Elderly are top priority for candidates

Mary HamiltonFour candidates for Norwich South gave their first hustings speeches of the campaign yesterday, laying out their party and personal views to a packed room at a sheltered housing complex in Norwich.Mary Hamilton

Four candidates for Norwich South gave their first hustings speeches of the campaign yesterday, laying out their party and personal views to a packed room at a sheltered housing complex in Norwich.

As well as laying out their stances on the issues facing older people, the candidates faced questions from the residents at Violet Elvin Court on social care, health care, pensions and benefits.

All four candidates discussed the key issue of social care, referring to cross-party talks to try to establish a way of paying that did not penalise those who saved for retirement or force people to sell their homes to pay for care.

Labour's Charles Clarke said everyone would have to contribute to social care in order to deal with the aging population.


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He said a strong economy was vital to ensuring the well-being of pensioners, and asked voters to put their confidence in Labour to do the right thing.

Green candidate Adrian Ramsay pledged support for an increase in the state pension to �170, paid for in part by the abolition of means testing, which he called 'degrading'.

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He said social care should be paid for from the public purse, suggesting that the cost of doing over the next three years could be met by bringing troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan and not renewing the Trident nuclear programme.

Liberal Democrat Simon Wright said a major challenge for the future was dealing with an aging population where there were more people aged over 60 than under 16.

He suggested forcing energy companies to provide cheaper fuel on social tariffs for those having difficulty making ends meet, and pledged to protect local services including post offices and bus routes, as did Mr Ramsey and Conservative candidate Antony Little.

Mr Little discussed the Tories' idea to introduce a one-off �8,000 payment made during working life that would pay for social care once workers reached retirement age.

All four candidates said they would keep free bus passes, winter fuel payments and free TV licences for pensioners, but Mr Little put forward his own suggestion that they could be replaced with cash incentives for those who did not use them.

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