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Students at East Coast College in Great Yarmouth quiz general election candidates at hustings

PUBLISHED: 17:26 16 May 2017 | UPDATED: 17:26 16 May 2017

The first election hustings in Great Yarmouth took place at East Coast College. Photo: George Ryan

The first election hustings in Great Yarmouth took place at East Coast College. Photo: George Ryan

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Students have quizzed candidates to be Great Yarmouth's next MP ahead of the general election.

Staff at East Coast College organised the hustings a week before the deadline to register to vote with the aim to encourage young people to sign up to vote.

The vote on June 8 will be the first time most in the room are old enough to vote.

Three of the five candidates standing in Great Yarmouth spoke to the young people, Ukip’s Catherine Blaiklock, the Liberal Democrat’s James Joyce and Labour’s Mike Smith-Clare.

MORE: Great Yarmouth election candidates to be grilled at Belton hustings

Questions from the audience varied from local issues around the Acle Straight to more national issues like mental health funding.

One hot topic was problems with the roll out of the Universal Credit benefits system in the borough, which led to some people being left without any money for over two months because of delays in payments.

Mrs Blaiklock said things would need to changed slowly so problems could be avoided in the future while Mr Smith-Clare said lives were being destroyed by Universal Credit and stressed that no-one made the choice of going on to the benefit.

Mr Joyce subsequently said life was extremely difficult when on a zero hours contract.

Being a further education college, it was not long before the question of university tuition fees was raised.

The Lib Dem candidate said he did not believe in loans and pointed out he was lucky to get a grant, adding: ”You should not be in debt, simple as that.”

The Ukip contender said the focus of higher education should be on subjects like engineering rather than media studies and said the UK should train more nurses instead of hiring from abroad.

Labour’s hopeful said education had got to be a given right, not a luxury. He added: “There’s not one young life that does not deserve investment.”

Head of marketing and communications at the college, Vicky Beck, said: “I’m encouraged to see such a good number of students here on what is their lunch break.”

The Green’s Harry Webb and the Conservative’s Brandon Lewis were invited but were unable to attend.

The next hustings event is taking place at Belton Church next Thursday at 7pm, where all five candidates are due to appear.

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