A general election is likely this year, so in our new monthly feature the Watford Observer will be asking the candidates for the three main parties standing to be the town’s MP a question of topical concern and publishing their answers.

Our first question is regarding the night-time economy in the town.

The viability of the night-time economy in Watford is a concern for many readers following the high-profile closure of nightclub Pryzm and nearby Barrio Bar.

Can you explain how you and your party will make sure businesses like these survive and thrive despite all the challenges the industry faces?

Watford Observer:

Watford's Conservative MP Dean Russell

"I care passionately about Watford and our night-time economy. Live music, entertainment and nightclubs play a key role.

"That's why I tried everything I could to save Pryzm including presenting a petition into Parliament and hosting a parliamentary debate. This helped stave off closure for a year but sadly the writing was on the wall given the site was identified as suitable for new housing by the Liberal Democrat run borough council’s Local Plan, with no opposition from Labour. I will continue to push for a new nightclub to help local businesses and our local taxi drivers.

"Despite our differences on the Local Plan, I put political differences aside to collaborate on the successful Government Levelling Up Fund bid bringing £16 million to Watford’s high street and the colosseum. This will ensure important footfall for evening events and support local businesses.

"Hospitality is all about staff. I was overjoyed my Tips Bill received Royal Assent last year. My new law will ensure more than 2 million workers have their tips protected.

"Speaking to musicians I worry about the impact of ULEZ on live music, the unfair charge risks making it too expensive to tour locally.

"Through the Hospitality Strategy, the Government set out plans for recovery and future resilience of the sector. I recently met with Music Venues Trust to look at how we can support more live music venues.

"Watford is synonymous with the night-time economy and I will do all I can to protect our heritage for the future."

Watford Observer: Cllr Matt Turmaine is Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Watford

Labour's Parliamentary candidate for Watford Matt Turmaine

"As Watford’s new MP I would support polices to reinvigorate our town.

"Watford, like much of Britain, has directly suffered from 14 years of the tired Tories and their disastrous Coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

"There’s a job to be done. At this year’s General Election we will be poorer than at the last. That is unforgivable.

"That’s because the economy has been growing at the slowest rate for two centuries and the small amounts of growth it has seen, have not benefited the whole country. The result is the biggest fall in living standards in a generation. People, despite scrimping and saving, don’t have the money to go out. The highest taxes for 70 years certainly don't help.

"Unelected Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, like his economy-crashing predecessor Liz Truss, isn’t part of the solution, he’s part of the problem.

"I will back to the hilt Labour’s plan to put economic stability first. This is how we will get the economy growing again and put money back in people’s pockets.

"Watford has many small and medium-sized businesses. Labour will scrap small business rates and replace them with a system that works better for bricks and mortar companies. That is exactly the kind of policy we need to get our night-time economy back on its feet.

"Wages should reflect the hard work put in. Too often they don’t. Until people are better off, Watford’s night-time economy will continue to be at risk. Change is needed. Only Labour can deliver it."

Watford Observer: Ian Stotesbury outside Watford General Hospital A&E

The Liberal Democrats Parliamentary candidate for Watford Ian Stotesbury

"After the Covid pandemic, the nighttime economy has undergone major changes, with the cost of living crisis also impacting people's ability to enjoy a night out. Going out, and going ‘out out’ has changed, and we need a response that recognises that.

"The Liberal Democrats recognise the need for changes to reflect what is happening on the street. We want investment in public transport and initiatives to support local businesses.

"Watford is now a leader in the Vitality Index. This shows that we are doing well but we are never complacent.

"Business rates should be set locally, collected locally, and reinvested locally. It is simply unfair that stores are hit with high tax bills while online retailers pay next to nothing. The government must make retail taxes much fairer.

"Watford's success is clear. In recent years we’ve seen a cinema, bowling alley, climbing wall, escape rooms, and even axe throwing opening here. The number of vacant units in our town centre is less than half the national average.

"I know how important to make sure that anyone who visits our town centre feels safe. That is why the Liberal Democrats are continuing to press for more police officers, so that they have the capacity to tackle any problems we have.

"It goes without saying there will always be changes and challenges. Watford town centre is more successful than most, but we need changes to national policies so that it is a safe, vibrant and welcoming place for everyone in the future."