Candidates square up at James Giles’ hustings

The borough saw its largest hustings debate last night, as more than 200 residents turning out to quiz six prospective parliamentary candidates on the subjects that mattered to them.

Conservative James Berry, Labour’s Lee Godfrey, the Green Party’s Clare Keogh, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) Laurel Fogarty, UKIP’s Ben Roberts and former MP Liberal Democrat Ed Davey attended the debate at Coombe Boys’ School in New Malden.

Subjects ranged from local to national issues with the first question being about the lack of affordable housing in the borough.

All of the candidates acknowledged that Kingston has a shortage of council housing and housing for families.

Mr Davey said: “It will be the job of the next MP to build the housing we need on the brownfield land we have.”

However he was criticised by Mr Berry for the previous Liberal Democrat led Kingston Council failing to deliver enough affordable housing in the borough.

Mr Berry also said he was for more affordable housing in Kingston but “against large tower blocks and always would be.”

Surrey Comet:

The debate was chaired by 15-year-old Coombe Boys student James Giles, editor of Coombe Monthly

He also announced a policy for “three million apprenticeship places in the UK and plans for a technical college in Kingston.”

With a UKIP candidate on the panel immigration was always going to be a heavily discussed topic.

Candidate Ben Roberts blamed, in part, the 300,000 people that enter the country every year for the housing crisis.

However he also said he does not blame people for wanting to enter the UK.

He said: “I would never criticise people for wanting to enter this country to do the best for their family but we simply cannot cope with the volume.”

Miss Keogh disagreed with Mr Roberts’ stance saying that we should welcome migrants that add to our economy and culture.

She added that Green party policy is also to “help support people in their own countries and not call to scrap the overseas budget.”

University tuition fees was a contentious issue.

Both the Green Party and TUSC candidates said university should be free to all, while Mr Davey drew criticism for his party’s infamous u-turn on the matter.

Lee Godfrey said Labour would reduce tuition fees from £9000 a year down to £6000 and said that was a “cast iron guarantee you can take to the bank.”

The evening was chaired by James Giles, 15, a Coombe Boys’ pupil and editor of the school’s Coombe Monthly newspaper, who also organised the event.

All money raised on the night from ticket sales and a raffle went to the Love Kingston charity.

The General Election takes place on May 7 and you have five days left to register to vote.

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