012, UK, Refugee News Network )-An Independent candidate standing in tomorrow?s Rotherham by-election has been voted ?Candidates Candidate of Choice? following a broadcast radio debate on BBC Radio Sheffield. Rev Simon Copley, who is a leader at a local United Reformed Church, topped the poll of the 9 candidates present after the Chair asked which of the others (apart from themselves) they would vote for. (See notes below)

In a Comment page for the Guardian newspaper, Simon Copley described his campaign as a ?David against Goliath? contest and in eve of poll comments to supporters emphasised his focus on the needs of his community, saying ?It?s all about Rotherham?. He added:

?Unfortunately the media coverage of this by-election has only reinforced the impression that Rotherham is unhappy, badly run and badly in need of a lift ? all of which is probably true but not the whole story.

?Things have to happen nationally to help Rotherham indirectly: fixing the scandalously unfair tax system, persuading rich individuals and institutions to invest their huge wealth and re-establishing the NHS as a properly planned and funded service for the whole country are just three.

?But we also need some concrete local policies, not the empty platitudes about solidarity trotted out by Respect or the tired and discredited tradition of Labour control.?

Mr Copley has campaigned on 8 issues ?to put pride back in Rotherham?:

1. Sort out the sex grooming

The Council should set up and fund a project to help the victims and help communities address these issues. The Lancashire based Ramadhan Foundation should be invited to Rotherham to start this process. They are a charity working for peaceful harmony between different ethnic communities and advocating better education about sexual exploitation to be disseminated through imams and other community leaders. They could partner with organizations like Rotherham-based Apna Haq who offer support for women and their children suffering domestic abuse or Leeds-based charity, Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (CROP) who support the families of children caught up in sexual exploitation networks.

2. Improve the image of Rotherham: a Rotherham ?Charm-Offensive? is required so companies will want to move here. Encourage partnership working with neighbouring authorities/agencies such as Sheffield to attract large regional investors. Local people should be involved in decisions and increase positive attitudes to living in Rotherham by instituting mini local referenda on big issues (via facebook, local libraries, community centres, canvassing community leaders) to find out what the community really thinks and wants. Ensure all local people are housed before any housing is let to new arrivals. Revive a Rotherham Marathon and other festivals to bring different communities together

3. Lobby the Government to put some of the ?900 million planned for the shoring up of HMRC, to close tax avoidance and evasion loopholes, in building a Tax Office in Rotherham, offering training to local people and creating new jobs. Rotherham-ites would get a lot of job satisfaction chasing down those who don?t pay their fare share and helping them see the moral benefits of being ?all in it together?.

4. Decrease Business Rates for small businesses and offer attractive business rates particularly to office-based companies and organizations to attract call-centres and similar businesses. Offer free business rates to new businesses for the first year with robust growth plans to help them get established. Set up a lending facility (controlled by a trusted charity or ethical bank such as Triodos) for business investments Introduce free parking in Rotherham to encourage shoppers into the town, as has been done successfully in Cwmbran, South Wales and other places. Stop Tesco expanding so that smaller town centre businesses do not lose trade further.

5. Involve and properly fund Third Sector and Community groups in addressing social problems such as credit unions, homelessness, youth work employing local labour to renovate and rent empty houses (as has been piloted successfully in Huddersfield), employing ex-prisoners as paid mentors to help offenders and those-at-risk from a life of crime after shorter punitive imprisonment. Sentences will continue under very close supervision within the community (volunteering for third-sector groups or other community work). This will save millions from central Government prisons budget, enable prisons to be less crowded and so concentrate on rehabilitation work themselves and so prepare prisoners for a more constructive life outside.

6. Lobby for an amnesty on PPI payments in the health service so that savings can be spread around Health Trusts less arbitrarily and reduce pressure on the need to cut health budgets, address community/preventative health and admittance rates to alleviate pressure on the hospital so more jobs go via natural wastage. Challenge the arbitrary nature of the savings ordered and produce a more realistic figure. Encourage health chiefs to take voluntary pay cuts to win over staff to help drive through changes. This would also be a good idea for all senior RMBC staff to release funds for work that promotes Rotherham, improves schools and supports the third sector. Ditch private welfare to work contracts schemes and invest the money in community health ? these schemes are bound to fail if there are no real jobs out there!

7. Invest in School Improvement Services to improve basic education levels and lay foundations for a skilled workforce. Is it any wonder that Yorkshire schools are failing after most Local authorities have cut this service? Now the answer seems to be to appoint a super-Inspector, simply another top-layer of management telling schools what is wrong not investment to help them put it right. Follow this up with targeted apprenticeship and vocational job-skills training at Secondary School level. Support schools in ditching unnecessary paperwork, targets and allow them to develop their own bespoke curriculum relevant to where their pupils are starting from, not where the Whitehall wonks want them to be

8. Elect an Independent MP who cares about Rotherham, whose heart is to bring communities together not drive them apart, who won?t spend time fighting for other far-off causes or be answerable to anyone except the electorate of Rotherham. If I upset over 100 years of Labour rule, I would then have a huge national platform to speak out for Rotherham. I am for a new way of doing things. The issues we face have become too complex for party politics. It?s time for intelligent discussion and to take the best ideas from all directions. Nothing would send a clearer message that Rotherham is ready for change


For more information:?http://revsimcop.wordpress.com/


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