THE closure of public toilets and changes to Poole A&E were hot topics at an election debate at Canford School on Monday.

The candidates for Mid Dorset and North Poole, Steve Brew for Labour, Vikki Slade for the Liberal Democrats and Michael Tomlinson for the Conservatives, also gave their views on the fate of EU nationals in UK after Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, fracking in Dorset and lowering the voting age to 16.

Mr Tomlinson said he backed the idea of closing toilets at Baiter Park and Sandbanks, but believed the timing was wrong - that Borough of Poole should have waited until new cafés with replacement facilities had been built.

Mrs Slade, a councillor in Broadstone, said the policy was "absolutely disgraceful" and accused the council of being led by a "cabal". "I was told if we wanted your advice we would ask for it. I quote that from the Conservative leader of the council."

Mr Brew said the closure of toilets was "crystallising" the issue of public sector cuts, adding: "These cuts have been really hurting local people for a long time, and it is getting worse. We want to put a stop to that under Labour."

An audience of Canford students, staff and local residents also heard Mr Tomlinson back changes to Poole's A&E department as part of the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group's ongoing review. "Experts in health matters have told us why this plan is a good idea," he said.

"Eighty per cent of walk-in cases will still go to Poole A&E, the difference will be when you are in the back of an ambulance." He said blue light casualties were already taken to more distant hospitals, such as Southampton, when they required specialist care.

Mr Brew said "quite straightforwardly we shouldn't do it". He said Labour would ensure the NHS was better funded and staff were better supported. Mrs Slade called the plans "ridiculous" and raised Liberal Democrat plans to raise income tax and tax on dividends by one per cent ringfenced for the health service.

Challenged on Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, Mr Brew said his party leader had "leadership we so desperately need" characterised by "honesty, integrity, consistency". Also, he defended his party manifesto saying it was costed, and the 1,000 richest people in the country could afford to contribute £50 billion towards it having made £92 billion between them last year.

Mrs Slade backed lowering the voting age and said the government should guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK to remain after Brexit. She expressed strong opposition to fracking in Dorset, as did Mr Brew, but Mr Tomlinson demurred.

The Tory candidate said he backed fracking in a national context as a cleaner energy source than coal, as part of the transition to renewable sources, but believed that for geological reasons it was unlikely to take place in Dorset.