POLITICIANS and union activists went head to head at Bolton Trade Union Council’s first ever May Day debate.

More than 50 people came along to Bolton Central Library to pitch their questions to the panel, which included Bolton West MP Julie Hilling, Conservative MEP Jacqueline Foster, Green Party Euro MP candidate Laura Foster and vice president of the National Pensioners Convention Jan Shortt.

Various issues were debated including the impact of the ‘bedroom tax’, European Union membership, the formal creation of a living wage and reforms to pensions. Tensions hit fever pitch during the hustings on the topic of public sector pay.

Ms Foster, a former trade unionist while working for British Airways, said cuts were necessary following years of Labour spending and to keep Britain’s economic reputation internationally. She added: “I knew when I came here tonight that I was likely to be in the firing line but we live in a democracy where we can agree to disagree.

“I would like to see the public sector have more of a pay increase.

“We are seeing the economy improve, and the faster it improves that’s when we can get to the position where we can increase public sector pay.”

Ms Hilling disputed that the economic crash was the fault of Labour for ‘building schools and hospitals’.

She added: “I don’t believe there is a recovery when people still use food banks and a third of people using food banks are in work. It’s a disgrace.”