Election candidates quizzed

FIVE parliamentary candidates were put under the spotlight in East Devon s take on Radio 4 s Any Questions on Wednesday.

FIVE parliamentary candidates were put under the spotlight in East Devon's take on Radio 4's Any Questions on Wednesday.

Voters packed into All Saint's Church hall in Sidmouth to quiz Sharon Pavey (Green), Paull Robathan (Liberal Democrat), Hugo Swire (Conservative), Gareth Manson (Labour) and Michael Amor (UKIP).

More than 140 people attended but only a handful were first time voters indicating that politician's attempts to connect with young people in the wake of MP's expenses row had met with only limited success.

First-time voter Sophie Foster reflected the general feeling of apathy and asked why she should bother voting.

Mr Robathan said: "If you don't vote and if everyone of your age doesn't vote, then you don't deserve what you get but you certainly can't blame us for giving it to you. Every vote matters."

There was a distinct feeling from the audience that many didn't believe what any of the parties were telling them.

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Leonard Lewis said: "I don't think we have been told anything like the truth on the state of the economy."

Another resident Tina Day asked wondered how each party stood on the reform of the electoral system, while Howard Rippiner asked how "can we justify spending over �133bn a year to be members of the European Union 'club' when we are so heavily in debt?"

Global warming, the carbon footprint, replacement of Trident, withdrawal of British and NATO troops from Afghanistan and the war in Iraq, were just some nationally important topics raised.

The Reverend Handel Bennett, chairman of Sid Vale Association, asked about protecting East Devon's Area of Outstanding natural Beauty from developers.

"It is a question of balance," said Ms Pavey. "You shouldn't be using Greenfield sites. Do something with the one million homes that are empty. We need to create more social housing for rent and shift away from the right to buy."

Joan Bougourd, from Carers' Support, asked candidates for their policy on the carer's allowance, which ceases at retirement.

Some 74,000 people in Devon were identified as carers in the 2001 census, and the Kings Fund has calculated carers save Government �89 billion annually.

"It is ludicrous that just because you have to retire this should be stopping. It is barmy," said Mike Amor. "It is only right you compensate people caring for the family.