Yesterday evening (19th) was the second year a local election hustings has been run in the town by John Shipley; chair of Warrington Civic Society, and Gary Skentelbery; editor of Warrington Worldwide chairing the debate.
The panel of candidates was made up of Labour’s Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Bob Barr, Conservative Sam Baxter, Green Party’s Lyndsay McAteer, TUSC’s Cllr Kevin Bennett, UKIP’s Trevor Nicholls, and Labour’s Cllr Russ Bowden, who is also the Executive Member for Finance. Each candidate who are from across Warrington, gave a brief outline of their position and how they came to join their particular party.
This year it was held in the Bold Street Methodist Chapel, and many locally related issues were debated throughout the evening, including:
- Women-only shortlists
- Public Toilets in the town
- Increasing the supply of social housing
- Traffic lights and pedestrian crossings
- Immigration of Syrian Refugees
- Engaging with voters to increase turnout
Women-only shortlists was a split issues in the panel, and again when was opened up to an audience vote of yes or no. Labour’s Russ Bowden believes we should be “encouraging people with different experiences” to come forward and has “no problem with positive selection”, while Trevor Nicholls of UKIP doesn’t agree and “has to be the right person for the job” every time. Kevin Bennett of TUSC believes “there is a need for it” but should be cautious, while Lyndsay McAteer of the Green Party is “in favour as would give more equality”. Sam Baxter of the Conservatives said it is “in my instinct to disagree” and all should gain their “position on merit”, while Bob Barr of the Liberal Democrats thinks we need to “create a type of politics that Women want to be involved in”.
There was a general agreement on need to look at what local businesses can provide in the way of toilets for the public, as council run facilities can be expensive to maintain.
Fracking has been an issue making headlines up and down the country in the last few years. There has been talk of a plan in Woolston where an anti-fracking camp has been set up. Bob Barr won’t support until there is “scientific evidence it is safe”, with Sam Baxter holding a similar view. Lyndsay McAteer is totally opposed as a Green Party member and want to create a “Frack Free borough”, and look at more renewable energy. Kevin Bennett is also totally opposed,and has been horror stories heard from America, and would also look at renewables. Trevor Nicholls held the same view about being proved safe while Russ Bowden states that the 10 licenses for Warrington are up to the government and the council doesn’t have a say, but feels they shouldn’t be granted.
Social housing was another issues with much agreement that more is needed, just differing views on the right to buy scheme. Traffic Lights are also an issues that the panel feels the council has a duty of safety. Russ Bowden sees technology moving on and the lights becoming Smarter to traffic flow, while Trevor Nicholls wonders why there are so many?
The majority of the panel believes that Warrington can do it’s bit to help Syrian Refugees, with Bob Barr thinking we should “talk nationally” on the issue, a similar view held by Russ Bowden who says is the government’s responsibility to decide the numbers in each area. Lyndsay McAteer thinks we should “encourage, allocate and support” these people with compassion and common sense.
Engaging with people to increase voter turnout is an issue that is shown in statistics, especially during local elections. Kevin Bennett feels we should get out and talk to the people to find out what issues matter, which is a similar view to Trevor Nicholls. Russ Bowden thinks that you demonstrate that you can affect change and people will come to see that. Bob Barr also thinks engagement is the best way as people feel turned off from politics, while Sam Baxter thinks people don’t feel voting is worth it, and that needs to change. A similar view is also held by Lyndsay McAteer as members of the public ask “what is the point”?
There were other questions surrounding academies (another divisive issue), an elected Mayor, Councillor allowances and the fear of future development on the infrastructure of the town. Each candidate then had sixty seconds, to talk about why you should vote for them and their party on May 5th.
The whole debate will be broadcast on www.radiowarrington.co.uk from 6pm on Friday evening.
A timeline of the evening and main points can also be found on the Warrington Guardian page:
There is also coverage in Warrington Worldwide: