Scarborough and Whitby parliamentary candidates face off at hustings

Three of the four parliamentary candidates for Scarborough and Whitby appeared at hustings event at the Scarborough Christian Fellowship last night (Tuesday December 4).

Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 12:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 12:27 pm

Hugo Fearnley (Labour), Graham Lockwood, (Liberal Democrat) and Robert Goodwill (Conservative) all appeared but Yorkshire Party candidate Lee Derrick could not attend as his invitation wasn’t received until after he had made commitments in Whitby.

The three men present were grilled by constituents on various issues.

Surprisingly, Brexit was hardly mentioned during the evening, with health and social care seemingly the biggest issues of the night.

Three of the candidates speaking at Scarborough Christian Fellowship.

On the subject of the NHS, questions were asked by a GP who has worked in the town for 30 years and a retired nurse and midwife who asked about funding and morale in the health service.

Mr Goodwill acknowledged that more GPs needed to be trained but highlighted his party’s commitment to invest in the area, having pledged £40 million for a new A&E at Scarborough hospital and £12 million for Whitby hospital. He said Labour’s spending plans “would bankrupt the country”.

In retort, Mr Fearnley criticised the Conservatives for quoting top line figures and not taking inflation into account when discussing investment.

He said funding and morale “go hand in hand” and that Labour plan to increase public sector funding by 5%.

Mr Lockwood argued that in order to properly fund the NHS, social care and mental-health services, they would “have to be paid for”, highlighting his party’s manifesto pledge to raise £7 billion a year for health from a 1p in the pound rise in Income Tax.

He said: "I will have to raise the issue of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the government's civil service accountancy firm. They have slated the Labour party's expenditure plans equally with the Conservative party's expenditure plans. They are unrealistic, we have to pay for our health care service."

Both Mr Fearnley and Mr Goodwill agreed that the funding and organisation of health and social care services needed to be closer together and social care should be worked on cross-party.

The environment was also a hotly debated topic and poor public transport in the region was highlighted as having a detrimental effect on people’s ability to make green choices.

Mr Goodwill said the ongoing issues with the trains between Scarborough and York were “not acceptable” but thought the half hourly shuttle service Northern are expected to run from next May should help.

He added that the long-awaited upgrade to the A64 would allow more people to use bus services inland and said Labour would fund a reduction in rail fares by cutting the road's investment programme.

He said: "If Labour do get into power and attempt to cut rail fares it will be the people using the A64 including the Coastliner buses that will pay the price."

Mr Lockwood called for electric buses and trams and said clean electricity should be made along the coast by harnessing tidal power.

Mr Fearnley said the climate crisis was an urgent issue and public transport would be a pillar of Labour’s “green industrial revolution”, adding that buses and trains in the constituency were “absolutely dire.”

He joked that being from Whitby, he was jealous of the rail service in Scarborough, and went on to say that his party's plans to cut rail fares and reinstate 3,000 bus routes were necessary as "we must be bold in getting people into public transport and out of polluting cars."

On Monday evening, Hugo Fearnley (Labour), Graham Lockwood, (Liberal Democrat) and Lee Derrick (Yorkshire Party) appeared at The Street at an event organised by Coast and Vale Community Action.

Conservative candidate Robert Goodwill was unable to attend as he was campaigning.

All four candidates debated on BBC Radio York on Wednesday and are due to appear in Whitby this evening.