AUDIO: Public services on the agenda at Louth hustings event

Part Two of our coverage of the Louth hustings on April 22, continued from last week’s edition of the Leader (April 29)...

Once the dust had settled following questions on the environment and the furious exchange over the foreign aid budget, the panel moved on to discuss police funding cuts in our county.

The Louth & Horncastle candidate (not including Lisa Gabriel, Lib Dems.)

The Louth & Horncastle candidate (not including Lisa Gabriel, Lib Dems.)

Labour’s Matt Brown said that the fire service and local government had also suffered cuts, adding that the whole formula needs changing.

Romy Rayner (Greens) said it was essential that these services are fully funded, and Colin Mair (UKIP) said that the Lincolnshire Police received almost the lowest level of funding in the country.

Victoria Atkins (Cons) said that she had invited Home Secretary Theresa May to see the situation for herself, and that her legal background would make her the ideal candidate for the area.

Lincolnshire Independent candidate, Daniel Simpson, said that the police funding formula had not accounted for regional differences and disadvantages in rural Lincolnshire.

Peter Hill (Monster Raving Loony Party) said: “We want to get the private companies out of all our main emergency services straight away, and put more money in.”

As the discussion of privatisation continued, the topic turned to healthcare as an audience member voiced his concerns over the future of Louth Hospital.

Daniel Simpson said that privatisation of healthcare and other public services ought to be stopped. He added that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the USA, would make matters worse.

Victoria Atkins later said the TTIP negotiations made “expressed provision” to allow the UK government to protect its public sector, resulting in heckling from some audience members, with one shouting: “It’s not protected now!”

On healthcare, Romy Rayner said that she hoped to reopen Louth Hospital’s maternity unit, and added that her party wanted to reverse all privatisation of the NHS.

Victoria Atkins told the audience that five per cent of NHS contracts had been given to private companies under Labour in 2010, and that this figure had only increased to six per cent after five years of the Coalition government.

Matt Brown said that the NHS is “the jewel in the crown of the United Kingdom” that had saved his life in the past.

Colin Mair said that he was a path lab technician after leaving school and had been “in love with the NHS ever since.”

Mr Mair said that increasing demand, ineffective management and a “huge bureaucratic structure”had been sucking up money from the NHS.

The final question of the evening came from a local teacher who told the panel that her profession had been under increased pressure due to the Coalition’s education reforms.

Matt Brown said there should be a consistent approach to education and a national curriculum, albeit one with a degree of flexibility to allow for local knowledge, plus a strong apprenticeship scheme for young people.

Colin Mair said that teachers are tightly restrained by the government and need to be given “space to teach”, while Victoria Atkins said that one million more children go to a good or outstanding school now, compared to in 2010, and spoke with optimism about the Teach First scheme - despite receiving criticism from an audience member who claimed that this would result in “underqualified teachers” being used in schools.

• The polls open on May 7 - don’t forget to go out and cast your vote.