Business group grill St Albans candidates at Question Time event

PUBLISHED: 09:40 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:02 06 May 2010

ALL four parliamentary candidates for St Albans fought their corners in a Question Time-style debate held last week. The event at the Town Hall was hosted by the St Albans Chamber of Commerce and chaired by its vice president, Peter Goodman of SA Law. Var

ALL four parliamentary candidates for St Albans fought their corners in a Question Time-style debate held last week.

The event at the Town Hall was hosted by the St Albans Chamber of Commerce and chaired by its vice president, Peter Goodman of SA Law.

Various issues were debated by the four-strong panel from topics such as business, housing, parking and the use of the Tesco site, to healthcare, education, immigration and war.

One of the many questions put forward was how the candidates proposed to help local businesses in St Albans.

Sitting Conservative MP Anne Main insisted that small businesses would "help us to grow out of the recession."

She said: "Business rate relief is very complex for small businesses to get hold of so what we would do is make it automatic. Some businesses in St Albans have told me what a rough time they have had of it and we need to do away with the bureaucracy and red tape."

LibDem candidate Sandy Walkington said the first thing to do was to address the national economy and insisted that his party's treasury spokesman Vince Cable was the man to do it.

He called for social mobility to be improved and proposed giving revenue from business rates back to local councils rather than it going to the treasury to make the system "interdependent."

Green candidate Jack Easton also proposed reducing small business rates and simplifying tax and national insurance payments for them.

Labour candidate Roma Mills said: "What would make business work is if St Albans was a vibrant and busy community. We are starting from a very good basis and are in a much better position now than in August last year."

UKIP candidate John Stocker said: "St Albans used to be a big manufacturing city that has drifted away and we must work very hard together as a community to bring the manufacturing industry back towards St Albans. It's no good running St Albans as a commuter station and a restaurant centre. Every place that closes down turns into a bar and restaurant. We have got to get industry back into St Albans and that is what I want to do."

Over the next three years, Mr Walkington said he wanted a better rail service, new swimming pool at Westminster Lodge, multiplex cinema and the completion of the City Vision project.

Mr Stocker said he wanted St Albans to become a more vibrant community without any 'for sale' signs in the city centre and with better traffic flow.

Mrs Main said she wanted a government funding formula which reflects the demographic of St Albans so that the problems such as roads, education and healthcare could be addressed properly.

She also called for an urgent care centre in St Albans, the rail freight proposal to be quashed and the power of decision-making brought back to the local community.

Mr Easton said he wanted better youth provision and 20 MPH zones in the city to improve safety, ideas later echoed by Mrs Mills who also called for major repair work on the local roads and a 50-metre swimming pool.

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