WARRINGTON North's parliamentary candidates have debated issues including Brexit, social care, air pollution and library services ahead of next week's General Election.

UKIP candidate James Ashington and Green Party candidate Lyndsay McAteer took part, while Cllr Ian Marks, chairman of the town's Liberal Democrats, represented his party instead of candidate Cllr Stefan Krizanac, who has just returned from his honeymoon.

Labour's Helen Jones and Tory Val Allen declined to take part and opted against sending any replacements.

But Sesame Street toys Elmo, red, and the Cookie Monster, blue, were given a seat at the table in the absence of the pair.

The politicians were quizzed on issues that readers have been raising to us over the past two weeks during the 30-minute session at Warrington Guardian's headquarters.

The first topic put to the politicians was Brexit.

Cllr Marks (LD – Lymm North and Thelwall) said: "We are strongly in favour of remaining in and we believe there should be a second referendum.

"It is not undemocratic, we respect the wishes of the people but we think if the people can be trusted then they should be trusted to say what the final deal looks like.

"A hard Brexit, as the Prime Minister appears to be going for, would be a disaster for the town and country."

Ms McAteer fears jobs in the town are 'at risk'.

She said: "There are lots of jobs in this town, warehouse and logistics jobs, that are dependent on the EU.

"It could potentially have a very negative effect on employment in Warrington and the surrounding region.

"Our policy is to run another referendum to accept the terms of a deal, or to bail out of it."

Mr Ashington believes there needs to be a 'hard Brexit'.

He said: "We don't need any problems about paying a large sum of money.

"We have to go straight out and completely leave the EU, UKIP is against paying the large amounts of money."

With health budgets at their limits, attention turned to the future of the NHS and social care funding.

Cllr Marks said: "We believe health and social care should be integrated.

"We believe the only honest way of doing that is putting a penny on income tax.

"The NHS is in crisis – the system we have really needs sorting out."

Ms McAteer also put forward her concerns on the issues at large.

She said: "Health and social care are inextricably linked, of course.

"The Green Party wants parity of esteem between mental and physical health in terms of funding and any privatisation within the national health system immediately and an immediate cash injection to fill the funding gap.

"And also guarantees on Warrington Hospital – and that the A&E and maternity wing will stay open and get the money they need locally."

Mr Ashington said he 'does not fear' for the future of the NHS and hailed pledges in his party's manifesto.

He added: "We will put £9 billion into the NHS and £2 billion into social care.

"We will get the money from cutting down the foreign aid budget – that will give us the money to pay for improvements to the NHS and social care, which does need to be integrated."

Last year the World Health Organisation revealed the town was one of 40 places in Britain and Ireland that breached air pollution safety levels.

Ms McAteer has vowed to champion the Green Party's pledges, if elected into the House of Commons.

She said: "Nationally, we have plans to introduce a Clean Air Act and an Environmental Protection Act, which will be taking over from the EU laws in operation currently.

"In the town the problem is there are too many people in cars – public transport needs to be more accessible and affordable.

"There needs to be restrictions on the amount of HGVs in the town centre and amount of diesel cars being used.

"The congestion and pollution is a major danger to health, it is something that local politicians seem to be pushing under the carpet."

Mr Ashington is calling for perpetrators to be punished.

He said: "You have to enforce the regulations and we don't have the staff to do it.

"We have to make sure there are enough staff.

"We have to make sure we prosecute people, who are not keeping to the law."

Cllr Marks labelled air pollution as a 'huge problem'.

He said: "Locally, one of our problems is congestion.

"If we can cut down congestion it would help.

"We are not monitoring it properly in this town."

The politicians also discussed the future of the library services across the borough.

Ms McAteer wants services to be saved 'at all costs'.

She said: "They are absolutely fundamental and key.

"I spent four or five years of my life working in libraries, they need to be protected.

"People need to have books and kids need to have places to go, libraries should be protect at all costs."

Cllr Marks, a former council leader, does not believe they should be saved 'at all costs'.

He said: "The world is different now in terms of the internet.

"By involving the community and different organisations we can actually make the library service better than before at no extra cost.

"It needs a big shake-up."

Mr Ashington insists he will do all he can to save libraries in the town.

He added: "It is absolutely critical to the community to have a library where everything starts, they are linked to education.

"I will fight to the death to save libraries in Warrington North and Warrington South."

Mrs Jones will defend an 8,923 majority in the constituency when the country goes to the polls next Thursday.

To watch the debate in full head to the Warrington Guardian Facebook page.