‘We’re not looking forward enough in Doncaster’ – Conservative candidate James Hart on why he should be the next mayor
A swing to the Conservative party in 2019 in Doncaster reverberated beyond the boundaries of the borough – but now Brexit is no longer the biggest issue, this will be party’s biggest test for a generation.
The success of electing Nick Fletcher – the first Tory MP in Doncaster since the 1960s – has given the local party confidence it can really take the fight to Labour – who have dominated politics in the borough for generations.
The party is standing a near full list of candidates in every single ward across the borough – the first time this has happened.
The national party parachuted a candidate in from Watford to fight Ros Jones for the mayoral seat in 2017 but following the 2019 Westminster victory in the seat of Don Valley, a more local approach has been adopted this time around.
James Hart a former DMBC councillor will take on the role this time around in an attempt to take what’s arguably the top political job in Doncaster.
Labour incumbent Ros Jones will be vying for a third term in office and Hart will be relying on the Brexit bounce the party saw in 2019 to carry him over the line.
But one issue that Hart will not draw great confidence from is the snub from national government over bids for a freeport, railway expansion to Doncaster Sheffield Airport and the rejection of a new hospital in the first tranche of announcements by ministers – which goes against the ‘levelling up’ agenda.
South Yorkshire mayor Dan Jarvis and the four Labour council leaders called it ‘pork-barrel’ politics but Hart has other opinions as to why these projects have not materialised for the area.
“For Doncaster, at the moment I don’t think we’re being represented effectively and therefore we’re not seeing the opportunities, we don’t realise the opportunities that are out there at the moment,” Hart said.
“When it comes to things like the railport and the freeport, it seems that the leaders of South Yorkshire as a whole don’t have their act together and aren’t pulling together.
“Things like free ports that we’re missing out on, we’re missing a trick because the current mayor and the people around her aren’t thinking creatively enough and putting Doncaster forward in a positive light and with some real innovative projects.”
When asked about developments in recent years that Doncaster has seen, Hart said the majority of projects were first planned under previous mayors.
“If you view the cultural and civic worlds quarter developments that are actually Martin Winter’s plans and what we’ve not had – and Peter Davis was just as much of a problem with this as well – is we’re not looking forward enough in Doncaster.
“If you think about everything from St. George’s bridge, to all the stuff around the Civic Quarter, the new council offices and so on, It’s all back in the 2000s when that was planned, and we’ve got nothing in the pipeline going forwards.
“Then when we get a new Conservative MP that talks about a new hospital for the town, the mayor jumps on that bandwagon. The mayor never even talked about a hospital open until Nick was elected.”
Hart also criticised the council putting public money into a town centre cinema and said market forces had effectively ‘driven cinemas out’ into larger multiplexes. The Tory candidate added this was ‘not an effective use of public money’.
His manifesto more generally includes 18 pledges if elected, some of which include:
Plant 300,000 trees over four years More community electric charging points for vehicles Build an army of community litter pickers A community credit scheme to reward voluntary groups A full review of green lanes and footpaths to ‘wage war’ on fly-tippers
The problem of fly-tipping comes up a lot across the borough and plans also include ensuring access to country lanes is restricted to commercial vehicles wherever possible while still keeping them open for leisure and equine use.
Hart also wants to secure sites that are frequently used for fly tipping, placing cameras on those sites that cannot be secured and by making it easier for residents to drop waste at existing recycling centres.
This will also include reviewing opening times and exploring the possibility of making one site a full ‘24-hour operation’.
Hart also wants to develop a mobile app for people to easily report problems to the council. On this topic, he said.
“This is common sense for the times that we live in. We used to have one and I have absolutely no idea why it was ditched.
“I’ve spoken to both Labour and Conservative councillors about this, they’re also baffled as to why it was taken down. The online form is laborious and it makes you think just how much more residents can be engaged with the council and how much is missed.
“If people see fly-tipping, overflowing bins and so on, they can take a photo and send it quickly to the council. The system we have now is slow and will put people off.”
To view the Doncaster Conservative party manifesto, visit: jameshart.org.uk/our-manifesto
Mayoral candidates in full
Joan Briggs – IndependentAndy Budden – Yorkshire PartyFrank Calladine – IndependentWarren Draper – Green PartySurgit Singh – Reform UKJames Hart – ConservativeRos Jones – Labour