Politics in the park at centre of Sheffield Heeley

General election constituency feature 2015. Sheffield Heeley seat. Pictured is Graves Park.
General election constituency feature 2015. Sheffield Heeley seat. Pictured is Graves Park.
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Sheffield’s largest park is a green oasis of calm – most often used by runners, dog walkers and families rather than for political discussion.

But Graves Park is also situated in the Sheffield Heeley constituency and just off one of the city’s busiest highways, Chesterfield Road.

Voters strolling through the park had strong views on what matters ahead of the general election in May, and on which party they wanted to represent the seat after Labour MP of 14 years Meg Munn stood down.

Former cancer support nurse and grandma Janet Bingham, of Woodseats, said: “I’ve voted for the Trade Unionist Socialist Coalition for the last ten years – they are more Labour than Labour are nowadays.

“I’ve just retired from the NHS so that is the most important thing to me.

“They are selling off parts of the NHS everywhere, in Stoke they sold off the cancer services, American companies are coming in to our NHS through the trade deal TTIP. That does very much concern me.”

The seat of Sheffield Heeley was held by Ms Munn from 2001 – and has been consistently Labour since 1974, when it was taken back by the late Frank Hooley from the Conservatives.

The Tories held it for five terms after the seat was created in 1950.

But in 2010 the Labour majority of Heeley, which also stretches from Arbourthorne to Richmond, was slashed from 11,307 to 5,807. Almost all other parties standing gained votes, particularly the Liberal Democrats, and the British National Party unusually achieved 5.5 per cent.

This year there are seven candidates standing in the race – Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Ukip, Labour, English Democrats, TUSC and Green.

When Ms Munn spoke to The Star about standing down she admitted: “I think it is the most difficult election to call that we have seen for a long time.”

Retired David Wileman, aged 67, was walking through the park on his way home to Gleadless and said the new MP should focus on a mixture of local and national issues.

He added: “I hope they improve the pensions because I’m an OAP, and I heard that the Conservatives will give 30 hours of free childcare which is important to me as I have four grandchildren.

“Whoever gets in needs to do something with Chesterfield Road, it’s a nightmare. They’ve been talking about making it into a bypass or just widening it for ages.

“I think Labour will probably keep the seat although they did lose a lot of the majority, if it halves again this year I don’t know what would happen.”

Dog walker Trevor Horsfield had issues closer to home to consider – takeaway litter dumped at his Woodseats house from nearby food outlets.

“Every time they come knocking on my door, asking me who I am going to vote for, I say I want a litter bin restored on the lamp post on my road,” he said.

“Someone set the litter bin on fire and it hasn’t been replaced.

“All the rubbish left over when people eat at these takeaways comes through my conifer hedge when they chuck it away, we’ve had that for about five or six years.

“I’ve asked for it so many times but all I get told by the council is that there isn’t enough money in the budget.”

Some of residents who stopped to chat did not know whether they would be voting on the day or who the former MP was.

“I’m not interested in the election because nobody is going to do us any good,” said one woman.

Another man said: “You don’t want to know my views – they’re not nice enough to be printed.”

Many people who did stop to talk said protecting the NHS and sorting out the country’s immigration system was a priority.

Engineer George Ashton has lived in the area all his life – and remembered campaigns as far back as when Hooley for Heeley was used.

The 76-year-old, of Abbey Lane, said: “I keep reading and being told that pensioners are costing the Government too much money, but they don’t mention how much it is costing for immigrants.

“The NHS, schools and services are all struggling because of the pressure.

“Everybody talks about restricting the numbers – I’m not saying restrict the numbers, but something needs to be done about health tourism.

“They’ve been on about that for years and nothing has been done.

“There should be a system like Australia or America, people should pay so much in before they take so much out. This is only a little island, we can’t support the world.

“None of the parties seem to have addressed this properly. I’ll always vote but I don’t know who for, I have stopped listening to all their promises.”

The impact of funding cuts and austerity on Sheffield was also raised by some.

Woodseats newsagent Bashir Mohammed, of Meersbrook, added: “There’s a lot of concern about the bedroom tax.

“The people in charge are living in big mansions, but they are pushing the poorest people harder and harder.

“The NHS is so important, my wife went to A&E twice recently and she was there for hours waiting to get in with a queue out of the door.

“It needs improving but you have to put the money in to improve it, employ more nurses, get doctors to come and cut the waiting lists, he added.

“If people come here from other countries to have health services they should pay for it.”

2010 results

Meg Munn – Labour 17,409

Simon Clement-Jones – Liberal Democrats 11,602

Anne Crampton – Conservative 7,081

John Beatson – BNP 2,260

Charlotte Arnott – Ukip 1,530

Gareth Roberts – Green 989

2015 candidates

Conservative – Stephen Castens

Liberal Democrat – Simon Clement-Jones

Ukip – Howard Denby

Labour – Louise Haigh

English Democrats – David Haslett

TUSC – Alan Munro

Green –Rita Wilcock