Election power in the hands of Sheffield Central students

(l-r) William Beckey, 21, Sam Atkin, 22, and Mike Smith, 21. Picture: Andrew Roe
(l-r) William Beckey, 21, Sam Atkin, 22, and Mike Smith, 21. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Students could have more of a sway in Sheffield Central than in any other election constituency in the country.

That is because the ward is home to 36,000 students – the most in the nation – as well as the city’s two universities.

And candidates are campaigning hard to win their votes, as well as those of long-term residents in areas ranging from Manor to Nether Edge and Walkley to Broomhill.

While many students said they will vote in their hometown – some ‘just won’t bother’ – others are planning to head to the polling stations in Sheffield on Thursday, May 7.

Richard Stringer, a performance student, says: “What matters to me is job security and the cost of living.”

The 21-year-old lives in student accommodation in the city centre and hopes to get a job in Sheffield after completing a masters and graduation.

He says: “I’m in my third year now so I am thinking about what happens when you go into the big wide world and it is a little bit scary to see how expensive things are.

“If I got a full time job and still couldn’t afford to pay the bills, what would I do?

“Sheffield Central is interesting, because it has so many students who have the chance to make a difference by voting in the election.”

Labour have held the seat since 1945, but previously it had a Conservative MP.

The sitting MP is Labour’s Paul Blomfield – who won by just 165 votes against Liberal Democrat former council leader – and now Lord – Paul Scriven at the last election five years ago.

However, as well as the Liberal Democrats, he is also facing a battle with the Green party

This time the Green party is also focusing on the area as a key target, in a bid to get the party its first northern MP in the shape of Sheffield Council Central ward member Coun Jillian Creasy.

Outside Sheffield Hallam University’s union, students called for more integrity in politics, rather than mud-slinging.

Design student Sam Atkin, aged 22, says: “If I vote I was going to go and vote Green, because they seem like they care a bit more and Sheffield is a green city.

“I don’t really care about immigration, people can come and go, I do think the NHS does matter though.”

Fellow student William Beckey, aged 21, says: “I wish politicans would stop taking potshots at each other and making it all about them, rather than the issues and policies.”

And Mike Smith – who is behind the Slate North design consultancy with Sam and William – says: “People just want them to be honest and represent us instead of telling lies and dodging the questions.”

The previous close result means campaigners from all sides are stepping up their efforts in the constituency.

The full list of candidates standing in all wards will be confirmed by Sheffield Council later this week, but Sheffield Central already has several from less well-known political parties saying they are standing.

One special constable, who lives in a city centre flat, said he had already received many phamphlets, letters and election material.

The 24-year-old, who declined to be named, says: “The main issue for me is what are politicians going to do about policing – nobody has yet made a massive pledge towards that.

“I think I will potentially vote Labour, but it is more about the policies than the leader. I do feel I want to vote for the party, but not Ed Miliband.”

The number of people who live in the city centre alone stands at 18,000 and is rising, with more housing developments in the pipeline.

Peter Sephton is the chairman of Sheffield City Centre Residents’ Action Group and fights the corner of urban householders.

He says: “What politicians have got to do is get the balance right between the 18,000 people who live here and the businesses which want to develop here.”

Retired transport worker Peter, who has lived in an apartment in the city centre for 10 years, said the city centre was ‘moving forward again’, but there should be more accommodation aimed at families or professionals.

He added: “There’s huge scope for putting more housing in the city centre. Everyone is concerned about what is happening to green belt but there are plenty of brownfield sites in the city centre. The new retail quarter for example, they could put housing above the shops that go in there.

“While we do enjoy the benefits students bring in terms of income for the city and a lot of life with cafés and bars, they disappear for three months of the year.

“We need life all-year-round.”

Peter says: “The daytime and night-time economy of the city centre needs to balanced and we are not well served by the current council in that respect. They are letting residents down as every time a decision is made they go against residents’ concerns.”

Candidates so far

Labour – Paul Blomfield

Above and Beyond – Thom Brown

UKIP – Dominique Cook

Green – Jillian Creasy

Pirate Party – Andy Halsall

Liberal Democrat – Joe Otten

Conservative – Stephanie Roe

2010 results

Paul Blomfield (Labour) 17,138

Paul Scriven (Liberal Democrats) 16,973

Andrew Lee (Conservative) 4,206

Jillian Creasy (Green) 1,556

Tracey Smith (BNP) 903

Jeffrey Shaw (UKIP) 652

Rod Rodgers (Independent) 40