Rochford and Southend East.

James Duddridge (Conservative) 


Police numbers in Southend and Rochford are growing rapidly. We are already seeing more police on the High Street with a new, visible Town Centre Team – benefiting both businesses and shoppers. 

The extra funding a Conservative government will deliver means Essex Police will be 400 officers stronger by the end of March 2020, and over 500 stronger by March 2021. 

Essex is also home to the second largest and fastest growing Special Constabulary in the country. The Conservatives will expand stop and search powers and increase prison places to keep our streets safe and reduce violent crime.


The NHS is wonderful. In fact, in 2015 a team of world-class doctors and nurses in the NHS saved my life.

While other political parties choose to always talk down our health service, I will make sure our town benefits from the biggest NHS cash boost in its history - £34 billion by 2023-24 - so that frontline services continue to deliver exceptional care for local patients.

It’s fantastic news that Southend Hospital will receive state-of-the-art MRI and CT screening machines, so cancer can be detected more quickly to boost survival rates.


I am determined to ensure every child has access to a world-class education.

The Conservatives will raise funding for every child in every school in Rochford and Southend, so that every youngster has the best start in life, no matter their background.

During my time as your MP, I have also campaigned for more funding for special educational needs.

This is an important issue and the Conservatives have committed a £780 million increase to special needs funding – which is great news.


The Conservatives are leading the way on combating climate change. I back the commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 and I will support investment that aides this target, such as improving access to electric car charging points for those without off-street parking.

We are leading the way on animal welfare too. Once we have left the European Union, a Conservative Government will enhance animal welfare standards even further, such as introducing a ban on the live exports of animals for slaughter and placing further restrictions on trophy hunting.

High Streets 

I am proud to have helped secure extra investment from central Government for Southend High Street.

This, alongside Southend’s recently introduced Town Centre Policing Team, has helped tackle anti-social behaviour in our High Street which deterred visitors.

Going forward, the High Street needs to offer more than just retail, so I’d like to see a unique setting of shops, housing, street art, education, entertainment, leisure and gyms.

I will continue to work alongside businesses, the police and local councillors to help secure our High Street’s future for generations to come.

Ashley Dalton (Labour) 


Every school in Rochford & Southend East faces a funding shortfall next year.

Schools have faced funding cuts year after year in the last decade and as a result, hardworking teaching staff are struggling to deliver the education our children deserve.

Labour will increase long-term schools funding, introduce a fairer funding formula, and increase funding for special educational needs, while maintaining existing grammar schools.

We will bring free schools and academies back under the control of the people who know best – parents, teachers and communities – and restore decision-making power over budget and day-to-day matters to individual schools.

Labour will also replace Ofsted with a new body designed to drive school improvement.


Southend has the worst rate of knife crime in Essex.

Nationally knife and other violent crime has become a serious issue, which particularly affects young people.

Local residents have told me that they no longer feel safe as the Conservatives have cut officer numbers by 21,000 since 2010.

Labour will expand the Essex Police Violence Reduction Unit, as part of a national programme designed to tackle violent crimes.

We will also fund a £20mn annual Justice Innovation Fund in which local Police and Crime Commissioners and criminal justice boards can develop ways to reduce reoffending.

I will press at all levels for more police on the beat, and for proper old-fashioned neighbourhood policing, working in partnership with proud, responsible communities.


I have wholeheartedly supported the campaigns to protect local health services such as Southend Hospital and the Campfield Road ambulance station.

I am passionate about defending and improving our local health system, from A&E and specialist services such as the stroke unit at the hospital to community health services.

I believe that we must ensure any changes to the local health landscape through projects such as the STP must put patients first and take into account the views of clinicians.

I’ll work with patients, professionals and residents to make sure the quality of our services are maintained.

Our health services are grossly underfunded and that is why Labour will increase NHS spending by 4.3 per cent per year.


Cutting emissions in order to promote environmental sustainability and improve air quality is central to Labour’s transport policy.

That is why we have pledged to improve public transport and reduce individual car use by expanding bus services and investing in the rail system to provide people with greener travel alternatives.

Speed limit reductions should be considered alongside modelling the impact on journey times and congestion. 

Town centres 

Last year, I brought together a group of business leaders to discuss their vision for the future of Southend High Street.

They wanted a town centre that was a community hub and ‘social experience’ that offered a mixture of dining, entertainment and shopping activitie to help attract people to visit and to stay for longer.

I believe these suggestions are key to revitalising the town centre, which is so important for our economy.

There are a number of measures that can support this but chief among them are a stronger police presence and better public transport links, making it easier for people to get there and to reduce antisocial behaviour. I will press for the conditions that allow businesses to thrive.

Jason Pilley (Psychedelic Future Party)


We support education reforms such as making Martial Arts/Self-Defence classes a core part of the school curriculum, because raising a generation of little ninjas isn’t any sillier an idea than sitting back and watching child obesity rates rise and rise.

We believe the senior-school week should be reduced to four days, with pupils spending their fifth day in work or apprenticeships: our cultural attitudes to child labour derive from the Victorian atrocity era and are no longer relevant in a context of workers’ rights and Health & Safety.

Ideally we would reduce class sizes in schools to twenty and give every child an allotment, with the growing of food for yourself and your family another addition to the curriculum.


From the Right-wing we’ve had brutal cuts to the police, from the Left we’ve had the deconstruction of notions of family, discipline, punishment, ethics, etc, without the construction of anything better.

From a Psychedelic perspective I’d add that if we want society to be more peaceful and loving, then the next time a generation comes along talking about peace and love, maybe don’t criminalise and crush them?

We would eradicate the drug gangs by introducing sensible drug laws, same as the alcohol gangs were eradicated when America ended its disastrous alcohol ban.

Many £billions of taxes will be raised legalising cannabis and tryptamines: Essex police can have their slice of that plus more resources to battle real crimes.


Regardless of his faults or merits, Sir David Amess showed the difference an MP can make when – unlike his Conservative colleague in Rochford & Southend East – he stood against the proposed closure of our hospital’s A&E, and helped change the course of that battle.

I would similarly oppose any and all attempts to “downgrade” south Essex’s health services, we shouldn’t be downgrading any part of our society.

Nationally it has been clear for a long time that the NHS is underfunded and so patients and staff at every level are suffering: as an MP I would make it a priority to ensure that many billions more pounds are pumped into the NHS every year.


We oppose Southend United’s ongoing threats to harm this town with a pie-in-the-sky stadium, we would prefer instead to do something productive with Fossetts Farm.

Turning it into Fossetts Wood could be the beginning of the large-scale tree-planting campaign we need to combat the rise in pollution-related deaths and respiratory diseases Southend is witnessing.

We welcome the spread of electric vehicles and will seek to hasten that process: similarly, the transition from non-renewable to renewable energy-sources is an urgent matter.

Regarding the state of the air around the A13 and A127, we would prefer to avoid congestion-charges and speed-limit reductions but those options would be on the table if we don’t get our trees fast enough.

Town centres

Everyone knows business rates need to be lowered, as the current set-up, along with high rents and excess bureaucracy and banks taking everything they can get, is hugely discouraging to businesses, this has to change.

Also, High Street properties should not be allowed to stay vacant for long: if landlords cannot find a taker, they can either lower the rent they’re demanding or temporarily loan the place to charities, arts hubs, student entrepreneurs, etc, to make use of it in the meantime.

Our psychedelic policies will radically alter the High Street and the night-time economy: when alcohol no longer has a monopoly on nightlife and there are DMT bars and cannabis clubs, the town will be a whole lot brighter.

Keith Miller (Lib Dems) 


We want to give all children in Rochford and Southend East a brighter future.

Our education system has been starved of cash by the Conservatives. In our constituency funding has effectively been cut by £19 million since 2015. 

A Lib Dem government would reverse those cuts with a cash injection and higher spending including ensuring children with special educational needs get the share of resources they need. 

We would recruit 20,000 more teachers as part of an extra £10 billion a year for schools.

Working parents will be offered free childcare between nine months and two years. 

There will be no future expansion of grammar schools.

Our Lib Dem councillors have led the fight for fairer catchment areas.


We have all seen the growing trend of violent and drug-related crime.

This can be laid squarely at the door of the government who have caused police forces in England and Wales to lose 21,732 officers, a 15% drop, according to Home Office figures.

We will invest £1billion to restore community policing by injecting two new officers into every council ward - that means 22 extra in Rochford and Southend East.

A separate fund would be established to repair youth services and see police, teachers, health professionals, youth workers and social services work together to prevent at-risk young people falling prey to gangs.


The planned merger of the hospitals [Basildon, Southend and Broomfield] in our view should not go ahead.  

This merger has been pushed through against the advice of our councillors.  We are really worried about the capacity of the ambulance service to get patients to hospitals for emergency treatment.

The NHS is the jewel in this country’s crown.

Yet the NHS is in crisis. EU doctors and nurses are quitting.  There is growing demand, short staffing and funding cuts.  

The LibDems would build a joined-up health and social care system. We will treat mental health with the same urgency as physical health.

We will raise Income Tax by one penny to raise an additional £7 billion a year, just for the NHS and social care.

Town centres

Southend High Street and town centre needs a drastic planning rethink.

We must encourage more people to live in the central area and increase the leisure offer; creating a 'green' thoroughfare and a more welcoming experience for local people, businesses and visitors. 

Encouraging craft and independent shops with better use of the Victoria Centre and the Royals, would give additional incentives to use the High Street.

Steps must be taken to reduce the level of anti-social behaviour. 

We are committed to help businesses in and around Southend by replacing business rates with a commercial landowner levy, which removes physical buildings from calculations and instead applies the levy to the overall land value of a commercial site.

Environment / Transport

Lib Dems have the climate emergency at the heart of our policies.

A tree planting programme has started combatting air pollution.

We will invest in public transport, improving its reliability and affordability, freeze rail fares and season tickets for five years, reform planning systems to reduce travel and promote cycling and walking.

We will review pollution levels on the A13, and A127 in the Economic Growth Corridor initiative and take action.

We would address growing traffic and pollution in Southend as a result of increasing population and housing developments such as Queensway, and Victoria Avenue.

Access to Rochford and Southend East is increasingly difficult because of congestion, discouraging businesses from operating, and work to establish a regional Park and Ride Scheme.

Dr Navin Kumar (Independent) 


School funding – obviously more funding is required. Schools should not have to ask students to contribute money.

Special Educational Needs (failed) – assessment for Autistic Spectrum Disorder and ADHD are facing long waiting times.  This needs to be corrected. 

More consultants are needed for children with mental problems. They should be seen early.

Grammar schools – grammar schools should be supported along with comprehensive schools. 

More experienced teachers are needed in local schools and more incentives should be offered to encourage professional people to retrain as teachers.


South Essex needs more trained Policeman.  When was the last time you saw a bobby on the beat?  There have been too many police cuts and this is reflected in the crime rates.

There are only two police patrols seen at night patrolling Southend and Rochford.

Many police stations (for example, the one in Shoebury) have been permanently closed.  These should be re-staffed and re-opened. 

Drug gangs are rife in Southend and should be actively combated. Police need to visit schools and talk to children.


I strongly oppose the merger of services across three hospital trusts. This is a cost-cutting exercise and nothing else. 

Patients, especially the elderly, will be badly affected. This will inevitably increase the workload of GPs who are already over-worked. More GPs will retire. As it is, Southend has the highest number of GPs in the country who have passed their retirement age but who are still working. 

They will pack their bags and go!


Air pollution can be tackled by encouraging a move towards electric cars. More trees should be planted and green areas established.

Congestion charge – This penalises the have-nots.  The ones who can afford this are not affected.  Bring in a congestion charge by all means, but improve the public transport system.  

Speed limit reduction – reviews on speed restrictions are needed on residential roads.  I don’t believe reducing speed on either A127 or A13 would achieve anything other than to increase traffic jams. 

Town centres

Southend High Street should be made more user-friendly and safe.

More police presence is required so that people can venture out safely in the evenings. 

Compare with Rayleigh High Street which always seems busy and friendly in the evenings. 

Southend has lost many big chains from its high street.

They should be given incentives to return (reduced rates?) and be supported by the local council.  It is a very barren & sterile place to shop and needs more floral decorations/trees – not rusty looking sculptures!