The state of local bus services, town centre flooding and services for children with special educational needs all came under the spotlight at pre-election hustings last night.

The event at Winnington Park Recreation Club saw all seven candidates vying to be MP for the new parliamentary seat of Mid Cheshire go head-to-head. They were Helen Clawson (independent), Andrew Cooper (Labour), Charles Fifield (Conservative), Mark Green (Greens), Emma Guy (Reform), Stella Mellor (independent) and Jack Price-Harbach (Lib Dem).

Organised jointly by the Northwich and Winsford Guardian and Radio Northwich, it was hosted by Radio Northwich presenter Mike Cooksley. Around 60 local people were in attendance with questions being submitted by the public both in person and online.

Quizzed by a member of the audience on what they called ‘the appalling public bus services’, Mark Green, said: "The Green Party will invest in public transport both rail and buses. We'll take trains into public control and buses back under the control of local authorities."

Emma Guy responded: "There needs to be a review of the infrastructure within the three salt towns, the services are not fit for purpose.”

Charles Fifield added: "The Government came up with the idea of a bus fare cap and we've got a manifesto pledge to keep that."

A question sent in from campaign group CWaC SEND Accountability asked what candidates would you do to help families with SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) children.

Helen Clawson said: "SEND needs huge reform. Services families are receiving are poor. SEND training needs to form part of PGCE (teacher training). We need a specific minister for SEND."

Andrew Cooper added: "I've been through the process and know how difficult it can be. The SEND system in this country is in crisis. We need to work with parents to change the system."

Northwich councillor Sam Naylor was in the audience and asked the candidates what they would do to mitigate against flood risk in Northwich. The town has been blighted by repeated and serious flooding incidents in recent years.

Mark Green said: "Clearly climate change is part of the story. However, it also requires a more immediate solution and the mismanagement of our waterways needs to be sorted out. We'll invest billions to ensure that."

Jack Price-Harbach added: "Having seen the floods in 2019, Northwich Town Council have done a fantastic job. We've got to look at the big picture and stop relying on fossil fuels as  these floods are only going to get worse."

Emma Guy said: "The council has done some good work with the barriers. "However, there are other ways of looking at this. We've stopped dredging the waterways - why don't we do that? Also, a lot of the storm drains get blocked and we need to look at that."

Stella Mellor added: "We need to hold the water companies to account."

Other subjects covered in what was a good-natured, two-and-a-half-hour hustings included population growth, voting reform, transgender and women's rights and re-engaging young people in politics.

Voters go to the polls on July 4. Mid Cheshire is a new parliamentary seat that incorporates the three salt towns of Middlewich, Northwich and Winsford.