2015 election candidates face their first grilling

Harrogate and Knaresborough’s parliamentary candidates faced a grilling from business leaders this week.

Sunday, 21st September 2014, 8:00 am

With eight months to go until voters go to the polls, candidates fielded questions on local business issues at Rudding Park Hotel on Monday.

The Conservative MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Andrew Jones, Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate Helen Flynn and UKIP PPC, David Simister debated issues ranging from the Scottish referendem, transport and the EU.

All of the candidates are either current or former district or county councillors, and the relationship between MP’s and local government was raised by Toni Medri, chairman of Oatlands Traders committee.

Mr Jones, who was a district councillor before being elected as MP in 2010 said: “It is the electorate that holds councils to account, not the MP. MP’s aren’t there to look over the shoulder and micro-manage councils, that is a misunderstanding of the role. However local people will go to their MP with issues so MPs do need to be able to pick up the phone to the council.”

Helen Flynn, who is also a Lib Dem Harrogate district councillor for the Nidd Valley ward said: “I think sometimes people forget MPs are law makers at a national level. The MP isn’t there to hold councils to account, they are independent.”

David Simister who sits as a UKIP councillor on North Yorkshire County Council for the Bilton & Nidd Gorge ward said: “Andrew Jones came through the council system and before him Lord Phil Willis, so it isn’t new that the MPs have close ties with council. The council and MP should have a good relationship.”

Martin Gerrard, premier relationship manager for Barclay’s, asked the panel what they thought of Yorkshire having devolved powers in light of the Scottish referendem.

Coun Simister said: “The Scots have a decision of a lifetime to make but what is really galling a lot of people is that we don’t have a say on this.

Andrew Jones said: “I hope Scotland stays with us. We are in very difficult times. I believe in devolved powers, we should be taking decisions as near to services as possible.”

Coun Flynn said: “As a Yorkshire woman, I think it would be great for Yorkshire to have devolution.”

The controversial topic of fracking highlighted the candidates’ differences.

Coun Flynn said: “We have to have far more stability in the energy market. My instant reaction is no, but it is a necessary evil while we look at long term planning for creating energy in the future.”

Mr Jones said: “We have a clear requirement to boost our national energy supply.”

Coun Simister won one of the only laughs of the evening of the evening, declaring “Not in my backyard!”He said: “I am going to be a Nimby on this. I don’t want the Harrogate district to be destroyed. Wind turbines aren’t effective - we need a different approach.”