Education, the NHS, Brexit and climate change among key issues at Exmouth hustings

PUBLISHED: 16:33 29 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:40 29 November 2019

L-R Eleanor Rylance, Daniel Wilson, Henry Gent, Simon Jupp, Claire Wright

L-R Eleanor Rylance, Daniel Wilson, Henry Gent, Simon Jupp, Claire Wright

Jason Sedgemore

The Conservative candidate for East Devon admitted that his party had let down schools and the NHS, during the hustings held at Exmouth Community College on Thursday, November 28.

Responding to a question on NHS funding cuts, Simon Jupp said: "I openly admit that the Conservative track record on the NHS isn't the best.'

He described the strain on doctors as 'a catastrophe for the NHS'.

He said his party would bring back nurses' bursaries 'which should never have been cut' and train more doctors and nurses, 'not just throw money at the NHS but make sure it works for everyone'.

Mr Jupp also admitted that education funding in Devon under his party had been 'far too low, for far too long'.

But he said the Conservatives would invest in services if elected.

He said they would give every pupil in Devon an extra £200 every year, and he would work with head teachers to make sure every school in Devon was rated 'outstanding'. He said they would raise teachers' pay to a minimum of £30,000 a year.

Also responding to the pre-submitted questions were Daniel Wilson (Labour), Eleanor Rylance (Lib Dem), Henry Gent (Green) and Claire Wright (Independent).

Responding to the question on NHS funding, Mrs Rylance said the Lib Dems would introduce a more integrated health and social care model, with more support for patients living at home. Her party would tackle the NHS recruitment problems, and put far more resources into mental health services, she said.

Mr Wilson described the plight of the health service as 'disgusting' and referred to it being 'chipped away at' and privatised by stealth. He said Labour would invest in the NHS and provide 40,000 new nurses.

Cllr Wright said what has happened to the health service over the last 10 years has been 'appalling', and accused the Conservatives of 'paying lip service' to the NHS. She called for a government that 'actually believes' in the health service.

Mr Gent said the Government's many attempts to reorganise the NHS, to supposedly get more value for money, had 'done more harm than good and wasted resources'. He said the Green Party would increase health spending and reinstate nursing bursaries.

Responding to the question on education funding, Mr Wilson said the lack of funding was 'not acceptable' and was leading to stress among teaching staff, and mental health problems among teenagers. He said Labour would spend a lot of money on schools.

Henry Gent said his party would also increase spending. He took issue with Mr Jupp's reference to outstanding Ofsted ratings, saying the Greens did not think the Ofsted system was beneficial and they would like to see teachers spending less time on Ofsted paperwork.

Cllr Wright questioned whether a Conservative government was going to suddenly change from one that had 'completely deprived' public services of money and resources for 10 years, into one that was going to support them. She said anyone who wanted to protect public services in East Devon should vote for her.

Cllr Rylance pointed out that Mr Jupp's promise of £200 per pupil still fell short of the underfunding of £295 per pupil per year that had been happening 'for quite some time'. She said a Lib Dem government would restore funding to 2015 levels, scrap OFSTED, and increase teachers' salaries.

The candidates also answered questions relating to their views on Brexit, climate change, the decline of the high street, and the increasing need for food banks.

Mr Jupp was criticised over the failings of universal credit, which have forced people into poverty. He said it was 'a scandal' that food banks were needed and said there was a need to reform the benefits system and make sure that Universal Credit works.

The candidates also discussed business rates, and ways to support local businesses and rejuvenate town centres.

There are a total of six candidates standing in East Devon, but because of time constraints, it was decided not to include the second Independent, Peter Faithfull, in the hustings. He was invited to give a preliminary statement, and said he was the only candidate committed to Brexit, and who voted Leave in the referendum.

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