Candidates vying to become Colchester’s MP debated the NHS, the deficit and street lights in front of a 500-strong audience at the Mercury Theatre.

Mark Goacher (Green), Jordan Newell (Labour), John Pitts (Ukip), Will Quince (Con) and Sir Bob Russell (Lib Dem) attended. Ken Scrimshaw (Christian People’sAlliance) did not take up the invitation.


An audience member asked how pressure could be taken off Colchester General Hospital.

Mr Goacher said investment in Colchester’s infrastructure is not matching the town’s expansionl.

He asked: “Where is the corresponding investment in our other infrastructure, like the hospital?”

He also said fixing NHS problems is also about improving the quality of the service.

Mr Pitts said the hospital faces a significant challenge in recruiting nurses, especially from outside the EU.

He proposed standardising the recruitment process to make it the same inside and outside the EU, but said things are turning around at the hospital.

Sir Bob pointed to a policy the Lib Dems share with the Conservatives, which would see £8billion invested in the NHS.

He said: “We all need to support our hard-working, dedicated staff.

“I passionately believe Colchester General Hospital is going in a new direction.”

Mr Quince said pressure on the A&E unit must be reduced by asking GP surgeries to provide more services.

He also highlighted staff moral as being very important. He added: “The vast majority of people have excellent care.”

Mr Newell pointed to a wasted £3billion in an NHS top-down reorganisation by the Government.

He said Labour plans to recruit 5,000 more doctors in the next Parliament, claiming: “Quite frankly, the NHS will not survive another five years of a Tory Government.”


The first question from the audience asked who voters should trust to run the UK’s economy.

Mr Quince pointed to the coalition having created two million jobs in five years and said his party’s long-term economic plan is working.

He said: “We’re on the right track. Let’s stick with it.”

Sir Bob attacked Labour for bringing the country to the brink of economic collapse and warned voters if they voted for Labour, they are likely to get a Labour-Scottish National Party government.

Mr Newell disagreed with Sir Bob’s assessment of the economy, saying: “We’ve had the slowest economic recovery. It has reached the City of London, but not Colchester.”

Mr Pitts said his main concern is the country’s debt of between £40billion and £50billion.

He said: “It is absolutely imperative to get the deficit down, but we need to start working on the debt.”

He pointed to the UK’s annual £9billion contribution to the EU as “not money well spent”.

He also said UK foreign aid goes to countries which do not need it and is used to prop up some governments.

Mr Goacher said the real problem is the Government’s collapse in revenue and cited his party’s plans to raise £25billion using a wealth tax on top 5 per cent of earners.


The final question of the night was on whether streetlights should be on all night and who should make the decision.

Mr Goacher said voters are telling him petty crime and fear of crime has reduced since Essex County Council’s part-night lighting scheme was implemented in Colchester in November 2013.

He said: “If there is any evidence it leads to more crime, let’s be flexible, but do I think we need to take money out of other services to keep lights on at night? No, I don’t.”

Mr Newell said supporters of part-night lighting think the public work nine to five and live in daylight hours.

Mr Pitts called for the lights to be turned on all night.

Sir Bob said borough councillors should have the final say on Colchester’s street lights.

He said: “The decision should be taken here in Colchester, not people who are not accountable to anyone in Colchester.”

Mr Quince, who backed a trial that has seen 9,000 LED streetlights installed across the town, said: “I knock on doors every day and when I speak to people, it is 50/50.”

He said there is no evidence the lights being off affects crime, but agreed it could affect the fear of crime.