Last night I attended a meeting of the East Guildford Residents Association. It was a chance for local people to meet their candidates and, I'm pleased to say, we got a decent turnout from Christchurch (the ward in which I'm standing). Sadly, the same cannot be said for the other parties. We had candidates from both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems but UKIP, Labour, the Peace Party and the Greens didn't bother to turn up. Apparently they didn't even reply to their emailed invitation.
The meeting itself went fairly well. The candidates were grouped together based on which ward they were standing in and we began with the candidates introducing themselves. When I introduced myself I made a point of explaining why my fellow Lib Dem candidate for Christchurch (Lizzie Griffiths) couldn't come - her 3 year old had come down with a bug and she'd had to stay at home to look after him.
There were then a few questions from the residents which were mainly answered by the Sarah (for the Lib Dems) and Matt (for the Conservatives) as the official leaders for each group of candidates. Most of the questions were ones where both parties agreed on the answers - we all agreed we didn't want to see any more garden grabbing, for example. I also answered one question directly myself when a resident raised concerns about the council's strategy to bring empty homes back into use - my father lives in East Sussex where they already have such a scheme so I was able to explain how it worked there.
Next up there was a presentation by Matt on the monolithic Localism Bill. Quite frankly I don't think anyone really understood it (Matt himself said that he didn't either) and in any event it's likely to be altered a lot more before it gets Royal Assent. My gut feeling is that it'll take a year or two before people start to understand it and make use of it to benefit local communities - certainly a lot of measures in it though look to be too expensive to be used at all.
We then split up into local groups for about half an hour so candidates could meet with the residents of their wards. The biggest issue most people had was about the risk of building on Stoke Park. There are some buildings on there already which apparently the council is looking at redeveloping but I am now sworn to fight to the death to prevent the redevelopment from building on any land not already built on. I have to say, it's hardly onerous as it's a complete no-brainer - only a moron would want to ruin one of the best open spaces in Guildford by building on it.
Finally, we had a brief debate on AV where I gave my spiel about it and we got to call Matt Furniss a liar when he claimed that AV would mean an end to one person, one vote (Newsflash: it won't).
At that point we ran out of time and most of the gathering retired to the Three Pigeons where I made the shocking discovery that some tories are actually human being. Very disturbing.