General election candidates for the battleground area of Earley and Woodley have clashed over poverty and housing development in a debate.

BBC Berkshire held a husting event for the candidates for the three main parties at Shinfield Studios to debate a range of issues affecting the area, which also covers Whitley and satellite villages.

The hustings was hosted by broadcaster Vernon Harwood, and was accompanied by preceding interviews with charities and local organisations.

Mr Harwood referred to a statistic that one in five children live in poverty in Earley and Woodley.

The three candidates were asked to name one policy to help address the issue.

Councillor Pauline Jorgensen, the Conservative candidate said: “I think the most important thing is to give people more opportunity, the opportunity to get decent paying jobs.

“We’ve increased the minimum wage significantly for a start, it’s very important that people get a sensible amount of money for their work.

“I don’t think the government should be subsidising employers.”

Tahir Maher, the Liberal Democrat candidate, said: “One of the things that will make a difference is a windfall tax on the big oil companies, which will help support these families.

He also touted the Lib Dem policy of ending the two-child cap on benefits to help larger families.

Yuan Yang, the Labour candidate, said: “We’d make sure that every child gets a proper breakfast before they start school so they can actually be in a healthy and fit state to work.”

Mr Harwood interjected: “It’s quite an ask, and expensive.”

Ms Yang replied: “It’s quite an ask and it’s something that we need for all of our children.

“It’s not as expensive as all the public health problems that are now being caused by in work and child poverty. Given the difference I’d much rather prevent than cure.”

Fiona Marston raised concerns about the scale of housebuilding in the area – opposing the 3,700-4,500 houses proposed at Hall Farm.

She raised fears that a new government would relax planning laws to accelerate housebuilding, and called for an end to development in the south, to prioritise housebuilding in the Midlands and the North.

Ms Yang said: “We need to build more houses where they are appropriate.

“Unfortunately over the last decade, we have had thousands of houses built in Berkshire without the proper infrastructure to support it.

“Labour’s policy is to build new housing only when there is infrastructure as well.”

Mr Maher said: “We need houses here, the population is growing and if people can afford to buy a house they should be able to do so.

“We believe in regionalisation, we want to effectively develop the rest of the country and not just have everything in the South.

“So I partially agree with this lady that we should be developing other parts of the country.”

He added that government targets state that 800 homes should be built in Wokingham Borough each year, and agreed that houses should not be built on flood plains.

Cllr Jorgensen (Conservative, Hillside) said: “It’s interesting that both of the other candidates believe in Boris Johnson’s policy of Levelling Up, and actually trying to grow the economy outside of the overheated South East and I agree with that as well.

“We need to make sure there is growth everywhere in the UK, the South East is overheated, it doesn’t matter how many houses we build here there will be people coming to them because there is employment.”

The hustings lasted for an hour and can be listened to on the BBC Sounds app.

The general election will take place on Thursday, July 4.

Candidates Gary Shacklady for the Greens and Alistair Hunter from the Social Democratic Party were not present at the debate.