Election 2015 England

Health cuts and community worries in Dudley North

Dudley Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Who will be King of the Castle? The race for the Dudley North seat looks set to be tight

Cuts to the NHS are clearly concerning people in Dudley North in the run-up to the general election.

BBC WM's live debate at Dudley College heard comments from Anne Lewis, a woman with a message you hear time and time again whilst out and about talking to the general public - they've had a great personal experience of our health service, and they're worried about it's future whichever party - or parties - get in.

Basically - they don't want it used as a political football.

The chief executive of Russells Hall Hospital in the borough has said patient services are being put at risk as they're being forced into making hundreds of non-clinical staff cuts.

Image caption The EDL held a march in the town in February to protest against plans for a mosque. Unite Against Fascism held a counter protest.

The Conservatives say they've invested more than £3.5m pounds of winter pressure funding into the hospital this year - and there are also more midwives than 5 years ago.

Ms Lewis says she just wants to make sure the service that saved her life would be able to do the same in the future.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The chief executive of Russells Hall Hospital says patient services are being put at risk as they're being forced into making hundreds of non-clinical staff cuts.

Community cohesion has been another worry for some of the constituents of the town too - and the recent story about former Conservative parliamentary candidate Afzal Amin was treated with disbelief by many.

"I thought politics was probably a dirty game - but this takes it to a new level".

Image caption Afzal Amin got the election campaign underway with a bang when it was suggested he had tried to do a deal with the EDL.

So said a gentleman who came up to me in the town centre, as I reported on secret EDL recordings that suggested Mr Amin had attempted to do some kind of deal with the far-right group over another protest in the town over plans for a new 'super-mosque'.

Mr Amin has been replaced by Les Jones - no stranger to Dudley politics - who hopes to pull back the Conservatives' chances here.

But it kicked off with a bang the national interest in this marginal seat.

Dudley North is important in this election not just because there was only 649 votes in it between Labour and the Conservatives last time around - but also because of the success of UKIP in the area.

I was there at Dudley Town Hall on election night 2010 - and indeed in the morning - when after several recounts Labour's Ian Austin was declared the winner. This is one of the tightest of races.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ukip leader Nigel Farage with World War II veteran William Curtis after giving a speech on defence at Himley Hall, near Dudley.

But it looks more and more likely that this particular fight won't be all about the biggest two parties - with polls showing UKIP's Bill Etheridge almost as popular as Labour in recent polls, and local elections showing a very strong UKIP presence in Dudley in recent years.

They fancy their chances here - although UKIP leader Nigel Farage has admitted to the BBC this week that their campaign in general has 'slipped back a bit lately'. Mr Farage made two visits to the area in the first two weeks' of proper campaigning. He'll no doubt be popping in again soon.

And, with Will Duckworth from the Green Party, Mike Collins standing for the Liberal Democrats and David Pitt of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition it looks like plenty of people will be keeping a close eye on this small town come election night.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites