Candidates clash on social care at Lynn News hustings

Lynn News election hustings at London Road Methodist Church,
Lynn News election hustings at London Road Methodist Church,
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With less than a week to go until polling day, Lynn’s would-be MPs have set out their pitch to the electorate during a hustings event hosted by the Lynn News.

Dozens of voters attended the session at the London Road Methodist Church, held in conjunction with King’s Lynn Churches Together, on Tuesday evening.

All five of the candidates contesting the North West Norfolk constituency took part in the debate, which was chaired by writer and broadcaster David Blackmore.

They faced questions from Lynn News readers on a range of subjects, with some of the sharpest exchanges coming in response to a question on social care.

The issue came into sharp focus when the Tories admitted there would be a cap on how much pensioners had to pay for care, just days after their manifesto ruled it out.

Labour’s Jo Rust said she had “no confidence” in the Tories’ plans, which have been dubbed a “dementia tax” by critics, because of the perceived threat that patients who remained at home would be unable to pass their homes onto their children following their deaths.

She said: “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right and there are much fairer, better ways to do this.”

But Conservative Sir Henry Bellingham replied: “You say there’s a better way of doing it but you haven’t said what the better way is.

“Winning power is about taking the difficult decisions and showing leadership.”

He also insisted no-one would lose their home while they were still living and the plans were fairer to younger generations.

But Liberal Democrat Rupert Moss-Eccardt said health and social care had to be brought together.

He said: “You can’t just fund an NHS and let social care catch the rest. Tax those people who have the money to fund the unfortunate, not take their possessions away.”

A speaker from the floor claimed the Tories were suggesting older people had not contributed enough.

And UKIP’s Michael Stone asked: “Why should we (lose our homes)? People have worked hard throughout their lives.”

The Green Party’s Michael de Whalley added: “To take money from someone because they are unable to look after themselves is fundamentally wrong.”

The panellists also clashed over what Mr de Whalley described as the country’s “mental health crisis.”

Mr Moss-Eccardt argued services had regressed since his party left government, while Mr Stone said the sector should not be treated as a “Cinderella service.”

Sir Henry said there was more to be done, but argued that significant progress had been made.

However, Mrs Rust warned Lynn’s Fermoy unit could be “at risk again” unless campaigning to save it continued.