VIDEO: Copeland by-election candidates grilled by the public

13 February 2017 12:43PM

Keswick residents have grilled their would-be MPs at a public hustings event tonight.

Six of the seven candidates for the February 23 Copeland by-election attended the event at St John’s Church.

Gillian Troughton, standing for Labour, Jack Lenox, for the Green Party, Fiona Mills, Ukip, independent Roy Ivinson, Rebecca Hanson, Liberal Democrats and Trudy Harrison, Conservatives, attended.

Independent candidate Michael Guest did not attend. Organisers said they could not get in touch with him via phone to invite him.

The hustings covered issues including flooding, hospital services and the nuclear waste.

Alistair Cook, of Keswick Flood Action Group, pressed the candidates on their flood-prevention policies, given the town’s recent flooding devastation.

Mrs Troughton responded: “There are issues between the Environment Agency and United Utilities that need to be sorted out, and there needs to be extra investment in flood protection.”

Miss Mills said: “The Environment Agency seems willing to be work with local people, and getting them on board will help us drive the best solutions.”

Mrs Harrison pointed to her recent discussions with Government minister Andrea Leadsom on Keswick’s issues, adding: “I look forward to working with the action group.”

Mr Lenox, a Keswick resident who “has lived through the floods” said “there needs to be a focus on prevention and not resilience”, while Mr Ivinson offered a number of practical solutions to reducing flood damage, adding: “If you can’t stop flooding, you have to live with it.”

Mrs Hanson highlighted her “good reputation for sorting out complex issues like this.”

Resident Bob Gill asked the candidates how proposed extra investment on infrastructure, including road and rail, would be funded.

A number of the candidates agreed that there needs to be improved skills locally in the bid-making process, and on the potential for a geological disposal facility to be sited in West Cumbria.

The candidates on the whole said they would refer to expert geological device, with a number raising concern about the quality of the previous public consultation process.

On Brexit, following a resident’s question on its impact on peace in Europe, Mrs Harrison said she has “no concerns” about Britain’s relationship with Europe, while Mr Lenox called Brexit “potentially worrying”, particularly if it is an “extreme Brexit”.

Mrs Hanson said the European Union has, in the past, been “a strong mechanism for countries to solve their issues between one another”.

Mrs Troughton responded: “Politicians must put in place negotiations that ensure we protect ourselves and our relationships with others.”

Ukip’s Miss Mills claimed Britain “does not need to be in Europe to trade and co-operate with other countries.”

A second hustings event takes place tomorrow night at the United Reformed Church, Whitehaven, at 7.30pm.

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