WITH THE elections just around the corner, three candidates in the Oldham borough elections went head to head at a Saddleworth Carers session.
Pam Byrne, Conservative candidate for Saddleworth West and Lees, Adrian Alexander, Labour candidate for Saddleworth West and Lees, Derek Heffernan, Lib Dem candidate for Saddleworth North, discussed topics includes health, immigration, tax and employment.
Here is an outline of what they each had a say:
Mrs Byrne said the Conservatives:
- Look to bring security in retirement and later life
- Will increase the value of state pension with triple lock and offer a flat rate pension scheme
- Will protect universal benefits for the elderly, such as keeping the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes
- She says “The NHS is something to be protected”
- Have increased the NHS budget by £12.9 million since 2010 and have committed £2billion in funding for 2015/16
- Want to fund more doctors, nurses and midwives and offer better access to GPs
- She says Immigration needs to be “controlled and fair”
- Will look to change to free movement rules and offer a referendum on staying in the EU
Mr Alexander said Labour will:
- Balance the books and get debt falling with fairer choices
- Introduce a 10p lower rate of tax and a 50p tax on incomes over £150,000
- He says “We will not make promises we can not keep or afford”
- Integrate mental, social and physical health care and there will be a ‘Time to Care’ fund
- Will put more money towards training and providing homecare workers to help older people live longer in their own homes
- Will recruit more nurses and GPs and guarantee an appointment within 48 hours, shorter for emergencies
- Will ban exploitative zero-hour contracts
- Will address immigration by banning companies from only recruiting from overseas and EU migrants must earn for six months before being able to claim benefits
Mr Heffernan said the Lib Dems:
- Have already raised the personal allowance from £7,000 to £10,000, making families £800 better off a year on average
- Will look to push this and the minimum wage higher still
- Have planned investment of £8billion for the NHS with a plan that is fully costed and includes no borrowing
- He adds “We need to look at the way the NHS is managed” so services providers are in it to make a profit
- Will look at building more affordable housing
- Have promoted apprenticeships for young people, particularly in skills such as electricians, plumbers, brick layers, and will continue to do so
The candidates then answered questions from the floor:
Qu: How can we believe what you say about the NHS?
Mrs Byrne points to the devolution for health services, which she says will help to bring more power to improving local services.
Mr Alexander adds we have to look after the NHS and invest in more doctors and nurses to care for people who are living longer.
Mr Heffernan questions the problems caused by layers of expensive management and if it can be better co-ordinated.
Qu: The polls so no party will get enough votes to win, so who will your party get into bed with?
Mrs Byrne: If there is a coalition we will look at the most sensible way that works for everybody.
Mr Alexander says the only possible coalition for Labour would be with the Lib Dems if they get enough seats.
Mr Heffernan says there needs to be a considered decision from the three main parties about what works best for the people. We have to live with compromises every day, he adds
And the session was concluded with a vote to see which party came out best at the mini hustings.
From 25 votes cast, the Conservatives received 12, Labour 9 and the Lib Dems 4.