Hopefuls face senior issues

The hustings event in Ashton
The hustings event in Ashton

ELECTION candidates in one of Wigan’s constituencies were tested at a hustings event organised by a leading charity for the older generation.

Makerfield’s five parliamentary hopefuls were put on the spot by residents as part of Age UK’s a great place to grow older campaign.

Each was asked to outline how their party’s policies would impact on the over 50s.

And while a number of national issues were addressed; such as the future of the NHS, some local specific problems were discussed.

These included what changes can be made to help access to unadopted roads, transport stations and public buildings across the borough.

Resident Gordon Tilley asked what could be done about deteriorating unadopted roads in the area.

Labour candidate Yvonne Fovargue agreed it was a problem not unique to Makerfield.

She said: “The issue we have here is the amount of roads which fall on private land and it would cost a lot of money for the council to adopt them. There is the initial cost and then ongoing maintenance fees.

“But I have worked alongside the council and local councillors on issues like this for years and will continue to do so.”

Andrew Collinson, of the UK Independence Party, accused the Labour run council of holding back too much in financial reserves which could be used to solve access problems on unadopted roads. He said: “It irritates me that they talk about Conservative cuts, the money is there but not the desire to invest in this.”

Asked on how their parties will improve transport for older people, Philip Mitchell, Green Party candidate, said the railways should return to public ownership.

He added: “The UK government has just been fined for its pollution levels. We need to look at sustainable modes of transport because it is affecting our health, especially for the older generation.”

John Skipworth, for the Liberal Democrats, said London’s model for transport should be adopted.

Adding: “I support the bids to create a transport hub in Wigan town centre, combining the rail and bus stations.

“All services should be combined so that one pass can be used across all modes of transport to offer the best rate of fares to all.

“The decision to scrap off-peak fare in the afternoon is an absolute disgrace.”

All party representatives agreed that the NHS should be free at point of access.

Defending her party’s record on the NHS, Zehra Zaidi, Conservative candidate, said the issue of privatisation had been used as a political “beach ball” in the run-up to the election.

She added: “Of course the NHS should remain free at the point of delivery and David Cameron has pledged over 75s will be given same day appointments with GPs.

“NHS services have been improving under this government, there are more doctors and nurses than ever before.”

Wiganers go to the polls on May 7 with a vote in both the local and general elections.