Election 2015: Mum of three, Naomi Newstead, takes tube plea for se5 to  Downing Street

Admin (30 April, 2015)

Conservative candidate is "acting as the spokesperson for the area" despite 'safe seat'

Nine years ago Naomi Newstead jacked in her job as a civil servant negotiating housing development deals, to be a full time mother-of-three.

Now that the most infamous regeneration scheme in London is in the middle of the constituency she is campaigning to represent, her professional past has led her to take on the Aylesbury battleground.

With thousands of tenants and hundreds of leaseholders housed on the vast Walworth estate, opinions are divided on the benefits of the scheme for local people.

Residents who have been living with broken lifts, leaks and a dodgy heating system are behind the demolition of the old and the building of the new, but leaseholders who say they are going to be forced out of the area claim the regeneration is not for them.

“People who have lived in London their whole lives are now having to move out, even though it severs their connection with their family. I don’t think that’s right that that’s happening.”

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Notting Hill Housing Trust has promised 50 per cent of the new homes on the site will be at affordable rents, which Ms Newstead says “isn’t a bad deal”, but adds that with housing associations receiving public subsidies, they could provide a lot more.

“I can’t see any good reason why the leaseholders on the estate couldn’t be given enough money so they could get one of the new flats – then they’d see some of the benefit of the regeneration.”

Ms Newstead has pressed Labour-run Southwark Council to allow totally independent valuations for leaseholder properties as standard. “I’m pushing to get the law changed so that every leaseholder gets an independent evaluation on properties. That won’t help people in the first phase, but the later ones could benefit from that change.”

Naomi Newstead with George Osborne

In between the school runs, the Camberwell-born Conservative is also encouraging more employers to take on local school-leavers first.

“They have to compete with people all over Europe for jobs in London.

“It’s right to say to British companies to look at British teenagers and school leavers and give them a chance.”

Unemployment is decreasing nationally, but opposition parties have questioned whether people in deprived constituencies like Camberwell and Peckham are struggling on zero-hours contracts and having to access food banks because their jobs are so poorly paid.

“I do hear a lot of concerns about that and I understand it.

“I can completely see with the cost of food and housing how people wouldn’t be able to manage on a low income.

“When it comes to foodbanks I don’t think it’s right that people have to go to a foodbank. That’s why is so important that wages do increase as the economy improves.

“No one wants to be doing that [zero hours contracts] when they have a family – those kind of jobs have to develop into something better.”

But Ms Newstead defends the cuts the Conservative government has made and the further £25billion it is proposing saving in the next parliament.

“The Conservative approach of getting the economy strong is vital and the only way to pay for the things we need. I believe as things pick up wages will increase.”

Ms Newstead is a believer in a reduced state, saying: “I don’t think we should be trying to take as much as we can into the hands of the state and let the state deal with everything we need,” but she does believe in making big business pay its way. The stay-at-home mum is proposing legislation to force large companies to pay a living wage, which would stop the state subsidising pittance-pay with tax credits – “so people don’t have to have three jobs and never see their kids.”

Naomi Newstead headshot

The Bakerloo line is a straight choice for Ms Newstead, who is now living in Forest Hill – Camberwell should take priority over the Old Kent Road route, favoured by the Mayor of London, Conservative Boris Johnson.

“I put forward a strong case for Camberwell,” said Ms Newstead, after she went to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne. “The need couldn’t be more acute because of the existing services – there’s overcrowding on the buses and Denmark Hill station is so packed now…  People here are put at a disadvantage if they can’t get to work.

“ There is public money to pay for one route and I think that has to be Camberwell, because the need is so much greater.

“I’m acting as if I’m the spokesperson for the area,” said Ms Newstead, who admits she is at a disadvantage to Labour candidate Harriet Harman, who has held the seat for over 30 years.

Having spent three years supporting another Conservative candidate in Eltham, Ms Newstead is aware of how much man (or woman) power is needed to make a dent in a safe seat.

“I’m knocking on doors all the time. I really don’t know. I want to win it and that’s how I’ve got to approach it.”

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