02:25PM, Saturday 18 April 2015
A lively hustings saw five Windsor General Election candidates contest a debate at All Saints Church in Dedworth last night.
Conservative Adam Afriyie, The Green Party's Derek Wall, Labour's Fiona Dent, George Fussey of the Liberal Democrats and independent candidate Wisdom Da Costa took to the stage for the Friday evening showdown.
The debate, which was chaired by Reverend Louise Brown, saw the candidates take questions from the floor on topics including the NHS, tax, housing and Europe.
It opened with Ms Dent lamenting the loss of services at Heatherwood Hospital, in Ascot.
She said: "It's such a well-loved hospital. One thing that Labour will do is, hopefully if we get in, whenever a hospital is threatened, local communities will be involved, brought in, and sat round tables when plans are made for those hospitals
Mr Da Costa replied that there needs to be a debate on whether all NHS services which do not affect mortality should be free of charge. He added that he would love to see midwifery services return to Heatherwood.
Dr Wall added: "It really saddens me the way services are being removed from Heatherwood."
Mr Afriyie and Mr Fussey pointed out that it was Labour brought in Private Finance Initiatives into the health services, with Mr Afriyie adding Conservatives have put in ‘£12,13bn’ of taxpayers' money into the NHS.
Mr Afriyie said: "I'm a little bit fed up with this pretence that the NHS is being dismantled, when the Tories are giving it more money."
Mr Fussey added that the NHS is in a position to 'move forward' and more frontline services can be protected, through funding in a 'more sensible way'.
The panel were asked if there is any sense in a top-bracket income tax of more than 40 per cent.
Mr Afriyie said 40 per cent is about right, as a higher rate could see less money actually coming in, while Ms Dent and Dr Wall agreed that raising VAT to 20 per cent has hit working people hard.
Mr Da Costa said progress needs to be made on bringing in a 'living' minimum wage.
On housing, Mr Afriyie praised the council's work on development, and the introduction of neighbourhood plans.
Dr Wall said he would like to see vacant properties inhabited.
Mr Fussey said the Conservatives plan to introduce 'right to buy' would see social housing depleted.
Mr Afriyie said giving social housing tenants the chance to own their home gives them a greater stake in their society.
Ms Dent added that the bedroom tax is punishing tenants, as there is a lack of one, two and three-bedroom social housing for taxed-tenants to move into. She also criticised 'land banking', where investors buy land, but do not build on it, and wait for it to increase in value.
On Europe, Mr Da Costa - who says he would form his policies by consulting with constituents - said he would like to see more research on the impact of staying in or leaving the EU.
Ms Dent and Mr Fussey backed staying in the EU, with Ms Dent adding Labour would only let migrants claim benefits if they have worked in Britain for two years.
Mr Afriyie backed a referendum, saying that the need for a vote is 'obvious'.
Dr Wall said the Greens want to stay in the EU and see it reformed, but also backed a referendum.
UKIP candidate, Tariq Malik, was not present.
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