A DRIVE to turn Hartlepool into a hive of new jobs and train the next generation to lead it has been pledged by the candidates standing as its next MP.
A Question Time-style debate last night brought together four of the prospective parliamentary candidates up for election in the constituency on Thursday, May 7.
I was very impressed and it was good to see the parliamentary candidates together and to see them here.Resident Andrew Craig
Around 100 people gathered in the ticket-only event at Hartlepool Cricket Club organised by Park Residents’ Association.
Labour’s Iain Wright, who was elected in the last election, Conservative Richard Royal, the Green Party’s Michael Holt and UKIP’s Phillip Broughton gathered on the panel, overseen by association chairman Fran Johnson.
Resident Josh Atkinson’s question on what efforts they would make to generate employment opportunities for young people led to each backing apprenticeships.
Mr Holt highlighted how many have to leave the area for work, adding: “Investment in public health and public transport jobs, this is what is needed to make a vivid and distinctive vision for our town.”
Mr Broughton said: “We have got to encourage businesses and to get jobs and shops in our town centre.
“We have got to get business rates cut.
“If we can help businesses, they are our employers and small businesses in the region will create jobs for our young people.”
Mr Wright said: “There’s a huge opportunity in this country and in this town for engineering and we need to use this more.
“We need to provide more scope to get into these routes.
“We need to value apprenticeships much more.”
Mr Royal said employment and apprenticeships had risen under the coalition, accusing Labour of “strangling the opportunities” to create jobs in the town centre.
Each vouched for their parties pledge to back the NHS and the town’s hospital and health services.
Debates on immigration and potential increases in MPs’ salaries also featured, as did a discussion on which party each would choose to form a coalition with should no majority be returned.
The association said it invited Lib Dem Hilary Allen, but did not receive a reply, while independent Stephen Picton was unable to attend due to work commitments and it was too late in the process to ask Sandra Allison, who is running as a hospital campaigner.
Ms Johnson told the audience: “Months back we said we’d like to do something like this and there has been so much interest from outside the association.
“It’s something other areas of the town should consider and I think people have benefited from the opportunity to see candidates here and see them face-to-face.”
After the debate, Andrew Craig, 60, said: “I was very impressed and it was good to see the parliamentary candidates together and to see them here. “It was a very useful exercise and I hope there will be more like this. “I would have liked to hear them talk more about economic policy and I’m a trustee of Hartlepool Food Bank, so I would have liked them to discuss that, as well as tuition fees and Trident.
“But it was very well done and interesting.”
Residents interested in joining can email firstname.lastname@example.org.