Bexhill and Battle candidates face questions from public

Jonathan Kent, Christine Bayliss, Huw Merriman and Martin Saunders after the hustings SUS-191128-114634001
Jonathan Kent, Christine Bayliss, Huw Merriman and Martin Saunders after the hustings SUS-191128-114634001

The four candidates standing in next month’s General Election for the Bexhill and Battle seat faced questions at a hustings yesterday evening (Wednesday, November 27).

Jonathan Kent, for the Greens, Christine Bayliss, for Labour, Huw Merriman, the Conservative candidate, and Martin Saunders, the Lib Dem candidate, answered questions on a number of topics, such as climate change, social care and Brexit.

Residents sent in written questions to Bexhill Town Forum, which hosted the meeting, and these were read out.

Candidates were asked what they intended to do to address the ‘climate emergency’.

Mr Saunders said: “The package my party is offering is a comprehensive one, with 80 per cent of energy to be renewable by 2030, as well as big investment in public transport, with 10 per cent of this budget to be allocated to cycling and walking.”

Mr Kent said: “We are proposing £100bn of funding over the next 10 years and talking about being carbon neutral by 2030. We are already seeing the weather changing. It’s not a happy message but it’s something we have to tackle now.”

Mrs Bayliss said Labour wanted to invest in green industries.

Mr Merriman said: “In 2010, seven per cent of energy came from renewables. Now it’s 30 per cent. We have the best record of all in the G20 countries in reducing carbon but we need to do a lot more and I believe we will.”

In a question, Wendy Dash, said social care had ‘suffered a lot of austerity cuts’ and asked how each party would ‘reverse the damage’.

Mrs Bayliss said: “Labour are committed to introducing a national care service.

“I find it astounding in this day and age we have got private care homes closing because they can’t be funded properly.”

Mr Saunders said: “Everyone agrees that more provision needs to be made for social care. It’s time we had an honest debate on how it’s going to be paid for.”

He said under the Lib Dems income tax would rise by a penny for each pound, which would raise more than £7bn a year.

Mr Kent said: “Once we get past the immediate need to fund social care now, we have to rethink about the way we live.”

Mr Merriman said: “The average age of a person in this country is 37. In Rother it’s 52, the highest in the UK. This system is absolutely broken.

“It frustrates the heck out of me because whenever a party is in opposition they rubbish the government.

“My message to government and to all parties is work together and come up with something radical.”

He said older people have often been ‘kicked around like a political football’.

The candidates also discussed Brexit throughout yesterday’s hustings event.

Mr Merriman said: “If we do not deliver Brexit we will keep going around in a spin cycle.”

He said the election had been called because of the Brexit deadlock and referred to the issue as the ‘Brexit elephant’, which was stopping politicians from getting anything done.

While the candidates were discussing social care, Mr Merriman said: “I came into politics to try and fix social care and I do not get three minutes in Parliament to talk about it because someone else is whistling on about Brexit.”

Mrs Bayliss said: “But we do not want Boris’s Brexit. We will be still negotiating in a year’s time on what sort of trade deal we want.”

Mr Saunders said his party wanted to stop Brexit, as it would provide a Remain Bonus of £50bn for the UK.

He said it was ‘nonsense’ to suggest nothing was getting done ‘because of Brexit’.

He added: “It’s just an excuse and a get out of jail card. The economy will weaken and we will have less money to pay for local services.”