By ITV News Central Journalist Barnaby Papadopulos
Twelve candidates are standing for election to parliament for the Erdington seat in a March by-election, which was called after the death of the constituency MP, Jack Dromey, in January.
We asked all candidates three questions:
What is the most pressing local issue you'd tackle in Erdington?
Has trust in politicians been eroded, and if so, how will you seek to gain the trust of voters in Erdington?
If elected, how will you seek to tackle the cost of living crisis?
Here, unedited and in alphabetical order by surname, are their responses.
Robert Alden, Conservative party
Local issues: "In my view, there isn’t just one most pressing issue. We need safer streets for every resident. We need new investment in jobs and our high street. We need to protect our green spaces and end the rise in HMOs and exempt accommodation.
"These are all pressing issues. That’s why I’ve got a long-term plan for Erdington. We need to deliver more jobs, more investment and more police officers for our area, and that work needs to start on day one.
"As an Erdington councillor for 16 years, I’ve already begun delivering my long-term plan. Teaming up with local residents and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, we’ve made progress — keeping Erdington police station open for officers and supporting local businesses through the pandemic.
"But we need to go further. That’s why I’m standing to be Erdington’s next MP."Trust: "A lot is said about trust in politics. But I’ve been an Erdington councillor for the last sixteen years, and I’ve devoted that time to earning the trust of my local community.
"So I know residents will trust you — as long as you act on their concerns. Trust erodes when residents feel like they’re being taken for granted, something the Labour council is guilty of.
"If I’m elected, I’ll build trust with voters by doing what I’ve always done: working with residents to make things happen."I worked with residents to save Short Heath playing fields, and I’ll work with residents to protect more of our green spaces. I worked with residents to keep Erdington police station open for officers, and I’ll work with residents to secure more police officers for our streets."This by-election is about getting things done for the local community, and if I have the support of residents that’s exactly what I’ll do."Cost of living: "The most important thing is to make sure residents have good jobs with good pay. That’s why I’m working with West Midlands Mayor Andy Street to bring in new businesses, create new jobs and help people find work with a good wage.
"As the leader of Birmingham Conservatives, I put forward budget proposals that would have delivered a freeze in council tax for the next four years as well as free bulky waste collections, more street cleaning and investment in our local centres. While the Labour council rejected my plan, that doesn’t mean the proposal is finished."If I have residents’ support at this by-election, it will send Labour a message that they won’t be able to ignore.
"As well as working with residents, I'll also work with the government to lower the cost of living. This includes making sure residents get the £150 council tax rebate, which is planned to arrive this April."
Dave Bishop, Militant Bus Pass Elvis party
Issues: "The lack of public toilets in Erdington is a big issue, when elected I shall try and do something about it. See my video Where Have all the Khazis Gone on YouTube."
"I've heard dope smoking is very popular in Erdington, I will try and get marijuana legalised. Once legalised, then nationalised and call it British Grass!"
Trust: "When elected, I won't take any cushy jobs on the side, e.g. business adviser etc."
Cost of living: "Reduce purchase tax on beer and lager."
Mark Beech, also known as The Good Knight Sir NosDa, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party
Issues: "The Russian Invasion of South Ossetia, and also Abkhazia."Trust: "No. Trust in politicians has survived illegal wars in Iraq, the expenses scandal, the lib-dems [failing to honour] their tuition fees pledge etc. It will take more than a little anti-semitism or partygates for people to stop voting for them."Cost of living: "Any Ice Cream van selling a 99 flake for more than one pound will be fined hundreds and thousands."
Jack Brookes, Reform UK
Issues: "The people of Erdington have been neglected. We must create good jobs, which will create prosperity, by having a good business environment (no taxes on SMEs). The people need to be able to thrive and live their own lives: the Government and Birmingham City Council need to stop interfering in people's lives."Trust: "The trust is completely gone and rightfully so. I do not want power over anyone - only myself - and I want the same for others, unlike other politicians. As long as you are not hurting anyone you should live your life how you see fit; freedom of speech and freedom of religion - I will put my life on the line for these things."
Cost of living: "First, tackle inflation and bad government by bringing back the gold standard: money printing, fiat currency and fractional reserve banking must go! Withdraw your money!
"Second, we have 50 years' worth of gas available to extract: solving the cost of energy. Third, abolish income tax on the first £20,000 - saving us workers £1,500 a year."
Lee Dargue, Liberal Democrats
Issues: "The people of Erdington are such a close community, dedicated to improving their own lives and the lives of those around them. Despite this obvious passion, for too long local and national government have let the people of Erdington down.
"Tackling the huge rise in housing prices, the lack of affordable, warm homes, and the unaccountable explosion in “HMOs” and other exempt accommodation means the people of Erdington are having things done to them and their communities. I’d be working with people, to ensure these priorities are paramount, along with real investment in the area, including saving our green spaces."Trust: "I hear too often from the people of Erdington that even long commitments to voting are beginning to wane. Many people see that even their preferred choice of person or party is not compelling them to feel like they need to bother voting. Too many people feel that things are being done to their communities without their say. Birmingham Labour have stopped listening, and the Conservative government aren’t caring.
"My approach is to be available for people to offer ideas, tell me their priorities, and, especially, for people to challenge me with the awkward questions. I shouldn’t be standing for election if I’m not prepared to face questions from everyone, even if they are uncomfortable to answer.
"To help people feel more engaged, I have been meeting people at the Highcroft Centre on Sunday 27 February. I’ll have no speeches or pre-prepared answers, and no rehearsals. People can ask me anything, and they’ll get an answer. We need less stage-managed photo shoots and more say for the people of Erdington."
Cost of living: "I’d continue to press the Conservative government to scrap its two big broken promises on tax. First, to reinstate the “triple lock” pension guarantee, which was introduce by the Lib Dems in government, to ensure pensioners are given a fair rise. Second, I'd call for the unfair Conservative tax hike due to come in in April to be scrapped, a hike that the government admit would hit the poorest the hardest.
"Additionally, a windfall tax on the obscene profits of the oil and gas companies will see that all these measures would save about £1,000 each for the people of Erdington this year.
"Finally, insulating homes, to save money in the long term, is a priority – we’ve seen repeated failures on this by government, it must happen without further delay."
Paulette Hamilton, Labour party
Issues: "The biggest issue that has been raised to me on the doors is around the glut of HMOs and exempt accommodation. There are major loopholes in the existing legislation that are being exploited by rogue landlords and it will be my focus in Parliament, along with my Labour colleagues Shabana Mahmood, Lisa Nandy and others, who have already started work on this, to tighten the legislation and close those loopholes.
"It is absolutely wrong that rogue landlords can profit from providing substandard housing to vulnerable people and it will be my mission to put a stop to it."
Trust: "I hope people in Erdington trust me, not so much as a politician, but as a local resident who has lived here for 35 years, as a nurse who has served this community for 25 years, as a mother who has raised five children here and as someone, who like them, relies on our high street and green spaces.
"I know the issues affecting residents here, because they affect me too. While Boris Johnson and his pals partied in Westminster during the pandemic, I went back to frontline nursing to help with the vaccine rollout, something I was proud and pleased to do, and that’s why voters in Erdington can put their trust in me to do the right thing."
Cost of living: "I will help tackle the cost of living crisis by speaking up in Parliament about the reality on the ground for people living here. I will not be nodding along with the Conservative Government, but challenging them and giving them a reality check on the real struggle people are facing to keep their homes warm and food on the table.
"I will be backing Labour’s plans to offer actual solutions to this crisis, by scrapping the VAT on energy bills and calling for a windfall tax on the eye-watering profits made by gas and oil companies, allowing people to keep more of their money and not having to face the desperate choice between heating and eating."
Siobhan Harper-Nunes, Green Party
Issues: "There are many big issues here that are affecting everyone. One of the most pressing are the HMOs – a problem which has been growing for almost 10 years. The blame is with national and local government. National for its housing policy and local for shelling out licences without due diligence. The Green Party would put a cap on HMO, regulate licensing and de-regulate the offenders."
Trust: "The 50% voter turnout suggests yes, people have lost faith in national and local government. We can renew their faith by acting local and addressing local issues – not just at election time but all year round."
Cost of living: "By insulating our homes, we can drastically reduce our cost of living. The Greens were the first to propose a £320-per-household winter fuel payment to help everyone get through the winter, as well as emergency grants to retrofit those houses where people are most at risk from fuel poverty.
"We’re also paying more for imported food. We need to grow more food at home, by making better use of our allotments."
Clifton Holmes, Independent
Issues: "I would sit down with Councillor Robert Alden and speak to him about the five bookmakers and three Slot/Bingo units in the High Street and what can be done to minimise gambling addiction in the area.
"Plus create a gambling support network system linking all retailers to prevent a recreation becoming an addiction which destroys households and lives."
Trust: "I am an Independent Candidate for one reason...the majority of people do not trust any of the main parties...something like 60% in one recent survey I read.
"My issue is the one issue and to ask the Erdington people to send a candidate they trust to Westminster to replace Jack Dromey with the proposed Early Day Motion to Ban Free Bets Advertising immediately."Cost of living: "No party can make any promises to keep the cost of living down...inflation is rising faster than the experts have predicted and Ukraine War and Chinese Property market will make things worse going forward...so I have no idea how I can possibly tackle this looming crisis affecting the whole nation, let alone Erdington.
"However, I pledge to do my best to get all the support from Central Government to tackle this important issue."
Michael Lutwyche, Independent
Issues: "The sense of abandonment felt by many across the constituency. People feel forgotten on a range of issues, such as crime and anti-social behaviour, the proliferation of HMOs, access to healthcare and even basic services."Trust: "People's trust in politicians has been eroding for a long time. Party gate was just another in the long line of insults to the intelligence of voters. I have pledged to take the average wage of a local tradesman and many local people already know what they get with me, first and foremost, honesty."Cost of living: "I will look at a scheme where constituents can sign up to bulk buy power at a reduced rate to combat the rise in energy costs. I have also looked at apps I would like to introduce where people can get the latest tariffs, information and tips. I plan to have a physical presence in all parts of the constituency, whatever life throws at us, with me as MP constituents won't feel abandoned like they do now."
Mel Mbondiah, Christian People's Alliance
Issues: "Street crime. We'd deal with it by refocusing the police, reviewing youth group provision and making sure that everyone who leaves prison has somewhere to live and help re-adjusting to cut re-offending which is now on average 38% but which has been cut to 10% in Stoke by a Christian charity Saltbox doing just that. "
Trust: "Our Core value is "return to the truth". If elected I would meet with civil political religious and community leaders immediately after being elected to talk about the way I can effectively serve the constituency. I will not make any promises I can't fulfil."
Cost of living: "Bearing in mind my opinion is that the problems started with foolish decisions taken by Joe Biden which caused the oil price to rise as the US came back onto the international energy market in a big way it will be hard.
"Certainly we should look for new energy streams to come on line as soon as possible. I will also press for solar panels on all new property as a planning requirement. There is no doubt that petrol and gas price increases are at the root of the problem."
Dave Nellist, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Issues: "Many local issues need tackling, not least decent homes for all and mandatory regulation of landlords, but nothing fundamental will change if either of my main opponents wins. The Tory government nationally will still look after the rich, and Birmingham Labour Council won't put up a fight to protect working people.
"We need a new party rooted in the organisations and communities of the working class that will challenge the cuts in services and jobs that have run down many of our areas and that the Council continues to inflict."Trust: "Trust has been eroded, particularly in Erdington, where barely half of the voters are inspired to vote for any politician at elections. My policies are radical and different, but so is my personal promise. I'm not in this for the £82,000 MP's salary; if elected, I will only take a skilled factory wage, as I did when I was an MP for nine years in Coventry, facing the same problems as the people I represent."Cost of living: "Rises in food, fuel, gas and electricity, national insurance, broadband, and Council Tax could lead to a £1000 - £2000 cut in living standards for families this year. We are a rich country, but wealth is not shared evenly; it's concentrated in too few hands."
"So, I will be fighting with trade unions locally and nationally to change that with wage rises that at least keep pace with inflation, a £15 an hour minimum wage, a 50% rise in pensions and benefits, and other socialist policies to transform the lives of working people."
Thomas O'Rourke, Independent
Issues: "The mental health crisis is, in my opinion, Erdington's biggest problem because it is the cause of other issues. Crime, anti-social behaviour on the High Street, HMOs and the police wasting time and resources on petty crime and the consequences of drug addiction. If the money Erdington gets from Government was targeted in the right places at the right time that would be step in the right direction."
Trust: "I don’t think there’s been much trust in politicians for a few generations, but at the moment it’s at its worst. From a red council to a blue government Erdington has been forgotten and a local person with local knowledge needs to sort out the pressing issues and gain local people's trust again."
Cost of living: "As an independent MP I would fight for the rights of my constituents over every matter without being tied to the special interests that parties become indebted too. From the cost of living to the rising fuel prices I’d be there for the people most affected by the current climate."
The Erdington by-election will be held on Thursday, 3 March.