Assembly candidates lock horns in television debate

Image caption,
Elections for the assembly take place on 5 May

Welsh assembly candidates have clashed over the economy, in the first BBC TV debate of the election campaign.

Hopefuls from the four main parties faced questions about public spending from an audience in Wrexham.

Labour's Sandy Mewies blamed "greedy bankers", and Heledd Fychan of Plaid hailed her party's "vision" for Wales.

Lib Dem Aled Roberts said the economic "mess" had to be fixed, and Tory Darren Millar said Wales had not moved on under Labour-led assembly governments.

The debate at Wrexham's Glyndwr University was the first of three to be shown on BBC One Wales during the campaign.

'One nation'

Ms Fychan, Plaid's number-two candidate in the north Wales region, defended her party leader Ieuan Wyn Jones, deputy first minister in the coalition assembly government.

She said there had been improvements under his tenure as the minister responsible for the economy and transport, after Mr Jones was attacked by other panelists.

Plaid had plans to connect north and south Wales "so that we are one nation", she said.

Labour's Delyn candidate Ms Mewies said the coalition deal her party signed with Plaid in 2007 had "delivered the things in it".

She said the state of the UK's public finances was not the fault of the last Labour government, but the fault of "greedy bankers".

"They are the people who should be suffering now. Instead it's hitting the poorest hardest", she said.

Mr Millar, Conservative candidate for Clwyd West, said public spending was being cut, because "the former Labour government left us with a legacy of debt".

"We have not moved on in 12 years of Labour-led assembly government and certainly have not moved on in the past four of Labour-Plaid coalition," he said.

He said the Conservatives were the "only party committed to invest in the NHS". Opponents say Tory plans to ring-fence the NHS budget would mean bigger cuts for other assembly government departments.

Mr Roberts, lead Welsh Liberal Democrat candidate on the party's north Wales list, called for the introduction of a "pupil premium" to target money at the most disadvantaged children.

He said the future jobs fund - introduced by the previous Labour UK government - was a "quick cheap fix".

On the economy, he said: "The reality is that it's a mess and that needs to be fixed. Whether that's the fault of bankers or the Labour government isn't going to get us out of this mess."