From the cost of living and the need of sport facilities to Boris Johnson’s Government, politicians faced heated questions during an election hustings at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester.

Residents took the opportunity to grill Martin Goss (Lib Dem), Pam Cox (Lab), Paul Dundas (Con) and Richard Kirkby-Taylor (Green) who were put on the spot for an hour and a half’s grilling.

The debate, which was chaired by University of Essex’s Professor of Government Paul Whiteley, saw candidates discuss topics which affect their communities most.

Each representative was given a five minute slot at the beginning to share their manifestos in a last ditch bid to sway voters for the hotly contested borough seat.

Mr Whiteley said: “ The polls currently show the most important issues in the minds of electorate right across Britain is the cost of living. “ Getting the debate started, Ms Cox said the “the cost of living crisis is historic and has to be tackled”, with one of the solutions being “a rapid installing of insulation into homes”.

She added: “People who cannot afford energy bills are losing energy through their roof literally because of the lack of insulation.

“We want to lobby the government to restore the uplift to Universal credit. “ Ms Cox also said the Labour party could work in coalition with the Lib Dems to create an emergency fund, which the Greens could also join.

Mr Dundas said: “ I take the point about the emergency fund but I haven’t heard how big that would be or how many people will help and to what degree.

“We won’t introduce any new charges. We will keep prices as low as we can, support businesses and make sure we are developing the economy of Colchester as well as we can.

“We will go into winter with prices where people have to make the choice between heating or eating.”

Speaking about the windfall tax, Mr Dundas added: “It amounts to about £40 a household which is a help but let’s not pretend that will have a huge impact.”

But Mr Goss said around 9 177 households in town would benefit from the windfall tax if levied on national level.

He added: “The Government had a local scheme trying to encourage people to insulate their homes. And less than 200 people took up that offer and this was a failure.

“We will do more to push those schemes to make people aware of them so they apply and get free insulation.

“We need to make sure the food banks actually have food because they have been struggling to get donations.

“The people that donate cannot afford to donate so it is a vicious circle.

Mr Kirkby-Taylor said cutting the energy prices has always been on the Green party’s agenda.

He added: “We have always been pushing for small scale local network energy production. More buildings need to have solar panels on them.

“We need to step up and face up to the fact we have actually got to this.”

However, the debate got really heated when a member of the audience asked party representatives if they think Boris Johnson should step down.

“The simple answer is yes,” said Mr Goss. “Every week that goes by we learn more and more about what has been going in Downing Street.

“Our national pride on a national stage is damaged every time this buffoon turns up and he represent us. “ Ms Cox also hit out on the PM saying “the post Brexit Conservative party led by Johnson is diluted of talent and drained of integrity”.

Mr Kirkby-Taylor said the PM “absolutely needs” to resign but even this “won’t be enough to restore faith in British politics”.

But Mr Dundas said he but does not think it is the right time for the PM to resign although he “felt very let down and disappointed”.

He said: “I think had I been in this position at the time I would have resigned. He chose not to.”

Mr Dundas was jeered by the crowd when he said “everybody made mistakes during Covid.”

The four representatives were however all in agreement that more needs to be done to improve sport facilities in town.

Mr Kirkby-Taylor said: “We need the good mixture and variety and more sensible places.”

When it comes to the Leisure World, Mr Goss said: “Some of the younger children feel quite threatened by the older children, one of the ideas is to look if we can put some time restrictions where some of the younger children can enjoy those facilities and feel more comfortable using them.”

Paul said his dream one day would be an “Olympic size pool for Colchester” and that sport facilities need to be “dotted around the borough so that it is accessible to people.”

The candidates also met eye to eye when a 14-year-old girl from the audience asked them how they would pressure Essex County Council to extend library opening times.

Mr Kirkby-Taylor said: “That is one of the only places you can insist about sending money. They are so important. “ Both Mr Dundas and Mr Goss agreed libraries should fit around users and not the other way round.

Mr Goss said he was also determined to launch a petition, with Ms Cox also feeling passionate about the issue.

She said: “We can go Essex County Council and you can out that case to them directly. “

Eighteen of the 51 Colchester Council seats will be up for election tomorrow.