What we learned from BBC Radio Nottingham's election debate

General election candidates' debate
BBC presenter Verity Cowley (centre) explored key election issues with six Westminster hopefuls [BBC]

General election candidates from across Nottinghamshire have come face to face in a debate hosted by BBC Radio Nottingham.

Immigration, tax, the cost of living and the state of the NHS dominated the discussion between the six candidates all hoping to be elected as MPs in July.

The themes that drove the debate were picked based on messages submitted through the BBC's Your Voice, Your Vote campaign.

But what did we learn from it?

The pound in your pocket

There were plenty of promises from the candidates over how to help Nottinghamshire residents struggling with the cost of living, but will any of them cut through to voters?

Conservative candidate for Sherwood Forest, Sir Mark Spencer, kicked things off by saying inflation was the "enemy of working people" and that the Tory government had just started to get it under control thanks to difficult decisions taken by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

However, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Newark, David Watts, said falling inflation had "taken care of itself", and had nothing to do with the Conservatives. He said his party's plan to build 350,000 homes a year would help cut the cost of housing for young people.

Labour's Lilian Greenwood, a candidate in the Nottingham South constituency, accused the Conservatives of crashing the economy and driving up mortgage rates. She said a Labour government would stabilise the economy after "14 years of chaos under the Conservatives".

Another view from behind a BBC camera of the studio displaying the BBC Nottingham Your Voice, Your Vote debate
The debate was driven by the BBC's Your Voice, Your Vote campaign [BBC]

Reform UK's Gedling candidate, Simon Christy, said the waste in central government was "astronomical" with money being "poured down the drain".

Tackling that waste would help reduce the tax burden on the man in the street, he added.

Teresa Needham, who is standing for the Green Party in Broxtowe, said her party would launch a "green industrial revolution", creating jobs and cleaner and cheaper energy to help all households.

Ashfield Independents candidate Jason Zadrozny said some of the sky-high costs of food and fuel had resulted from "terrible negotiations" after Brexit. It was, he said, time to renegotiate the Brexit deal.

Sir Mark then accused Labour of plotting tax hikes. He warned overtaxing the wealthy would drive rich people out of the country, asking "why do half of the Formula 1 drivers live in Monaco?"

Mrs Greenwood said her party would not increase national insurance, VAT or income tax, but end tax breaks for private schools and close tax loopholes for non-doms.

Political toothache

The NHS loomed large in the debate.

Mrs Needham, for the Greens, said she was concerned about "dentistry deserts" in Nottinghamshire where NHS treatment was hard to find. She said the party would bring dental care back within the NHS.

Mr Christy said Reform would act to make sure dentists who were trained in the NHS did not quickly leave for private practice.

Meanwhile, Mr Watts said the Lib Dems would improve pay for dentists and nurses to keep them working in the NHS.

Mrs Greenwood praised the NHS, but said it was under huge pressure. She said Labour would employ more staff to provide appointments in the evenings and weekends to tackle waiting times.

Sir Mark said NHS funding had risen to its highest ever level under the Tories.

Mr Zadrozny said NHS debts incurred from PFI (private finance initiative) buildings should be written off, with the money channelled into care.

What about immigration?

Mrs Greenwood said illegal immigration had spiralled out of control on the Tories' watch. She described the government's flagship policy to send people to Rwanda as a "ridiculous gimmick".

Sir Mark said the Rwanda scheme would work and the planes and airfields were already booked.

Both said their parties would tackle gangs smuggling people into the UK in small boats.

Mr Watts said immigration was needed to supply "much-needed" agricultural labour, while Mrs Needham said immigration was a divisive issue and compassion was needed.

Mr Christy said: "The people I feel sorry for are the genuine, genuine people who are in desperate need of help, and I miss being part of a country that shows compassion to people with genuine needs."

Mr Zadrozny said the government had let immigration get out of control.

Focusing on Nottinghamshire

The candidates were asked to name the key issues in Nottinghamshire.

Mr Watts said he was concerned about sewage being discharged into the River Trent, and the poor state of the county's road network.

Mr Zadrozny said people in Ashfield were afraid of crime and anti-social behaviour, while Mrs Needham said parts of the north of the county were still reeling from the end of coal mining in the 1980s.

Sir Mark said he wanted investment to continue into communities and to protect greenbelt areas from development.

Mr Christy said he was no longer proud of Nottingham, which he said had "a massive problem" and needed to sort out its marketing and direction as a city.

Mrs Greenwood urged him not to talk down the city, adding there was a need to invest in skills and education.

You can watch the debate in full by clicking here.

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