Education and Riverside North key issues as Bedford mayoral candidates are put under spotlight

MBTC Mayorla hustings new
MBTC Mayorla hustings new

Boos and catcalls greeted current Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson as he defended the town’s controversial Riverside North development at a feisty election hustings meeting last night (Thursday).

The marquee at Bedford Rugby Club, in Goldington Road, was packed with hundreds of voters for the Bedford Decides meeting where BBC Three Counties Radio presenter Roberto Perrone posed questions to the five mayoral candidates.

MBTC Mayoral Hustings panel

MBTC Mayoral Hustings panel

“Riverside North is bringing money into the town,” said Mr Hodgson, the Liberal Democrat candidate in Thursday’s poll to be the next Mayor of Bedford Borough. Some members of the audience booed.

Mr Hodgson was the only member of the panel to defend the high profile development, which has been granted planning permission.

But Independent candidate Steve Lowe said: “It looks terrible and I will do everything I can to improve the design.”

Labour candidate Tim Douglas said we have got to find a way of improving the way Riverside North looks while Conservative Jas Parmar added: “I will do anything I can to bring sense into that building.”

MBTC  Mayor's election

MBTC Mayor's election

UKIP’s candidate on the all-male list of potential mayors, Adrian Haynes, wondered how the development was granted planning permission when so many people were against it.

The hustings meeting also tackled the question of the future of education in the borough, posed by David Bailey of Biddenham Upper School.

Independent Steve Lowe said he would set up a task force to look at the structure of education, and whether it should be a two-tier school system, and come to quick decisions.

UKIP’s Adrian Haynes said he would listen to the head teachers while Tory Jas Parmar said he would “reinstate school improvement teams and work with headteachers.”

Incumbent Lib Dem mayor Dave Hodgson said the council had not got rid of its school improvement team. “We’re putting money in and we’re top in the region for primary schools.”

Labour’s Tim Douglas said: “We’ve got to talk to parents” and posed the question: “Would we want to resist two tier education?”

There were also questions among others on Yarl’s Wood, bus services and the candidates’ long term vision for the borough.