Broxtowe’s parliamentary candidates participated in local hustings in Kimberley this week, fielding questions from the public.
Conservative Anna Soubry, Labour Nick Palmer, Liberal Democrat Stan Heptinstall, Green David Kirwan, UKIP Frank Dunne and J4MB Ray Barry attended the debate, chaired by Revd Barbara Holbrook at Kimberley’s Holy Trinity Church.
The church on Eastwood Road was filled for the debate on April 27, organised and chaired by Revd Canon Barbara Holbrook, and pulled audience questions out of a hat.
Quotes are highlights from the candidates’ responses.
Ian Wilson asked the candidates: The present MP for Broxtowe has done little or nothing for Kimberley. What do the prospective candidates propose for Kimberley in order to improve the quality of life?
Anna Soubry said: “I’m sorry you feel that way, I feel I’ve worked very hard for Kimberley in a number of ways. I’ve had meetings on how we can protect our greenbelt. By being a supporter of our government, I’ve made sure that after 2010, the terrible debt the nation was in, in five short years we’ve halved the deficit, we’ve reduced debt and the number of people on unemployment benefit has more than halved.”
Nick Palmer said: “Kimberley has three specific problems. The first is the local economy, as long as we have difficulty in attracting new investment from outside, our children and the next generations are going to find it difficult to stay in the area. We’re very dependent on the Ikea area.
Transport connections: as long as we’re separated by the M1 it’s difficult to attract people out here to take advantage of all the attractions which Kimberley has to offer.
“It’s extremely important to preserve the attractive surroundings we have here, and that’s why when I was MP I successfully fought off the proposal for the open cast mine in Cossall.”
Stan Heptinstall said: “The LibDems believe in a health service that is accessible to all, and nationally we were the first party to commit the funding that’s needed to make sure the health service continues the way it has and gets better. We want to invest in education and make it better for everybody, particularly for children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“And communication links, nobody’s mentioned the possibility of the tram yet. I am a supporter of the tram and I’m delighted that it’s come to Beeston, and what I would want to see is a network of trams across the whole of the Nottingham area so we don’t have to use cars, you can actually get wherever you want by tram as is the case in some German cities.”
David Kirwan: “Going round the houses meeting people in Kimberley, I know what is worrying people here, it is the tram, it is the building on green spaces, and we do have a real fight to stop the development of the greenbelt. This week we saw the appeal to try and prevent that being passed, and rejoicing from some of the other parties, that it will be wrecked for future generations.
“I believe in trams as a general principle but I do believe we need more investigation and dialogue. We need to learn the lessons from Beeston. We need actually to see it up and running and what the benefits are compared to the costs and see if that is the best transport system for Kimberley. We’re already seeing bus services being decommissioned in Beeston and we don’t want to see that in Kimberley.”
Ray Barry: “When it comes to an issue like this one about improvement of quality of life where we don’t have a policy in our manifesto, I would regard myself as your servant, to gauge what it is that you as the community want, and my job will be to deliver what you want.”
Frank Dunne: “We’ve got a really frightened community who need to grow small business so our policy is to drop business rates by 20 per cent. I’m a small businessman and I know that would help my business.”
Mary Jones asked: Can the politicians tell us what can be done to provide long term health care into the future, do we need a long term multi-party strategy group?
David Kirwan: “I see where the NHS is and I also see the offers they have made to invest £8 billion pounds or there abouts. We actually need more money than that to have a proper system. We do need to do stop moving every time we have a new administration, we have to have a permanent plan, it does need funding more, we can afford it. If we can afford £100 billion for Trident we can afford a better NHS. We need a system that is consistent regardless of whatever government is in control.”
Nick Palmer: “Although the hospital side has been largely protected, the care side has been systematically warn down. If you’re getting home care you will typically get it from a private company employing people on minimum wages who rotate different people each week and limit them to 15 minute visits. The area we’ve got to focus on is providing a really good care service so that we help people before they become critically ill.”
Stan Heptinstall: “What we ought to be doing is instigating frequent health checks particularly for vulnerable groups of people so that problems can be identified before they go to hospital.
“A cross-party group would be a great idea, I hadn’t thought of it. It would be a great thing to do.”
Anna Soubry: “I’m very proud of the fact that notwithstanding the cuts, we’ve not only protected the present budget we’ve also put in £12.5 billion. I believe in the NHS as free at the point of delivery and paid for by the taxpayer.
“Public health is now done by the county councils and I think that’s absolutely the right thing. But I think we should also take the effort to look after ourselves. We’re all living longer and that’s brilliant but we have to be realistic that that adds huge stresses and pressures on the NHS.”
Ray Barry: “There does need to be a shift of some resource towards the healthcare for men. We need to have a shift in resource Mental Health - and particularly in prisons. 70 per cent of men in prison have some sort of mental health. It has been described that some prisons are little more than warehouses for mentally ill people, keeping them away from the community rather than treating them.
“I think we need to bite the bullet and accept that we will need some demand for contribution from patients, those that can afford it will need to make some form of payment to keep the quality of delivery as it is at the moment.”
Frank Dunne: “We do need a long-term strategy but what I’m worried about is that whatever party comes in will say let’s scrap what’s gone before and have a re-organisation.
“Our NHS is in crisis, it’s on life support.
“We need to look at community care. 15 minute visiting slots, how can that be proper social care? It’s offensive.”
“What we need is to make sure the NHS has the resources and the people in the NHS that no more about it, the doctors, guide us on how we can help the NHS on facing the challenges we’re going to have to deal with. It is one of the jewels of this country and needs to be protected and we need to make sure it’s free.”
Ian Wilson asked: The Green Party advocates an open door policy, what does that mean and how will it affect Britain?
David Kirwan: “We don’t have an open door policy. What we are going to do is provide aid to countries around the world to make the situations in their home countries better so there is less of a need for them to migrate. Lets not forget, these are people. They are escaping situations that in some cases are caused by this country.
“It really is time that we stop blaming all the ills of society on the people who migrate to this country.”
Ray Barry was applauded for saying: “I would favour withdrawal from the EU. Without that we can’t have control of migration.”
Nick Palmer: “What we have at the moment is a point system for migrants outside the European Union, but free movement within the European Union. I agree with David that it gets us nowhere to blame migrants for being migrants. What we should be doing is asking why our training are so inadequate that employers are going over to get people.
“Labour is proposing that we restrict benefits for people who come into this country so that you can’t get them for the first two years. We need migrants and we also need the ability ourselves to go to other countries.”
Frank Dunne: “It’s an emotive subject and lets be clear, we’ve got a very fair policy on this. We will instigate and Australian based point system, where the skills and ability of an individual will be counted, wherever they come from. I’m not demonising people, I’m talking about the simple fact of resources. We cannot continue an open door policy. This country is a strong welcoming country, but if we allow continual growth of immigration it’ll put stress on every single resource.”
Stan Heptinstall: “I know people who have moved here and employ British people, and their quality of life has been improved by the contribution of people from other countries.
“The people who come here pay much more in taxes than any amount of money than we spend on those people. That is a fact. I really do wish that immigration was not a central discussion point in this election.”
“We get so much more by staying together than staying apart.”
Anna Soubry: “There’s nothing wrong with talking about immigration, but the trouble with a party like UKIP is that they stir up people’s fears and sometimes they prey on people’s prejudices. I am proud of the fact that as a country we have a tradition of welcoming people to our shores, especially those who are fleeing poverty and persecution who come here for asylum. If somebody isn’t going to vote for me for that then fine, I’d rather lose.
“People who come here invariably come here to work. 6 per cent of immigrant workers claim benefits. 13 per cent of British-born people claim benefits so the idea that our shores are swamped by scrounger is not true. It’ right that what we should be saying why don’t more of our people have the skills and the training, the aptitude and the attitude to work.
“As many British people go to work in the EU as come here. They’re good people and I welcome them.”
Dave Harrison asked: In the event of a hung parliament, which party would you be part of a coalition with, and why?
Stan Heptinstall: “Five years ago it was the first time in my lifetime that we ever had a coalition government. When we went into office the Labour party left us a letter saying “very sorry folks, there’s no money left”. The country was in a mess and the coalition has worked hard. We’ve reduced the deficit, we’ve increased taxation thresholds so many low and middle paying workers pay much less tax. We’ve increased jobs.
“We would go in with either the Conservatives or Labour, but we would not be associated with the SNP.”
Nick Palmer: “We are happy to work with the Liberal Democrats as we have on the borough council quite successfully, despite repeated attacks from the Member of Parliament. We would seek support from other parties from issue to issue which might be Conservative, might be SNP, might be anyone else represented in Parliament but we will not form a coalition with the SNP. The reason is that their agenda is suspect. We cannot form a coalition with a party seeking to divide our country.”
David Kirwan: “It would be easiest to say which parties we wouldn’t be able to work with. That would certainly be UKIP, and it would be the Conservative party as well, because we are so diversely opposed. One of our red lines would be austerity. Unfortunately that probably does rule out Labour unless they are willing to address austerity measures.”
We would form an alliance with SNP and Plaid Cymru, our policies have many common grounds and we would form an alliance but it’s unlikely we would form a coalition and work on a vote-by-vote and confidence basis.”
Ray Barry: “I don’t think our party is going to be in a position to have to make that choice.
“When I look at the possible combinations the one that scares me most is Labour and SNP.”
Frank Dunne: “Whether they would work with us or not, we could probably work with the Green Party. They will give us a vote on the EU. They’re against HS2 and they are very keen on protecting greenbelt as we are. So even if Dave doesn’t want me, I could work with him.
“In terms of the Conservatives, we’d do it on a vote-by-vote basis, and the key fundamental reason is the vote on Europe.
“Labour and SNP have made it quite clear that you will never get a vote on Europe.”
Anna Soubry: “If the polls are correct in Scotland, Labour is going to be almost wiped out. There are certain Labour MPs who actually I like hugely, no I do. And they are talking about losing majorities of 16 and 23,000, the sort of majorities that Nick and I might dream about in parliament. The absolute reality is that the SNP is going to win dozens and dozens of seats in Scotland, and it means that Labour will have to have some form of coalition with the SNP and Ed Miliband will be in Nicola Sturgeon’s pocket.”
Peter Jones asked: When money is scarce and so many in our society are in real need, should it be a priority to benefit those who have money to spend by introducing the sale of bonds for over 65s and subsidising the sale of shares in Lloyds Bank?
Nick Palmer: “Those are two concrete examples of bribes that have been thrown your way. I add to that the slightly crazy suggestion that all the housing associations should suddenly be put up for sale at a discount.
“We have the largest number of foodbanks in the whole of Nottinghamshire. I’ve been to the foodbanks and I’ve seen them in operation. The people that go in there are desperate and we should not add more misery on their backs purely in order to get some votes.”
Stan Heptinstall: “We do have foodbanks. Most of the people who attend them have dropped through the benefits system.
“It’s so important to get it right. The Conservatives want to cut even more benefits, we don’t want to do that but we cannot go on in the way the old government did and got ourselves into the mess that we’re in.”
Anna Soubry: “I agree with much of what Stan has said. We have come through a difficult time and made some difficult decisions which has been tough on a lot of people. But we’ve had to make those decisions because we couldn’t carry on in the way that we were.
“We’ve had to adopt the same sort of principles that we adopt in our own lives, which is living within our means, not overly boroughing and making sure that we don’t spend more than we earn.
“We’ve raised the tax threshold so that people on the lowest incomes are now not paying tax. This has benefitted millions of people, but also the highest rate of tax is now 55 per cent.”
David Kirwan said: “No it’s not right to be offering tax benefits to the wealthiest in society when we’ve got people queueing up at foodbanks, and it’s not just people on benefits it’s people in work who just aren’t earning enough money. People on zero-hour contracts, how can they possibly pay the bills at the end of the day? We’ve really got to address zero-hour contracts, we need the minimum wage not to be just a living wage where you can just about get by, but where you have some quality of life. We saw yesterday the rich list came out and the people at the top of that list get richer and richer while the queues at food banks get longer and longer. We need to be bold and say this is not the sort of society we want to live in and we are the only party saying that that will mean higher taxes for some. It certainly means that we re-coup the tax from big multinationals. We’re losing £30 billion a year by letting these companies off and at the same time we are going after people on benefits that are maybe claiming an extra £20 that they’re not allowed to. We’ve really got our priorites wrong.”
Ray Barry: “I have a pension, I’m fit enough to work full time which I do, I’ve never been so well off, and It’s not right. Younger people are subsidising me and I don’t think they should be.
“I think there should be a shift of resource away from old people and toward young people. I see what this is about, older people vote and younger people don’t.”
Frank Dunne: “Everybody knows we bailed the banks out, so it’s not appropriate now to sell shares. We can all see what it is, it’s a bribe. The time to do that is when the economy is stable and there’s a consensus in the country that it’s appropriate.”
“I agree with Nick passionately, it’s a disgrace in this country that we need foodbanks. We squeeze the poor in this country, five years we’ve heard “we’re all in it together - austerity, austerity”. I don’t want to be in government that continues to squeeze the poor. We need to help the poor in this country.”
Susan Page asked: Is there is a central government policy which is against the interests of Broxtowe will you oppose?
Frank Dunne: “We’re all going to say yes. I’m not a professional politician. I’m just a guy who has strong family values, strong Christian values. I will always support the people of Broxtowe first. You can’t run me into a corner, you can’t put me under pressure, because I will stick to my core values.”
Ray Barry: “I’ll give a simple yes to that question, because that’s my job.”
David Kirwan: “The Green party isn’t whipped to vote in any way, so absolutely I will always vote in the interests of Broxtowe. So, unlike Nick and Anna who are both very loyal to their parties and vote on party lines I will always listen to the people in Broxtowe, gauge the feelings of people, gauge the benefits of whatever issue it was and vote whichever way is best for the people in Broxtowe.”
Nick Palmer: “I actually accept the criticism included in David’s last answer. I think in the early years in parliament I spent too much time giving the benefit of the doubt to ministers.
“When the open cast was proposed at Cossall, the government was reminded to accept it, and I went to the minister and I said if you accept this there will be a scandal which I will lead, and I will fight you in the courts if necessary.
“We’ve seen in the last couple of years that the current MP, when it comes to a government decision, she accepts it. That’s necessary to a career and I don’t think it makes an adequate representative for Broxtowe. In the end if Broxtowe’s MP doesn’t stand up for us nobody else will.”
Stan Heptinstall: “The government settlement for Broxtowe has been the worst in the country. Broxtowe had a bigger cut in funding than anywhere else in the country and I promise you that when I am MP I will work tirelessly to put that right.”
Anna Soubry: “Of course your primary function as MP is to represent your constituents and put their interests first, and you may not agree with some of the things I’ve done but I can assure that I’ve always put my constituents before anything else.
“Broxtowe is one of 20 odd councils that got the lowest amount of money. Nottinghamshire’s cut was somewhere in the region of 21 per cent, so the idea that Broxtowe’s been picked on is not true at all. There’s a formula.
“Your borough council has managed with all three parties working together to settle the budget which has seen no increase in your council tax, no cuts to your services and no compulsory redundancies. But it also has to be said that your council chose to spend £20,000 of your money not on improving pavements or roads as they should have done, but on a tram feasibility study which neither nobody wanted, nobody needed and over which the borough council has no control at all and they did that without consulting the people of this town. I can assure you that if I am re-elected as your member of parliament, I am going to make sure that this town involves its residents and is properly and democratically run.”