THE private management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, funding for Huntingdonshire Regional College, The A14, immigration and the red tape that hampers small businesses were all hot topics of debate at Thursdays night s hustings meeting hosted by The Hunts Po

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THE private management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital, funding for Huntingdonshire Regional College, The A14, immigration and the red tape that hampers small businesses were all hot topics of debate at Thursdays night's hustings meeting hosted by The Hunts Post.

At the Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon High Street on Thursday, April 22, seven candidates debated the issues: Anthea Cox, Labour, John Clare, Green, Ian Curtis, UKIP, Jonathan Djanogly, Conservative, Lord Toby Jug, Official Monster Raving Loony, Martin Land, Lib Dem, and Jonathan Salt, Independent Hospital, Education, Community.

Questions were put from the audience in a format similar to BBC Television's Question Time.

There was a degree of consensus among the parties: All agreed that the A14 was a dreadful road with a high cost in accidents and delays to business, that the NHS was as John Clare (Green) said "the jewel in the crown" of our society, that immigration was the problem that dare not speak its name but did need tackling. However, the solutions to those issues differed sharply and after the cut and thrust, Lord Toby Jug had a piece of humour to nail the thing.

On law and order he said: "I think we should wake up sleeping policemen".

On transport he said the answer was floating bicycles.

There were heated moments. The debate on the "misguided" bus drew shouts from the audience- one man called out that you had to drive from Huntingdon to St Ives to get on it.

Lib Dem candidate, Martin Land said he lived in the Market Square St Neots, right in the centre of the town. He said: "We have gates and that makes people think I live in a mansion, actually, it's a two-bedroomed flat but without the gates after pubs closed, we'd have people urinating and doing worse." At that point a man at the back of the audience called out: "At least you paid for your gates - we paid for his."

Mr Djanogly's expenses (he repaid £25,000 voluntarily) included an amount for the up keep of security gates. He paid to have them installed himself after animal rights protesters had broken the windows at his home while he wife and children were there.

There was loud applause for the speakers who were against the private management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital. Lib Dem, Martin Land said when private companies could manage rail and bus, then only should we entrust them with anything else.

Jonathan Salt (Independent) said private companies were answerable to their shareholders. "How can any company take on a £40million debt without making cuts?" He said the consultation had been phoney - no one had actually listened to the public.

John Clare (Green) said: "There is no place in the public health service for private profit. What people want is a local hospital that they can get to easily and that works and is paid for with public money. We can't see why that isn't possible."

Lord Toby said: "The health service should be free and should remain so. Anyone who is sick shouldn't have to pay for prescriptions. We should issue free prescriptions for Maltesers.

"Small things make people happy and they should be freely available. We would also introduce time-share beds.