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Election hopefuls put in the hot seat.

Byline: GARETH LEWIS

FIVE of Coventry's general election hopefuls were taken to task by a group of city pensioners at a heated question-and-answer forum.

At a specially-arranged meeting at the Council House, members of the Coventry branch of the British Pensioners Trade Union Action Association (BPTUAA) questioned the various policies of their guests.

Labour MP for Coventry Northwest Bob Ainsworth spoke first, followed by prospective parliamentary candidates Andrew Fairburn (Conservative), Christine Oddy (Independent), Geoff Sewards (Lib Dem) and Dave Nellist (Socialist Alliance).

They were grilled on subjects ranging from the restoration of the link between pensions and average earnings, and the cost of the nation's weapons in relation to spending on other vital services.

One of the biggest rounds of applause came when national general secretary of the BPTUAA, Jack Sprung, asked why 55,000 people had died of hypothermia in Britain last year.

He said: "We live in the fourth richest country and we were told we would share in the country's prosperity.

"But there are old people sleeping in cardboard boxes. Why is it that there are people who put 50 years of working life into this country and thousands die from cold every winter."

Each of the candidates outlined their policies aimed at pensioners. The government's means-tested minimum income guarantee came in for some criticism with both Mr Fairburn and Ms Oddy claiming pride stopped some people from applying.

Mr Ainsworth said the government would bring in a tax credit for pensioners which would reward people who had saved.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 21, 2001
Words:252
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