Just three days ahead of the general election, the candidates for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton locked horns in a lively hustings evening.
Monday night’s debate in Bognor brought all six candidates together to engage in a fierce but mostly good natured debate in front of a large and often vocal crowd.
Alan Butcher (Labour), Andrew Bishop (Green), Francis Oppler (Lib Dem), Paul Sanderson (Independent), Nick Gibb (Conservative) and Patrick Lowe (UKIP) answered questions on a range of subjects key to the area ahead on Thursday’s vote.
Pre-submitted questions included tackling the chronic underfunding of both the NHS and social care and all schools in West Sussex, the fourth worst county in the country for central funding.
The candidates answered how their parties would alleviate the 4 million children who are currently living in poverty around the country.
Each member of the panel was also asked how big a priority air pollution was to them, and how, in the wake of Brexit, the EU standards for bathing water would be maintained once Britain leaves.
The candidates were then given two minutes to give their closing statements in a last-ditch attempt to swing votes.
Mr Butcher said: “When you wake up on Friday, do you want it to be the same old country run by the same old Tories?
“Or do you actually want to take the opportunity to make a real change for this country?
“To make a country that works for all of us, not a country that just works for a few people?
“This strong and stable economy is one that Nick (Gibb) thinks is great, but that’s because it’s working for those privileged few and not working for the rest of us.
“We need to get our economy moving, we need it to be dynamic...and an economy that is genuinely working for all of us.”
Mr Lowe said: “We’ve all talked about policies this evening but I’d like to talk about what we can do for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton.
“UKIP plans to set up a special task force to regenerate the coastal regions.
“A lot of the coastal areas are suffering at the moment and one idea is to cut the business rates for small businesses on rates of £50,000 or less, a cut of up to 50 per cent.
Mr Sanderson said: “My understanding of an MP is that they are there to represent you, and that’s what I’d plan to do.
“My policies include investing in education, protecting our NHS, care for the environment and protecting our communities.
“I’ve got a real passion for a fair and just society, that’s what I’m about.
“I listen to the community and respond to its needs to make a difference, that’s the sort of person you would be electing.”
Mr Gibb said: “I think people do benefit from a strong economy, there are 828,000 fewer workless households now that there were in 2010, and that’s because of a strong economy.
“We’ve heard multiple spending pledges delivered across this panel today, most notably by the Labour candidate.
“They add up to about £94bn of more spending per year, and that will damage the economy hugely.
“In addition to that, they’re going to raise tax levels to the height they’ve not been since the Second World War.”
Francis Oppler said: “The Liberal Democrats will invest in the NHS one penny on income tax, we will restore funding to schools, we will extend free school meals, we will keep the triple lock for pensioners to take thousands of people out of poverty.
“We will stop the Dementia Tax, we will put animal welfare at the heart of all our policies, we will re-introduce housing benefits for 18 to 21 year olds.
“We will support votes at 16, we will reverse the Tory taxes to the rich, Capital Gains Tax, Corporation Tax, we will reintroduce the bank levy, and we will increase Inheritance Tax back to the levels that it was.”
Mr Bishop said: “We’ve heard a lot of talk tonight and finally we need to hear the voices of the people of Bognor and Littlehampton in parliament.
“We believe in a kinder, more equal future, a future we all have a stake in.
“We need change and we need our politicians to think and do things differently.
“You may not have voted Green before, you may not have heard of us. I appreciate switching parties is a big deal, but this is not a one, or even two issue election.
“As your MP I will work towards a society where people are not pitted against each other, where our differences are not exploited for quick fixes.”
The lively and informative hustings event was put on by The Fair Funding For All Schools group and organised by campaign member and Bognor mum Kelly Morris.
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