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Mid and South Pembrokeshire candidates explain why you should vote for them at hustings

CANDIDATES for the new Westminster seat of Mid and South Pembrokeshire outlined why they should have your vote at an electoral hustings last week.

The joint Planed/Pure West Radio general election hustings was held at Pembrokeshire College on June 27, with six of the candidates for the Mid and South Pembrokeshire seat attending.

Those attending were: Alistair Cameron (Welsh Liberal Democrats); Stephen Crabb (Welsh Conservative); Stuart Marchant (Reform UK); Vusi Siphika (Independent); Cris Tomos (Plaid Cymru); and Henry Tufnell (Welsh Labour), with Hanna Andersen (Women’s Equality Party) and James Purchase (Green Party) unable to attend.

The candidates initially outlined why they should have your votes before a series of question and answer sessions.

Stephen Crabb said: “My promise at this election is the same as every single time I’ve been elected, to be the very best for Pembrokeshire.”

Vusi Siphika said: “It’s a real honour to be here as an independent to put myself forward; there is a choice, there is a word we’ve used, having a love for each other, not very often used in politics, it can be used for the betterment of people.”

Cris Tomos told members he was standing for “activism and localism”: “I’m a fifth-generation dairy farmer, it’s great to be part of a community; I’m standing for activism and localism, we can do great stuff, now is the time grasp these natural resources, starting from the grass roots upwards.”

Alistair Cameron, a county councillor, said: “As liberal Democrats we want to do a lot for job opportunities, particularly in floating offshore wind, and in social care, an enormous challenge for the county council at the moment.”

Reform’s Stuart Marchant said: “I think our best days lay ahead of us; there are so many opportunities in Pembrokeshire; it needs a member of parliament that will shout and scream and draw out the best of the community.”

Labour’s Henry Tufnell said: “It’s tough out there, there’s a cost-of-living crisis; next week we have a fantastic opportunity for change, I want Pembrokeshire to be at the forefront of that change.”

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In a submitted statement, James Purchase said his party was “the only party talking about the climate crisis”.

A question about “the crisis in social care” as a “consequence of generational underfunding,” by the Rev Neil Hook, who later said the biggest crisis was around the elderly, but also included the vulnerable in society, was asked.

Alistair Cameron said: “The biggest challenge faced by the council is how to pay for it, and treat people with dignity. Pembrokeshire is an aging county, I think it’s beyond the county, it needs Welsh Government and UK Government support.”

Vusi Siphika, a carer himself, said: “I have been through every step of the crisis,” saying there was a need for “a radical approach”.

“We’re battling to ensure dignity, it’s on a wing and a prayer at the moment,” adding: “We have to fight tooth and nail for our elderly and give them back their dignity.”

Henry Tufnell said the Conservatives had “played fast and loose with public services,” adding: “We’re struggling with where the money comes because of what Liz Truss did; this is one of the greatest issues we face.”

Stephen Crabb reacted to Mr Tufnell’s comments: “It’s an enormous challenge, there’s threadbare social care and a lot of loneliness with people retiring here without family support.

“It trivialises the importance to say three months of Liz Truss led to these consequences, for decades the government in Cardiff has failed.

“Until we take party politics out of this, we can’t have a grown-up decision.”

Stuart Marchant said the system needs serious reform, adding: “It’s not fit for purpose”.

“What Reform would do is restructure a dedicated department, partially through tax reform, making things less bureaucratic, throwing money at a broken system will never work.”

Cris Tomos said there was a need for greater resources, with a reform of capital gains.

“The money is there but we’ve got to be brave to go after the money and care for our elderly people and give them a quality of life as they get older in Pembrokeshire.”

The candidates were also asked what they would do to address housing in rural areas, “other than just building social housing”.

Cris Tomos said Plaid would ensure there was a bill of rights, adding: “Everyone deserves a first home”.

Mr Marchant said: “I have the pleasure of renting a few homes around Carmarthenshire which are affordable, I try to keep the rents as low as possible.

“Developers need to be making full use of brownfield sites; we need to reform planning laws to allow people to build on brownfield sites.”

On a supplementary question on the issue of tourism vs local housing, he said: “Both are very important to Pembrokeshire; a lot of farms are diversifying to have a holiday home, I think that’s something we should be encouraging, tourism is very important to Pembrokeshire.”

He said there was “a balance to be had” over second homes and holiday homes.

Mr Crabb said: “Unfortunately we need to build more homes, there’s not normally like enough one and two-bed starter home in Pembrokeshire.”

He said there was a need for shared equity schemes and local covenants; with one of the major issue on housing the number of empty properties.

On a supplementary question on absentee landlord, he said he had “some sympathy” in closing down “second homes loopholes,” adding there were powers with local authorities to require landlord to keep properties in good order.

Vusi Siphika said: “The private sector has control; councils need to use the powers they have in planning law for the benefit of people.

“We can’t be in a society where house prices are rocketing.”

Henry Tufnell said: “It’s important to acknowledge there is a housing crisis.

“The second homes council tax and the 182 days rule, both of these are steps in the right direction; Broad Haven and Little Haven are both hollowed-out communities; it does really come down to supply, you need to build more affordable housing.

“It’s really positive the council is starting to build council housing again, really huge. Get that aspiration back, homelessness is not acceptable.”

Candidates were also quizzed on funding for green energy projects.

Vusi Siphika said there was a need for cross-party agreement to present a strong case to Westminster for renewables.

Cris Tomos said it was “vitally important” to address the issue, with an opportunity to devolve the crown estates in Wales, with revenue opportunities in Pembrokeshire.

Stuart Marchant said a cheaper option than renewables would be “small nuclear reactors built near cities around our country, adding: “We believe that is actually the right way to go, and funding jobs around our country; we don’t believe our children should pay for our mistakes and believe we should be nuclear.”

Alistair Cameron said off-shore green energy had “a massive potential for Pembrokeshire,” with a potential to power a third of the households in the UK, adding: “If it’s going to be successful it’s got to have the support of UK Government.”

Mr Tufnell said: “We need Pembrokeshire to be at the forefront of this.”

He said he would be “cheer-leading from the front” over green energy.

Mr Crabb said: “We don’t get many big individual opportunities like this, it’s a once in a 30-year opportunity; we’ve got to do everything we can to seize it with both hands.”

The general election is being held this Thursday, July 4.