Updated: Thursday, 23rd November 2017 @ 12:04pm

General Election 2017: Vote Conservative, get Fracking say Bolton West opposition

General Election 2017: Vote Conservative, get Fracking say Bolton West opposition

| By Francesca Marshall

In the 2015 general election, Bolton West was the Conservatives’ number one target seat and a formidable campaign led to a surprise victory over the incumbent Labour MP Julie Hilling.

The same tactics are sure to be deployed this time round, but it could be a far greater task as budget cuts continue to concern voters as well as the possibility of Fracking.

Bolton West is historically a marginal seat between the Conservatives and Labour. The 2015 election was won by a margin of 801 points to Chris Green.

In June he will face competition from Labour candidate, Ms Hilling and Liberal Democrat, Rebecca Forrest.

Speaking to MM, both candidates were concerned about the impact which Fracking was likely to have on their region.

Ms Hilling said: “Fracking is a big concern for people – the current MP said he’d support anti-Fracking groups in our constituency but then voted differently.

“It’s something I’m totally opposed to and although we don’t have any sites under planning at the moment, we’re right for people to want to come in and Frack in our area so it is a great concern.

“I think one of the things that my opponent has done is that he has said he would support local groups and has done differently in London.”

Ms Forrest added that her background in science has allowed her to understand the full impact that Fracking could have.

She said: “Fracking being something both me and my party are against, and the urgent need to focus on renewable energy technologies.

“Chris Green has supported Fracking. Whilst he may have said no in his constituency, it has not stopped him voting to extend the Fracking exploration licences.

“The Conservatives have already overruled a Lancashire council who refused a Fracking exploration license and given the Conservative manifesto effectively green lights. If the exploration license is granted it means that a vote for Chris Green and the Conservatives will be a vote for Fracking.”

Ms Forrest joined the Liberal Democrats in June 2015 and is now hoping her passion for education and the environment will lead to an upsurge of support for her party in the constituency.

One that would be undoubtedly welcomed with open arms after they were faced with an agonising loss of 13% in 2015, being beaten by UKIP, Labour and the Conservatives.

Ms Forrest both lives and works in Bolton, where family on her mother’s side have lived for several generations.

She said: “I am uniquely placed as a teacher to understand the effects of changes to school policy.

“One of the biggest issues affecting my constituency is the cuts to the education funding which could see a loss of up to 171 teachers across the schools serving the residents of Bolton West.

“The Conservative manifesto fails to stop the real term cuts that the new funding formula allows and it is silent on where the additional funding of £4 billion is to be directed – it could be wholly directed to grammar schools.”

Ms Forrest also raised concerns over the changes which could potentially be made to free school meals.

She added: “Selective education mainly benefits the children from better off backgrounds and, in a further blow to the children from less well-off backgrounds, the school dinners for all early years children is being scrapped.

“Those who are just about managing are continuing to be let down by Theresa May’s Conservatives.”

These concerns were echoed by Ms Hilling, who said the cuts to both the NHS and education had caused many people to feel uneasy about what the future held for them.

She also highlighted how the increased price of living rising above wages was a fear for many local people.

She said: “People are desperately worried about the cuts to the NHS, cuts to schools and the impact on care.

“People are worried about their ability to get the help that they need and to be able to pay their way in terms of the changes to wages and the price of living rising.

“I have lived in the constituency for over 30 years and have served as the MP previously so have a proven track record of speaking up for local people on the local issues.

“And having that deep understanding of the area I feel I am best placed to represent the people of Bolton West.”