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Here are the six candidates hoping to become councillors in Heldon and Laich

Confidence is high among the major  parties in Moray as voters go to the polls in the local government elections.
Confidence is high among the major parties in Moray as voters go to the polls in the local government elections.

Transport, education, the cost of living, the environment and council funding are all issues the candidates in Heldon and Laich are campaigning on.

The ward’s largest settlement is Lossiemouth, home to the RAF base, and includes the coastal communities of Burghead, Hopeman and Cummingston, as well as Alves and Pluscarden.

There are six candidates battling it out for four seats in the area.

James Allan, Conservative

James Allan is one of the Conservative candidates.

James Allan is one of two Conservatives up for election. He first entered the Moray Council chamber in 2012 and is seeking a third term.

Mr Allan is involved with the Boys Brigade and regularly runs bingo events for groups across the ward.

He said: “There is anti-social behaviour as there’s not much for young people to do.

“A few years ago we had a community centre with table tennis, darts and a jukebox. When I go and speak to the kids they say they just want a place they can go that’s under cover and where they can hang out. That needs to be looked at.

“We’re trying to do our best for folk all the time. Sometimes I think there’s a lot of party politics. I know I’m a member of the Conservative party, but people should be working together.

“We need to get things back up and running after Covid. Local businesses need support, as well as the elderly and young people, and I have been helping some businesses find out about grants available to them.

“We have a new high school in Lossiemouth. We struggled to get a swimming pool with it, because there was a time that was going to be cut, but we did.

“And we’ve been working with the community development trust with the new bridge to the east beach, with the last piece of that put down this week.”

Calum Cameron, Lib Dem

Calum Cameron is standing for the Liberal Democrats.

Chemical engineer Calum Cameron is standing for the Liberal Democrats. He has worked at Dounreay, with Budweiser in London, at Burghead  maltings and Roseisle Distillery.

Mr Cameron has a passion for environmental issues and has criticised the Conservatives for producing different leaflets for their two ward candidates.

He said: “If you want to reduce costs you have to reduce waste. If you want to reduce waste you have to behave differently.

“When I look at the two Conservatives’ pamphlets in the same ward wasting their own party’s money and with no thought of the environment, I wonder how this wasteful behaviour will impact their use of council resources going forward.

“I would challenge our local Conservatives to commit to a much lower carbon footprint for the next election, and if successfully elected to reflect on simple changes to improve their impact and cost to the council.

“We live in a beautiful community and we must do more to preserve it.”

“Moray Council’s current 2% a year energy reduction policy will not protect the environment or save the £400,000 that will be spent on increased energy charges. Moray can do much better than this.”

Neil Cameron, SNP

Neil Cameron is representing the SNP.

Neil Cameron is standing for the SNP. Originally from the West Midlands it was his job as regional participation manager for Cricket Scotland that brought him to Moray.

He lives in Lossiemouth where he volunteers with several local groups.

Mr Cameron said: “Connectivity is a huge problem. If you stay in Burghead and want to visit the doctor’s surgery in Lossiemouth you have to go to Elgin first. And although we’re only a few miles away from Elgin we seem to be in a different world.

“We need a decent bus service.

“Elderly people and people with young families can find that difficult with the cost of living and prices going up and up.

“Moray is a rural community and we tend to make do, but we need to do more than that.

“We’re currently coming out of a pandemic and more people are feeling isolated.

“Communities in Burghead, Hopeman, Lossiemouth and all over have been magnificent by helping people and and keeping people connected.

“I think there is a severe issue of people dealing with mental health and the last two years will have implications with many people feeling daunted.”

John Cowe, Independent

Independent candidate John Cowe.

Independent John Cowe is seeking a third term after being elected in a by-election in 2013. The former businessman is a previous chairman of the council’s economic development and infrastructure committee.

He said: “The big issue is the cost of living with energy prices rising dramatically, and they will go up a further 57% in October.

“And this week Vladimir Putin has turned off the gas to Bulgaria and Poland and that’s going to compound it.

“In Lossie we have a brand new secondary school, and we worked damned hard to get it.

“There are schools in Moray that are within a few hundred meters of each other that are both half full, and that needs to be addressed.

“Because the council budget has to be cut by about £20 million, and since I came in all there’s been is cuts, means there’s nothing left to cut.

“So central government has to realise they can’t do this any more. If they want local government to survive and do the job they expect them to do, then they have to fund it.

“I hope that the new councillors that come in work for the communities that put them there, and are more contentious than some of those who have been in over the last five years.”

Bridget Mustard, Conservative

Bridget Mustard is standing for the Conservatives.

Bridget Mustard is the second Conservative standing in the ward. Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania she worked with Moray Council for over 30 years in policy development.

Since retiring in 2019 she has completed a masters degree in gender studies. As a parent of a child with complex needs, she is passionate about improving services for vulnerable people, education and health and wellbeing

Mrs Mustard said: “I worked for the council for a long time building up a lot of knowledge. A lot of people have approached me for help with additional support needs. As I have a child with complex needs, I found myself giving a lot of advice, and I though maybe I can use that knowledge more widely.

“For a long time I couldn’t have considered standing for council, as I was working full-time and raising four kids, but I’ve come to a point in my life where I can.

“Additional support needs is a big issue in every school across Moray. Almost 40% of pupils have additional support needs and that’s a huge amount.

“Pupil attainment is not good, and if we’re bringing it up in Heldon and Laich it’s going to be an issue across Moray

“Also people deserve reliable travel, and that is a major issue in a rural ward.”

Andrew O’Neill, Labour

Labour representative Andrew O’Neill.

Andrew O’Neill is from Hopeman, and is one of five candidates standing for Labour across Moray. He is an Aberdeen University graduate and currently works in the financial technology sector.

Mr O’Neill said: “I want a fair deal for the people of Heldon and Laich and the people of Moray. We want to make sure there is provision of services, keeping council tax levels as reasonable as we can and support job creation.

“The issues that impact Heldon and Laich go across Moray. People are worried about the cost of living and job security. The environment is also important and that’s why we are campaigning to stop brown bin charges for garden waste.

“We’re also looking at council procurement and encouraging spending with local businesses. That will be good for the local economy and a positive move for the environment.

“I’ve been a member of the Labour party for some time, and the opportunity came up to stand so I took it. We’ve never had a councillor in Heldon and Laich and it’s good to be able to give people the chance to vote Labour.

“This is the most candidates Labour has had in Moray for a long time, and although there’s an SNP MSP and a Conservative MP, on a local level people who want change can vote Labour. We are a viable option for the people of Moray.”

The ballot for the local government elections will take place on Thursday. The make up of the next Moray Council will be revealed at the count in Elgin Town Hall the following day.

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