disrupts Burnham election hustings during candidates debate
200 residents crowded into a Burnham-On-Sea church to hear the
views of four of the town's General Election candidates during
a special hustings event on Tuesday (April 21st).
The event, held at Burnham Baptist Church, saw James Heappey (Conservative),
Jon Cousins (Green), Chris Inchley (Labour) and Tessa Munt (Lib
Dem) answer a series of questions on topical issues submitted
by local people.
proceedings were interrupted when a heckler angrily voiced his
concerns that residents had not been able to voice their views
during the debate. But Chairwoman Ruth Chambers, who is a Chair
of Governors at Berrow CoE School, expertly kept the evening moving
event was exclusively live-streamed on Burnham-On-Sea.com, the
first time that a Burnham event of this type has been broadcast
live. Watch the video
evening started with a question about how tax breaks could be
funded by the parties without increasing the national debt.
Heappey said that cutting the deficit is a priority. "Paying
off the national debt is so important," he said. "If
we could clear the debt we could fund the whole of the NHS in
Cousins said that "getting tough on tax evasion and
tax avoidance and stopping tax breaks" is important for him.
And Chris Inchley said he's concerned that the "wealthiest
in the land pay the least", adding: "We're told
that we're all in this together - if we are, we should all contribute
and share in the wealth."
Tessa Munt said she is keen to see the tax threshold lifted to
help those on low pay. "There are many low earners who would
benefit," she said. She went on to say that it's "ludicrous
that council tax homes are being sold off - absolutely mad."
A second question followed on pensioners struggling to find employment
and what the priorities should be. The panel agreed that more
could be done to helping older people to find work locally while
also encouraging younger people into jobs too.
The next question focussed on the UK's foreign aid budget. Chris
Inchley said: "I support 0.7% of our GDP being spent
on foreign development aid - all nations should do the same."
Tessa Munt said it is "absolutely right", adding that
"we should make sure people have food, water and shelter"
because we are "world leaders and should lead the way."
James Heappey disagreed, saying: "I feel funding for foreign
aid could be more dynamic," explaining that the level should
not be ring-fenced but be more flexible to meet the needs of foreign
Cousins said he "applauds the Lib Dems" on their
foreign aid policy and added that "we should be leading the
world on this - it is part of our foreign commitment to the world."
next question focussed on education and asked whether more trust
and respect should be placed on local school headteachers.
Munt said she had "every sympathy" with teachers, conceding
that an "extra burden" had been placed on them in recent
years by the government even though "extra millions had been
invested in schools in the area" and that free school meals
had been a great Lib Dem initiative.
Heappey answered: "Education should be focussed on pupils,"
and he added: "I don't accept that we need to reform education
back to teachers in schools." He also added: "I struggle
with the ever increasing importance placed on academic grades...
when education is about creating opportunities for all."
Cousins said he was "amazed" by Mr Heappey's
response: "Education is not a means to an end - it's not
about creating economic units who go out to work". He added
that the Greens policy is to support education locally and that
he also wants to see smaller class sizes.
Inchley said: "Teachers are the most important people - I
believe we should give total respect to them." He said that
he would support removing free schools and reducing class sizes.
Chairman Ruth Chambers posed the next questions to the candidates
on the NHS, and then on to fracking when all four candidates were
opposed to the process being considered for the Mendips.
The debate then saw a lively discussion about whether the Human
Rights Act should be repealed and replaced by a Bill Of Rights.
A further question followed on whether suicide and euthanasia
should be legalised when the panel members shared some of their
own emotional family experiences with the audience.
The hustings concluded with a light-hearted question about which
cake best represents them and why.
James Heappey said he'd choose a either Rocky Road that "may
not be good to look at, but which leaves the eater satisified"
or a Victoria Sponge that is "quintessentially British."
Cousins said he'd pick a Wedding Cake "to show the
perfect marriage between the economy and a sustainable future."
Chris Inchley said he'd choose an Apple Turnover with its
sweet coating and fruit inside.
Tessa Munt added that she'd pick an Apple Cheesecake "since
apples and cheese are so well known from Somerset."
the candidates at Tuesday's debate (Photos; Steve Ayers and Burnham-On-Sea.com)
here for the full list of local candidates standing in the General