AN overhaul of austerity measures, a rethink on the bedroom tax and review of zero hours contracts were among the pledges of those hoping to become the next MP for South Shields.
Those in the running for the post in the general election took part in a hustings event last night at the Living Waters Church in St Jude’s Terrace, Laygate.
It bought together Liberal Democrat Gita Gordon, Shirley Ford of the Green Party, Conservative Robert Oliver, UKIP’s Norman Dennis, independent Lisa Nightingale and Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck, who hopes to retain the seat.
Mr Oliver defended his party’s cuts, stating they had helped return the country to growth after the last Labour Government.
Labour, the Green Party and the independent said the cuts had gone to far and slammed the bedroom tax for hitting the most vulnerable.
Over the proposal to scrap zero hours contracts, Mr Oliver said it would destroy businesses adding: “We need to create more jobs. There are 1,000 jobs a day being created in this country, that is recovery.”
I think these kinds of events are so important because these politicians hear what real people think and feel.Hilary Thompson, secretary of South Tyneside Churches Together
Ms Gordon said Lib Dem efforts to move the power away from London to deal with such contracts, while Ms Ford added: “We need a Government which is going to take a lot of investment into good quality jobs.”
Ms Lewell-Buck challenged the figure that 85 per cent of people are in work because it includes those who in benefit sanctions or on work schemes.
Miss Nightingale called for a return to minimum hours contracts.
Mr Dennis, a ward member for Westoe, championed the work of the council when a call was made to improve mental health care, backed by all candidates.
Other issues debated included UKIP’s proposals to cut foreign aid for period while the cash was invested into helping the country recover was defended by Mr Dennis, while the other panel members voiced support for the effort, stating it was an important responsibility to help others in need.
Mr Oliver, Ms Lewell-Buck and Miss Nightingale said they backed plans to continue with the Trident nuclear weapons programme, each stating it was an important measure to defend the country, strengthened its position as a leading member of international organisations such as Nato and the UN, sent out a message to those plotting action against the UK and to supports jobs.
Ms Gordon said the Lib Dems are in favour of scrapping the programme and investing the billions of pounds needed to support it into other areas, while Ms Ford said Britain should lead by example to those it wanted to disarm and said it was no use in any conflict because it would “annihilate the human race.”
Hilary Thompson, secretary of Churches Together South Tyneside, which organised the session and one in Jarrow on Sunday, said: “I think these kinds of events are so important because these politicians hear what real people think and feel.
“So many political events are stage managed and they really need to see the public for themselves and these people can now go back and say what they heard being said.”
Mary Laverick, 63, a retired administrator who worked in the council’s education and children’s services department, said: “I think they all did very well and I think it was much better than Question Time.
“It was very informative.
“I’m a Labour supporter because I’ve always been a Labour supporter, but I think it’s been good to hear what they all had to say and I think they should all get together and sort out the country instead of fighting against each other.”