1, 2017 Election
hustings event sees candidates debate Burnham-On-Sea Police station
closure, Brexit, social care and transport issues
four candidates standing in the General Election to become Burnham-On-Sea's
MP debated a variety of hot topics during a lively hustings event
held in the town last night (Wednesday May 31st).
one week to go until the election on June 8th, Conservative James
Heappey, Liberal Democrat Tessa Munt, Labour's Andy Merryfield and
the Christian Peoples Alliance's Lorna Corke all answered questions
from local voters.
and local churches jointly organised the event, which was held at
Burnham's Baptist Church and attended by over 80 local residents,
with local resident Alex Turco as the Chairman.
question focussed on the recent upsurge in local crime in Burnham.
The candidates were asked whether closing Burnham-On-Sea Police
Station is the right thing to do.
Corke said it is sad to see any local Police station close. She
added that the involvement of the community is important in helping
to address crime.
Merryfield said the closure is an example of "one of the worst
effects of this Government", adding that austerity cuts have
caused the "decimation" of the Police service.
Munt added: "I don't mind it closing if there's an alternative
where we can see and access the Police." She vowed that the
Lib Dems would put £300m into community policing.
Heappey said: "I don't believe Burnham Police Station should
close," adding that he is "firmly" behind keeping
it open. "There's a belief that bricks and mortar don't stop
crime - officers do," but he added that shutting Burnham and
Cheddar Police stations is wrong.
candidates were then asked about climate change and whether they
would back action to meet climate change commitments and ban fracking.
Munt said she is "committed to a ban on fracking" and
she is concerned that the local "coast is an area that could
be affected". She said it is "really important" that
the idea of fracking is halted. She says she belives in climate
change and added that better housing energy schemes, such as improved
insulation, would help to reduce energy use.
Corke answered by pointing out that our land is not suitable for
fracking, unlike America. She went on to say there is not a real
understanding of climate change and that we need to look at what
is a good temperature.
Heappey said the Government is working on the issues. He says affordablity
of housing is important as it is expensive to run houses. He added
that efficient heating and lighting would help housing become more
affordable. He went on to say that we need renewable energy. He
belives fracking will not work in Somerset and that we should not
worry about the threat as there have been no applications to drill
so far. He went on to attack Donald Trump's "hugely disappointing"
decision to walk away from an international climate accord.
Merryfield said Labour is aiming for a target of 60 per cent renewable
energy by 2030. He says the Clean Air Act would be positive for
the Burnham-On-Sea area and he added that the UK needs to invest
in housing and introduce heat pumps to houses. He said that Labour
would ban fracking.
evening included a question about the inequality of state pensions
for local women born in the 1950s.
Andy Merryfield said "clearly women have been really, really
poorly treated" and he said his party's manifesto pledges to
Heappey says he has not voted on the issue yet, but that he understands
"why some people feel hard done by." He says he has represented
the women in parliament.
Corke said that the "pensions crisis" is part of a wider
austerity issue and that it illustrates "profound things wrong"
with our system.
Munt said that while she had voted on the changes, she was concerned
that nobody had received proper notice about the pension changes
and that the matter needs to be looked into in more detail.
next question at Wednesday's Burnham-On-Sea hustings claimed that
public transport in Burnham-On-Sea is "terrible" and that
travelling to local towns such as Weston for work is especially
difficult, so what would the candidates do to improve this?
Heappey said the public transport timetable in Burnham had improved
despite the loss of some buses. He said "a number of people
have been cut off" and that reaching outlying facilities such
as Berrow Medical Centre is "unworkable".
he says Somerset County Council does not have the money to improve
transport, he hopes the funding will be given in the future.
Munt said that local public transport services is a "really
serious problem", with some residents who rely on public transport
unable to get to work. She said the Government is too "urban-centric"
and obsessed with city travel.
also says that a proper review of the transport service in the Burnham
area is needed as it is a barrier to travel for many. She went on
to point out that Burnham has "missed out" when the Government
looks at public transport.
Merryfield said the whole matter is a "nonsense", because
the Government "gives out bus passes and then takes away the
buses." He believes that because residents don't have buses,
people are forced to drive cars, adding to climate change.
added that Labour will re-nationalise the rail services, which was
met with applause by the hustings audience. He adds there are trains
which don't stop at Highbridge and this is a basic requirement.
Corke said she doesn't understand why there is a problem with buses
and why we allow big companies to get away without paying tax. She
says we live in an "unfair and unequal society" and it
is not good enough as the poor are getting poorer and the rich are
next part of the hustings event turned to Brexit and the whether
it's right that the UK faces a big bill to exit the EU. This topic
attracted plenty of interaction and heckling from the crowd.
Merryfield said Labour would ensure all workers from abroad who
are here are able to stay. And he went to say that the NHS would
"fall apart" if the foreign workers were taken away because
of Brexit. He claims that Labour is best placed to take us out of
Europe and will ensure we get the best possible Brexit deal.
Corke - who is a UKIP district councillor - says the UK should never
have joined the EU in the first place. She said we are a "unique
nation" and we have the ability to stand on our own feet and
trade as we did before again.
says we shouldn't pay money to leave the EU and it will 'miss us
when we are gone'. She added that the EU is a "dictatorship"
and we should not accept that.
Munt said that while we are leaving the EU, we must be brave and
ask questions. She says the people of Somerset are her "experts"
and she will listen to constituents about how to leave the EU. She
wants to see a second referendum before the final EU deal is signed
Heappey argued that having a policy of a second referendum would
be a poor one since the EU could put together a terrible deal if
we did leave. And he added that while we shouldn't pay money to
leave the EU, if it's a great deal then that is up to the Government.
admited that "I got it wrong" about the economy suffering
as a result of Brexit and he went on to say that in fact it has
improved. He added that he is 100 per cent certain the UK can flourish
outside of the EU.
resident Tony Lynham quizzed the candidates from the floor on where
the £18bn that would be saved following Brexit would go. Tessa
Munt said she feels it should be released to raise the 1% pay cap
on public services and to support farmers so they are less in need
of subsidies. Mr Merryfield said he feels the cash should go to
the NHS and funding primary school meals.
next question referred to how the candidates would stand up for
rural areas of Somerset in terms of financing.
councillor Tessa Munt, who won her seat in Wells at the start of
May, says there are many differences across Somerset and she feels
that there is a lot of new infrastucture built in Taunton and Yeovil
while more rural areas such as Burnham and Cheddar do not see those
benefits. She feels a lot more can be done to spread employment
opportunities, broadband services and new enterprise jobs.
Corke, who is a UKIP district councillor, says she would like to
see more money to the rural industry like farming and fisheries.
She wants to ensure these industries thrive again and she praised
Bridgwater College for training people to work at Hinkley Point
C nuclear power station.
Merryfield said homelessness is an issue and that better housing
is needed. He also said the road structure in Somerset is 'unsafe'.
went on to say that children's social services need to improve in
the area. "If we can't look after our vulnerable children then
that is poor," he added.
Heappey told the hustings event that there is a disparity between
rural and urban funding and he vowed that local authority funding
"needs to be improved more than it already has."
continued that "we have a long way to go with fair school funding
but we are going in the right direction."
also says there is funding for primary care in Burnham-On-Sea and
Highbridge but there is a real issue regarding GP recruitment.
added that there is a tough decision to be taken on how much development
to accept in this part of Somerset. "We live in a beautiful
part of the world and we have to have these conversations. Money
comes with development', he said.
last question was about later-life funding around the winter fuel
allowance and what the candidates would do about means-tested care
Heappey said there would be a cap on liability for pensioners. He
says it may be increased and there will be consultation. He admitted
that some of the information had come "out after the launch
of our manifesto" in a nod to a much-publicised clarification
from Theresa May on social care funding caps.
Merryfield says Labour would set up a national care service and
will focus on the elderly. He adds that local organisations need
to benefit from these plans and he added that he wants to address
the gender pay gap and is committed to making sure this changes.
Munt said that the Lib Dem cap would be £72,000-£74,000
rather than £100,000 from the Conservatives. She argued that
the government's "dementia tax is unfair" when it encourages
people to buy a home and earn money through their life, only for
it to be taken away in later-life care. "We need to look carefully
at this," she said.
the closing statements, Lorna Corke said her party wants to strengthen
the institution of marriage by providing marriage awareness courses
for a couple's first marriage. "We will provide grants of £10,000
per couple to encourage marriage," she explained.
added that different views should be taught in schools and universities
and added: "There seems to be government interference in education
and we believe it should be the responsibility of the parents."
Munt said she and Mr Heappey are the only two in the race given
the 2015 General Election result, and she asked voters to think
carefully about who will stand up to Theresa May's Conservatives.
don't want yet another yes man in Westminster," she said. "James
has never voted against his party line - I did, and I will stand
up for local people."
Merryfield said residents should vote for the party that they feel
most comfortable with. He added that you will then have a clear
conscience on June 8th. "Vote with your heart and mind,"
Heappey concluded the evening by saying he hoped he had shown that
seeks to know about the local issues. "I look carefuly at the
detail to find solutions and am impassioned about our local community,"
adds he will have the right conversation and make the right decisions.
"I think you can get a better deal by being in Government,"
across the Wells constituency - which includes the Burnham-On-Sea,
Highbridge, Brean, Berrow and Brent Knoll areas - will be voting
in the General Election on Thursday, June 8th.
live pictures See live images of the seafront and beach
with Burnham's Webcam.Click
in Burnham! Support local traders by shopping in town
- see our A-Z index of businesses.Click
to see and do Check the constantly updated Burnham-On-Sea.com
calendar for what's happening. Click