FORMER Chippenham MP Michelle Donelan was met with jeers and laughter at a hustings when she claimed the decision to cut police numbers was made because the last Labour government had made the country bankrupt.

All three of the constituency’s parliamentary candidates were challenged by the public at the session in St Paul’s Church.

Chaired by Rev Andrew Gubbins, Conservative Michelle Donelan, Lib Dem Helen Belcher and Labour candidate Martha Anachury faced questions on topics including the climate crisis, police numbers and why they want to go into Parliament.

Around 100 turned out to the debate run by Chippenham Churches Together on Wednesday to quiz their prospective representatives.

When asked what motivated them to run for office, Ms Belcher said: “It’s my time to give back to society. I want to put back into the community and believe I have the skills to do that.

Mrs Anachury said: “For me it was never a question of desire. Other people saw qualities in me to become a candidate. I want to be able to do more to help people in this area.”

Ms Donelan responded: “I genuinely love where we live and believe we need an MP who will stand up for this area. It is an honour and privilege to serve this area.”

One member of the public asked the candidates if there was a climate emergency and how their party policies reflect the urgency of it.

Mrs Anachury spoke first, saying: "We definitely have a climate emergency. We only have one planet and we need to make sure we don't make things worse."

Ms Donelan responded: "In our manifesto we have made it clear this is a priority for us. Our first budget if we win will be climate-led."

Ms Belcher said: "In short, yes we absolutely have a climate emergency. The Liberal Democrats have a long history of working for the environment."

Another question asked the candidates whether the Conservative government made a mistake in cutting police numbers.

Mrs Anachury started and said: "Yes they did. Boris Johnson is promising 20,000 if they win but that just brings back the ones they already took away. We need specialised forces to deal with rural crime as well."

Ms Donelan said: ""I think a number of tough decisions were made when we were in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, like cutting police numbers.

"But that all happened because of the position we inherited after Labour made the whole country bankrupt."

Her answer was met by jeers and laughter from the audience.

Helen Belcher said: "We need to create police training centres to get more bobbies back on the beat. We're also starting to see police stations close across Wiltshire which is making response times longer."