Housing and healthcare debated as Preston’s election candidates grilled at hustings

Posted on - 18th June, 2024 - 9:02am | Author - | Posted in - Housing, Politics, Preston News, Redevelopment, UCLan
Candidates at the hustings at UCLan

Housing, healthcare and education were among the topics of discussion as Preston’s election candidates were grilled at a hustings event at UCLan.

The event, which took place on Monday night, was organised in a collaboration between Blog Preston, The Lancashire Lead and the Lancashire Post and saw six of the 10 people vying to be named as the city’s next MP discuss local and international issues in front of an audience of around 100.

Present on the night were: David Brooks (Alliance for Democracy and Freedom); Neil Darby (Liberal Democrats); Trevor Hart (Conservatives); Mark Hendrick (Labour); Michael Lavalette (Independent); and Joseph O’Meachair (Rejoin EU).

Read more: Preston to see first ever Disability Pride on Flag Market

Although unable to attend, Green Party candidate Izzy Metcalf-Riener and independent Yousuf Bhailok recorded video messages which were played to the audience at the outset of proceedings. The remaining two candidates had also been invited to do so.

The six present candidates were then invited to give an opening statement ahead of a series of pre-submitted questions and finally an audience Q&A. The first question related to how Preston’s economic fortunes could be revived, with attention to drawn to empty shops filling the city centre.

Hendrick, who has been MP since 2000, was asked if he feels proud when he walks around Preston and conceded “not in its current state”. But he argued both a Labour government and city status had previously helped boost Preston, adding “this city has a future but only under a Labour government”.

The audience at the hustings

In response to the same subject, Darby said the Liberal Democrats would introduce a green revolution to create new jobs while also boosting funding for local governments. Lavalette, a former city councillor, warned that Preston’s residents were earning low wages compared to the national average and called for more investment in the city’s young people and their development.

On the topic of the planned new hospital which will serve Preston residents but is expected to be built in South Ribble, the candidates achieved a broad consensus that accessibility should be central to any plans, though Brooks argued cutting unnecessary expenditure from the NHS should be a bigger priority.

Amid hope that the new hospital could be built in Preston or replace the existing facility, Hendrick warned that the plans were not for a replacement to either that or Chorley’s hospital. He added that suggestions of building on Sharoe Green were a “non-starter”.

On the issue of housing, Hart said residents should be given a greater say in where developments are built and when challenged about the issue of developers going back on promises to include affordable housing he conceded the council has been too weak in allowing these climbdowns. In contrast, O’Meachair said independent arbitration was needed to counter the effects of NIMBYism while Lavalette said the problem dated back to Right to Buy which depleted council housing stocks and led to increased property prices.

Darby said one issue was the likes of schools and healthcare facilities not being built alongside developments but said there is still a need for a massive increase in house building. He said: “The housing crisis is absolutely real. More and more and more young people are looking like never to be able to own their own home and I think that’s not right and it’s not fair and we need to change it.”

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