Candidates make their case at election meeting

Counting assistants are needed.
Counting assistants are needed.

General election candidates faced questions from voters at a hustings event in Skegness.

Politicians competing to win the Skegness and Boston seat faced questions from voters at the Storehouse Conference Centre on Friday.

Candidates attending were Paul Kenny (Labour Party), Lyn Luxton (Pilgrim Party), Chris Pain (Independence From Europe), Victoria Percival (Green Party), Matt Warman (Conservative Party) and Robert West (British National Party).

Issues raised included tourism, public transport and immigration and what equipped the contenders to be an MP.

Tourism

Mr Kenny called for a cut in the VAT rate for the tourism sector. He added: “We are not selling Skegness as hard as we could, particularly in the Midlands. I will certainly promote the area, people need to know we have got a great resort here.”

Mrs Luxton argued that tourism businesses needed the same financial support as the heritage sector. She said: “We need all year round funding to try to develop out of season tourism in Skegness.”

Mr Pain claimed that Skegness was being used as a “cash cow” by East Lindsey District Council which had acted “atrociously” over the planned sale of Pier Field in the town. He called for improved road and rail links adding: “There is a need to address infrastructure in Skegness. If Butlins were choosing a location for a resort now it would not come to the area.”

Mrs Percival said: “There is money for transport, but the Government is spending it on HS2. Small businesses should have lower business rates. People cannot come on holiday if they cannot afford it, we need a living wage.”

Mr Warman agreed there was a role for government to play in improving infrastructure. He said: “There should be a dual carriageway to the fourth most popular seaside resort in the UK.

He added: “There is a feeling in the town that ELDC does not give Skegness the respect it deserves. I accept that and am committed to doing something about it.”

Mr West argued funding problems for the tourism sector could be eased if the Britain withdrew from the European Union. He said: “If politicians have not got the money, they cannot give anything to us. Where has all the money gone?”

Public Transport

Mr Kenny said that Lincolnshire is a low wage economy and that train travel was expensive and services, particularly to London, unreliable. He argued that improving the rail service needed to be a high priority.

Mrs Luxton called for a reduction in train fares so it was more affordable for families. She added it was important that more people used public transport to reduce pollution levels.

Mr Pain described the HS2 project creating a new line between London and the north of England as a “white elephant.” He said: “Long term we need to electrify the the railway and the roads have to be improved. The railway was better 100 years ago than it is now, it is embarrassing how long it takes to get to Skegness from London by train.”

Mrs Percival argued that fares would be cheaper if the rail operating companies were nationalised called for a new rail line connecting Skegness and Louth. She said: “We need better public transport links, it is something that The Green Party passionately supports.”

Mr Warman described rail as an “important part of the local transport picture,” and called for increased competition between train operators on the rail network.

Immigration and the EU

Mr Kenny told the meeting that he had not supported the previous Labour Government’s decision not to impose transitional arrangments on East European countries joining the EU.

He said: “I believe migrants should register with local authority so we know who lives where. You cannot plan health or education if do not know population figures.”

Mrs Luxton said immigration needed to be firm, but fair and that the Pilgrim Party was campaigning for an EU referendum in 2016. She added: “If people come here to work hard and pay their taxes then they should be welcomed. If they come to claim benefits there should be system in place to deal with this.”

Mrs Percival argued that migrants were making a contribution to the economy and were “paying their way”. She told the meeting that Britain benefited from immigration and people were coming to the country for a better life. She said the Green Party supported a referendum on Europe, but the favoured staying in the EU.

Mr Pain called for an Australian style points immigration system. He said: “We do not need cheap labour or masses of migrants doing agricultural work. Our party’s view is quite straight forward, we do not need a referendum and should just leave the EU straight away.”

Mr Warman told the meeting the area had experienced levels of immigration intended for urban centres like London, Manchester and Birmingham.

He said: “I accept that changes seen over the last eight to 10 years have created pressure on services such as health and education. We do need migrants to work on the land, there are not enough people in Britain willing to do that.

Mr Warman added that the Conservative Party was committed to renegotiating Britain’s role in Europe and holding an in out referendum.

Mr West described the EU as “an anti-democratic superstate” and said the BNP was against any immigration.

He said: “People do not feel free to talk about issues such as immigration which has led to a suppression of free speech.”

See this week’s Skegness Standard for a further report from the meeting.