Election 2019

General election 2019: Plymouth divided by life expectancy

Welcome to Plymouth sign Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Plymouth has been named Britain's Ocean City by its city council.

The sign welcomes you to "Britain's Ocean City" and features Smeaton's Tower looking towards the Atlantic Ocean. But this picturesque image doesn't tell the whole story of Plymouth, a city of contrasts.

The deprived dockyard area in Stonehouse contrasts sharply with the Edwardian terraced housing of relatively affluent Peverell.

Less visible, but starker, is the difference between the areas in life expectancy of people from the two neighbourhoods.

Those living in Peverell can expect to live eight years longer than people who live in Stonehouse.

Yet people in the two areas will be voting for the same MP, on 12 December.

We spoke to people in the two neighbourhoods of the Sutton and Devonport constituency and asked them what their priorities were in the general election.

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In Stoke Road, Stonehouse, Lee Rees was laying out beds for the homeless in a shelter he has created in a former pub.

Mr Rees, who spent several years on the streets himself, created the community interest company Reestart to tackle homelessness.

Lee Rees
Image caption Lee Rees created shelters for the homeless after being forced to live on the streets himself

"Politicians need to look at the funding for addiction treatment," he said. "So many people spiral out of control because of it.

"There are people dying on the streets because there's no funding available.

"I went through treatment and I am over 20 years abstinent. I do all this because of that help I received.

"The benefits system is diabolical - they need to scrap Universal Credit. It can be a nightmare getting rents through.

"There's been a spike in homelessness because of it."

Image caption Free soup for the homeless in Union Street in Stonehouse
Shaune Bell
Image caption Shaune Bell believes the next government must concentrate on the NHS and defence spending

The closed-down Jaeger clothes factory and navy tailors are in the same street, just a stone's throw from a soup kitchen for the homeless in Union Street.

And the Palace Theatre - where Laurel and Hardy once trod the boards - is now closed and boarded up after a drugs raid by police, towards the end of the 1990s rave scene.

Maritime worker Shaune Bell said: "My priorities are the NHS and getting more nurses. I work in the maritime industry and previously in the military so my priority would also be defence spending.

"The older generation also seem to be forgotten - and it's important they they are taken care of."

Emily Adams, Fiona Graham and Joe Pilkington
Image caption Emily Adams, Fiona Graham and Joe Pilkington of the Nudge Co-Op cafe and arts space in Union Street

Emily Adams, of The Clipper cafe and market in a former pub in Union Street, said: "Homelessness is a priority and the NHS which has been critically under-funded after years of austerity."

Colleague Fiona Graham said: "I have a small independent food business, so the environment and climate change is a priority.

"Working class people are under-valued and the benefits system is an absolute mess."

For father-of-two Joe Pilkington, tackling climate change is also a priority "as well as moving away from a system that protects the rich and powerful to empower the working class".

He said: "One in five children in Devonport and Sutton are living in poverty and that is shameful.

"So taxing corporations rather than taking money for day to day needs away from people."

Sara Stewart

Sara Stewart, who runs the Pound Kitchen in the city's West End, said: "As a mother of six my priorities are education and the NHS. One of my sons has mild autism and they can't afford to give him the care that he needs to give him the extra support.

"The teachers have been brilliant but it would be nice to have that extra funding.

"There's a big divide between the poor end of town and the more affluent areas. This side here are lots of people that are struggling and they come here because it's cheap. The money is not there for people to spend."

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  • Plymouth Sutton and Devonport ranks as the 87th most deprived constituency out of 533 in the UK according to government figures
  • The area around Clarence Place in Stonehouse is the most deprived area in Devon say the figures
  • It is home to Devonport dockyard, the largest naval base in western Europe
  • Plymouth City Council was won by Labour last year, the sixth time it had changed hands since 2000
  • Luke Pollard won the seat for Labour from the Conservatives in 2017 with a majority of nearly 7,000
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Naz Khan
Image caption Naz Khan: "If you are in an affluent area you will get better care and I think that gap's widening"

Naz Khan, who works in pharmaceutical sales, was having her hair done in Peverell.

"Ten GP surgeries have closed in the last few years in Plymouth which has displaced over 40,000 patients," she said.

"That is a real strain on GPs and there's a real gap between affluent areas and deprived areas.

"If you are in an affluent area you will get better care and I think that gap's widening."

"My priorities would also be around housing which is real concern for local people.

"I'm fortunate because I have a well-paid job but there needs to be more affordable homes.

"As a single parent it's quite tough. The only way to do it is to have two incomes and on top of that you have child care concerns."

Steve Curtis
Image caption Steve Curtis: "People are hanging onto their savings"

BMW car dealer Steve Curtis: "I'd like to see them bolster the economy. Brexit has hit it and people haven't been spending because they are unsure about the long-term future with us being out of Europe.

"We have seen a big trend in people who would normally want finance on a car not wishing to do so at this time with the uncertainty of the marketplace.

"People also seem to be hanging onto their savings. We are lucky to have customers who change their cars on a regular basis, but everyone in the motor trade has found the last six months very difficult."

Oliver Tugwell
Image caption Oliver Tugwell: Priority is getting Brexit "over the line"

Mortgage advisor Oliver Tugwell said: "My main priority would be Brexit and getting that over the line. There was a majority vote to leave and I think it's unfair on those who voted for it to see it stalled for so long.

"I think it's made the government look a bit of a laughing stock.

"If it was football and your team lost you can't say 'Let's redo the match'."

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The candidates standing in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport are:

James Ellwood - Green Party

Luke Pollard - Labour Party

Graham Reed - Liberal Democrats

Rebecca Smith - Conservative Party

Ann Widdecombe - Brexit Party

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