05/09/2013 Daily Politics


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Afternoon, folks. Welcome to the Daily Politics. Universal credit is


slammed as over-ambitious and suffering from poor management. Will


the government still be able to deliver its flagship welfare reform?


David Cameron arrives at the G20 summit in Russia. They still sent a


car for him, but after last week's vote on Syria has Britain lost its


place at the top table? The man who helped deliver the Olympics says it


is time to take the politics out of building big infrastructure. We'll


ask him why. And can local councils cope with more cuts or are there


still too many foreign jollies and town hall fat cats?


We do not deal in caricature in this programme! All that coming up in the


next hour. With us for the duration Merrick


Cockell. He assures me he is no fat cat but he used to run Kensington


and Chelsea Council, the richest and poshest borough in the country, and


is now the chairman of the Local Government Association, which


represents councils in England and Wales. Welcome. Before we move on,


thousands of children have been starting at school this week but


there's been a warning that half of school districts will not have


enough primary school places in just two years' time. That warning has


come from the Local Government Association, the organisation that


Merrick chairs. Let's ask him. We are in a population bubble. There


has been a boom of children, babies turning into children about to go to


primary school, and that will work through the whole education system


so twice the demand is placed. Hardly a surprise. We saw it


coming. Why have we not allowed for it since it was obviously


predictable? We have been seen it coming through but have been waiting


for data. In the end it comes down to places. You know the population


overall is in this country but where will it be exactly? Then it is


parents applying for children in places and that is choice as well.


People do not always want to send their children to school where they


live. We have to work with the government to meet the demand. With


two years to go, is there time? A lot of councils and schools have


been taking action already. They lot of councils and schools have


have been converting play space and parts of buildings. Not necessarily


things they want to lose but they have been turning them into


classrooms. We are in a complicated world of education. The councils are


no longer responsible day to day for schools. There is a lot of freedom


for schools with free schools and academies, and as a result of that


we are seeing a problem of a lack of forward planning. That needs all of


us, particularly as the children move into primary, they will move


into secondary and we need a lot more secondary schools to deal with


that. Wasn't it you will party, the Conservative party, who took the


power away from local authorities? Yes, and the view of the Local


Government Association is we have a democratic mandate to represent


people locally and to understand the conditions locally. We need to be


able to work effectively with new schools and those that currently


exist. Michael Gove accepted our report very clearly yesterday I


think. As things stand at the moment, in two years time, if


nothing else was done, how many places would we be short of?


Theoretically, there will be half the number of places for new pupils


so it is significant. That bad.We saw a similar problem in London five


or six years ago and we dealt with it effectively. We will keep an eye


on it. Over-ambitious. Weak management.


Poor governance. These are just some of the charges facing Iain Duncan


Smith and the Department for Work and Pensions over the roll-out of


the new universal credit, or lack of it, in a highly critical report by


the National Audit Office. Labour is enjoying the government's problems.


They are calling it a Titanic sized IT disaster. Well, they know about


them. The universal credit is designed to combine six individual


benefits, including housing benefit, income support and working tax


credit, into one single monthly payment. Crucially it is meant to


encourage people to take up work by ensuring that they will always be


better off having a job than staying on benefits. The government wants to


see all claimants receiving the universal credit by 2017, and it had


originally planned to introduce it for all new claimants from next


month. But that has been dramatically scaled back to a series


of trials, and so far only about 1,000 people are receiving the


credit. The government has written off more than £34 million on new IT


systems for the project and big questions remain about how it will


be delivered. But the National Audit Office also said that universal


credit could well go on to achieve considerable benefits if the


department learns form these early setbacks. -- learns from these early


setbacks. Earlier Labour were granted an urgent question in the


Commons. Let's listen to what Iain Duncan Smith had to say. Every


National Audit Office recommendation has already been made. The key


lesson I take from this is this: That unlike the previous


government, who went and crashed one IT programme after another, no


government minister ever intervened to change them early so they


delivered on time, we are not doing that. I have taken action on this


particular programme. This programme will deliver on time and in budget.


We're joined now by Max Chay, director of the National Audit


Office. The Secretary of State says he recognises the criticisms in your


report but they are kind of historic now. He has dealt with them. He is


on track. The Department for Work and Pensions is revising its plans.


I don't think they have been finalised, checked over or approved.


We still think there are significant issues. What is the most significant


issue the government needs to address? We were concerned of the


lack of a detailed plan as to how universal credit would work.


Although there were clear objectives, it was not clear exactly


what services would be offered online, how online security would be


developed and the systems they would need. Didn't that surprise you? This


could be regarded as the biggest single change in welfare since this


country established the welfare state at the end of the Second World


War, that there is a lack of a plan? Certainly we found it very


surprising given the priority of this programme. We felt and over


ambitious timetable set at the beginning contributed to a lack of


clarity about the requirements needed. They had to develop the


policy requirements and some of the systems in tandem. Is it your


assessment that this can still be in place and universal by 2017? We


haven't seen the latest plans. In our report we raised very clearly


that there is a risk, by keeping the 2017 date but starting later, that


the roll-out will have to be quicker and that raises risks for claimants


and the administration. Thank and that raises risks for claimants


for joining us on the Daily Politics.


We invited a minister on to the programme - but our very polite


request was declined. He even said please! Instead we are joined by


Conservative MP, Charlie Elphicke, he sits on the Olympic Delivery


Authority. With us too, is the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary,


Liam Byrne. He follows all this for Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary,


the Labour Party. The most important change in welfare in 60 years and


the NAS that you do not have a plan. -- the National audit of the. Iain


Duncan Smith thinks it is on time and budget and he has the man who


brought in the Olympics on time and on budget as well. But he has just


brought him in. Because a lot of things have not been done properly.


We have a Secretary of State that is clearly on the ball. As soon as he


realised there were problems, he did not allow the disaster to unfold,


hands on, change in management. We have just heard from the National


Audit Office that they have yet to be convinced that it will be on time


and on budget. I think events will be convinced that it will be on time


speak for themselves. The Secretary of State is very hands-on and


confident. I am confident he will achieve his goal. You might be in


power by 2017. Because we have an election in between. Will you


continue to attempt to meet the 2017 deadline? We do not have enough


information on the table. On the table? We don't know frankly what is


going on inside universal credit because the Secretary of State has


led parliament up the garden path for most of the last two years. In


March he told us it is entirely on track. A month before, his own


appointee reset the project. Four track. A month before, his own


months before that they downgraded the number of people going on the


system next year by 80%. The quiet man has become the cover-up man and


what we saw this morning was one of the most invasive performances I


have ever seen from a minister in the House of Commons. We want this


to go well and that is why I said in the summer, let's have cross-party


talks so we can answer these questions. We will have to come to a


view on this for our manifesto. So as things stand is you do not know


if a Labour government would continue with a universal credit


reform? We want to but right now we cannot promise an answer to the


question you rightly ask because we have had cover-up after cover-up.


The question in Duncan Smith has been giving this morning is that


despite the National Audit Office report, he says it is all going


swimmingly, but the fact is, from next month, every new claimant was


meant to go on universal credit. They are not. And you only have 1000


on a pilot programme with the simplest of claims that do not even


need any IT. Iain Duncan Smith thinks it is on track. But it is not


on track if new claimants are not going to participate as of next


month, which was the track! You are off that track. Iain Duncan Smith is


right to ensure this roll-out is successful. It is a big reform. The


right to ensure this roll-out is Labour Party has opposed universal


credit... He says he is in favour of it. We offered cross-party talks in


the summer. They voted against it in the Commons. They have opposed every


welfare reform, that's why they are the welfare party. Given that


universal credit is something that if it is to proceed will survive


many governments, why not sit down with the Labour Party and explain


the problems and how you intend to address them and they can then


inform themselves over how they would handle it if they come to


power? What would be wrong with that? Labour have opposed every


single welfare reform we have proposed. We supported universal


credit and you know that. This system right now is broken, it needs


fixing. Universal credit could be part of that answer. It is too big


to fail. But today the Secretary of State dropped the target of a


million people on the system by next year. He could not tell us how many


people would be on the system by the election. He is keeping the 2017


date back to hit that he would have to move a quarter of a million


people every single month onto the system. That is a city almost the


size of Derby. Anyone as experienced as you are in the ways of Whitehall


knows that is a pretty tall order. It is but one that Iain Duncan Smith


is confident about. It had plenty of experiences from the disasters in IT


from the previous government. He did not close his eyes and hope it would


all be all right on the night. He has been hands on. He did close his


eyes because he told parliament in March it was all on track when he


knew himself that it wasn't because he had just appointed someone to


reset the project, in the words of the National Audit Office. Given


that you think this is the way forward and you would like it to


happen, assume whoever wins the next election, wouldn't there be an


interest in sitting down with Liam Byrne and going over what the


problems are and what you intend to do about them so he can inform


himself? together and talk these things


through from time to time. I rode together and talk these things


to Iain Duncan-Smith and said, I am worried about this. I had a


petulant letter back saying, get lost. We have had briefings on the


design and the principles. When we ask for basic information, like the


business case, we have to go through freedom of information


procedures to try and get it. At the end of the day they said, you


cannot have anything. That is not good enough. So far they have had


to write off 34 million in IT. That good enough. So far they have had


is the figure we know at the moment. They still claim it is on time and


on budget. Given that Labour managed to waste 13 billion on the


NHS IT system, why would anyone managed to waste 13 billion on the


have more confidence that you can do any better? We should establish


a degree of consensus across all sides of the house. As you say,


odds on there will be a change of Government at the next election. No,


you are saying that. I read the odds, just like you. We have got to


make sure that we go into the next parliament with our eyes wide open


and with a plan people can vote on. What is wrong with putting before


the British people a realistic, it What is wrong with putting before


informed plan for change? A petulant dismissal at cross-party


talks is not appropriate. Do you have a local Government view on


this. Yes, this is absolutely crucial. We have been talking about


our concerns about the over ambition of it. This is not just an


IT project. Part of the overt ambition was thinking people would


be able to go online themselves and access universal credit. We have


seen a change at the beginning of the year. We have seen the pilot


areas working with local authorities and they have to go


through the practicalities. That caution is wise because the chances


are that we have to make it work, because it is too important, but we


have to learn from the pilot areas and those 1000 people. Have you


learnt anything yet? Literally every day we see the figures and on


how it is working, so it has got to get working, but it has to happen


at a local level with partnerships between Government and the local


authorities. Come the election, the Government will have to be in


position to have convincing evidence it is on track. By then


they will be on a much better position. If you have only wrote it


out to a few other places, it will not happen in 2017. E Ian Duncan


Smith is confident it will. He has a team who knows what they are


doing. He his hands on. David Freud has also been on the ball working


with local authorities. We have got the right leadership team to see it


through. If it does look as if it is on track, we support it? Yes, if


it is on track. But we have not got that information on the table.


Charlie is more confident than I am. If the leadership of the Secretary


of State was so great, how has he ended up with a report like this


that is so damaging. You said something seems to be very wrong in


the mind Of the man at the helm of the Department of Work and Pensions.


What did you mean? What I said, I quoted a great delivery grew, Sir


Michael Barber, and he had a great phrase which is delivery is not a


set of activities, but a state of mind. I do not think it is a state


of mind at the Department of Work and Pensions and what they are


doing today is proof of that. Thank you both for being with us this


morning. The Prime Minister arrived you both for being with us this


an hour ago in Russia for the G20 summit. It will be dominated by


discussions of Syria. The host, Vladimir Putin, is opposed against


any military action against Bashar al-Assad. Mr Cameron may have am


meeting with him, but there will be no bilateral meeting with President


Obama. He will be meeting with the President of France who has


supported military action. Are we making too much of this? We always


like to pour over everything, the President is not seeing the Prime


Minister, is there a significance in this or not? So far as the


British-American relations are concerned, it will be disappointing


for David Cameron he is not having a separate meeting with President


Obama. But it is not as if they do not speak a lot on the telephone.


They have discussed things a lot, certainly in the build-up to the


parliamentary vote. That is disappointing and bad for him in


terms of how the British press will react well stocked inevitably it


looks like a snub if it is not intended as such. It is worse for


David Cameron, really because he he is at a summit which is supposed to


be about the economy, but will be dominated by discussions over Syria,


yet he is completely removed from the argument. His officials on the


plane were saying, we are going to be concentrating on banking and the


economy. He will not be a part of the big discussion about what


happens next in Syria. He is not here yet. The discussions will be


taking in the palace in the next half-an-hour or so in St Petersburg.


I glad -- I am glad you got there before him. OK, the British do not


matter that much on Syria. Are we clear what the American strategy


will be? President Obama is there to make friends and influence


people as he tears up to get Congress to back some kind of


attack on Syria. He will not get Vladimir Putin, so what does he


hoped to achieve at the G20 about Syria? It is about winning the


argument. Whether he wins an argument, and it is not going to be


a vote at the end of the G20 and people will make their views known,


but it is about winning an argument internationally. The Mexican


President was talking to the BBC recently and he had President Obama


on the telephone and he was apologising for what they had done


to the Mexicans. It is important for President Obama to do things


like this, to build relations with all the leaders here, so he now can


sit down and talk about Syria and say, are you on my side or are you


on Bashar al-Assad's side? Vladimir Putin will be saying the opposite.


We are joined by the former Defence Secretary Liam Fox and the four


Middle East secretary for the last Labour Government, Peter Hain.


Paddy Ashdown said last week's events had a profound implications


for our country and they diminish our Kapri hugely. Do you agree with


that? I do. Certainly in the short term the decision last week has


left the prime minister sidelined in any discussions about Syria at


the G20. It has given some pause for thought amongst our allies


about being able to deliver any promise that future British Prime


Ministers might make. There are serious questions week in


Parliament have to reflect upon about how the events of last week


are interpreted internationally. How did you vote? I voted in favour


of intervention. Do you agree with Paddy Ashdown? I agreed that the


Prime Minister should never put himself in a position where he can


be humiliated on a fundamental policy matter. He tried to bounce


Parliament and they would not be bounced. Should he have foreseen


that? We had a debate and I was part of moving the motion on 11th


July when the House voted on a backbench motion on a Thursday


afternoon by 114-1 with 39 Tory MPs saying effectively the Government's


policy was wrong. At the root of this I believe this is one of the


most monumental policy failures in recent times. What we should have


been doing is making sure we had negotiations on track, instead of


posture rising over regime change and arming the rebels and finally


military strikes. How did you vote? By was not there, I could not get


back on time. I would have voted for the Labour amendment. Is it in


our power to get negotiations? As I have been following this there have


been huge attempts to get negotiations and they have failed


because neither the Russians Bernard President Assad have much


interest in negotiation. President Assad thinks he is winning. We have


to get perspective about what we can actually do in the internal


dynamics in the civil war in Syria. There is a limit to what we can do


diplomatically. We have put a lot of effort into trying to get


diplomatic activity going. But if all the parties involved in the


civil war do not want to negotiate with one another, what chance is


there? It is always the opposition, whether it is his or yours, we must


try and get more negotiating, but sometimes when you are in power you


cannot get it. You try to negotiate the Iranians out of a nuclear bomb.


That did not happen. What makes you think that President Assad will


negotiate at all? First of all, I am not a pacifist. I was behind the


action in Kosovo. I was behind intervention in Syria and I was in


the Cabinet that took the decision to invade Iraq. This is a civil war.


It is Sunni versa Shea, Russia versus America, and President Assad,


like it or not, is backed by nearly 40% of the population. They do not


like him, but fear the alternative. This is a very complex civil war


and I do not accept negotiations have been pursued vigorously by


either side. The do not think it has been pursued? Obviously they


have not been pursued by either side in the civil war, but your


criticism is the British Government has not done that? I think it has


been pursuing the wrong policy, first regime change and then arming


the rebels. What has it not done? We should have said to the


opposition, we are not going to are We should have said to the


me and we are not going to demand regime change, we should have said


you come to the table and come with a plan for a local negotiated


ceasefire, a nominating ministers you want to serve in the new


Government, and accept that President Assad's ministers will


also serve in that Government. We have not been doing that. It is


incredibly difficult, but we know from Northern Ireland and other


parts of the world weather have been conflicts like this, it is the


only way forward. The last time I was in Northern Ireland it was


British sovereign territory. Why should the Islamic side of the


rebels listened to us? We are members of the Security Council and


we are members of a number of other international institutions,


including NATO. It would be a disaster if last Thursday's vote


was taken as a sign of British isolation. We should be more active


on the international agenda. If you look around the world, in America


this issue has been used as a partisan issue. Government against


opposition. The same seemed to be happening yesterday in France and


it is happening in the UK. It is very dangerous in a deeply


interconnected world where the security problems over there can be


here very quickly, for politicians to use these issues as party


political footballs. One of the reasons Parliament voted the way it


did and why public opinion is that as it is in Britain, is that people


have yet to be convinced of as it is in Britain, is that people


supporting what seems like a futile gesture. The debate in Washington


at the moment is about how few missiles President Obama needs to


send. This is not a debate about regime changed or about invasion or


about bringing people to the table. It is a debate about, I said a red


line should not be crossed, so I should do something about it. Why


should we not support the Americans? There is a big issue


about the use of chemical weapons. Americans? There is a big issue


We were all horrified by the pictures on our television screens.


The difficulty is getting the judgment right in terms of military


action between sending a signal to the regime about our ability to


degrade its command and control, and doing it to an extent that it


changes the dynamic of the civil war. No-one in Washington is


talking about that. President Obama is digging up what he might do, to


try and get more people to back him. When he talks about this it is


limited, narrow, targeted, a futile gesture if you won to use the old


Peter Cook Joe, time for a futile gesture, or it is no more than a


slap on the wrist. The difficulty, and where Parliament


wanted more debate, is what happens if we sent a signal and they do it


again. That is a genuine worry. The problem of this approach all along


and I fear it is the problem of President Obama's posturing is what


comes next? With there be retaliation and escalation? Yes,


chemical weapons are abhorrent, but they account for only 1% of all the


casualties in this war for Syrian conflict, so you are not dealing


with the 99%. If the international community sends out a signal that it


is not willing to act in the face of what was a blatant use of chemical


weapons against a civilian population, surely the risk is that


others will do it again and that will be on our conscience. The


Labour Party cheer led the election of President Obama and his


re-election. You were huge supporters of the victory of


Francois Hollande in France. And yet if you had a vote in Congress next


week on the existing motion, you would be voting against President


Obama. I would and that is very disappointing but I think he and the


French president have gone down the wrong track. The opposition leader,


the president of the opposition last year in Syria, resigned because he


could not get agreement about the different groups, to pursue exactly


the negotiating strategy that I am suggesting could make progress in


this negotiation, so that is where we should be focusing. Do the Local


Government Association have a policy on Serie A? We do not, the views are


mine! -- policy on Serie -- Syria. The case was not made effectively in


Parliament and in a wider every year. What surprised me, Peter


referred to being one of the five members permanently of the UN


security council and a world leadership role that comes with that


was hardly mentioned at all. If there is further action, maybe that


argument, that we have a responsibility that goes with being


at the centre of the UN, might be part of a further debate. He was


from Scotland have just joined us from Holyrood's questions. I had


better give you the first reply. Hang on, my grandfather was


Scottish! But you can't do the accent! A lot of people said that Mr


Cameron just didn't make the case. Even if that were true, there was a


promise of a second vote. We could have taken the time. We would have


then have the announcement of President Obama going to Congress,


we would have then seen what the French are doing. Now the Prime


Minister has been sent into negotiations with no hand to play


and that is bad for the United Kingdom. We will see how it goes.


Thank you. Traffic jams, airport delays, now power cuts are being


talked about. Britain has been rated just 24th in the world for the state


of its infrastructure and a report today suggests it is partly


short-term thinking by politicians that's to blame. Labour commissioned


John Armitt, who chaired the Olympic Delivery Authority, to look at


what's going wrong and he's published his report today. This


morning he joined Ed Balls touring the Crossrail site in central


London, Europe's largest construction project, which is


delivering a new railway for London and the South East. The Shadow


Chancellor said that for decades successive governments had been at


fault. We can't let the future down. The Olympics shows we can make


these decisions and deliver them and I hope that all parties will work


together to implement this important report and make sure that we can do


the big infrastructure projects, which will deliver the jobs,


infrastructure and prosperity that our economy needs in decades to


come. And the chair of Labour's infrastructure review, John Armitt,


is here with me now. A 10-year plan? ! Why not a great leap forward? It


is actually a 25 to 30 year plan. What I have said is that it is


is actually a 25 to 30 year plan. absolutely critical that we address


the long-term. Our infrastructure is the bedrock of our society. It is


what enables all of us to lead a civilised life, it is what underpins


business in this country and it is civilised life, it is what underpins


critical we get it right but we can't get it right if we


flip-flopped backwards and forwards. But we still may get it wrong in a


long-term view because politicians and their advisers are notoriously


bad at predicting the future. For and their advisers are notoriously


example, many people think the case for the HS2 line, the second


high-speed line, is a 20th century one. That high-speed trains were


20th century technology. The French and Spanish and German state it but


in the 21st-century of holograph communications, it is totally out of


date! -- the French and Spanish and Germans did it. There is a greater


growth of high-speed rail across the world than there has ever been so


the world is not abandoning it. The French and Spanish have cut it back.


Because they have built a lot. It is not about speed, it is about


capacity. The whole idea of what I am suggesting is that we give


politicians the very best analysed evidence, which is the role of the


commission. The commission does not make the decision, the commission


gives the politicians the evidence on which Parliament can vote, in


principle for 25 years. We then take a central view. You bring those


plans back to parliament and a vote on them and then you have a


coalition of political support to go forward and do things. What about


those who would be opposed to some of the big infrastructure things?


There is always opposition to something big. A lot of people are


against a third runway at Heathrow and another airport in east London,


and fracking. Where would they fit in? Their voices would be heard by


the commission when it pulled together its evidence and made its


assessments on the options and solutions. I am not proposing that


we ignore our climate change obligations. I am not proposing we


ignore the voice of local government, the voice of the people


with alternative views, but at the end somebody has to make a decision.


You cannot say we will not make a decision because we do have


opposition. We had half of Kent in uproar when we did the first


high-speed line. But after debating it and talking to everybody, the


decision was made. Everybody had the opportunity to talk about different


decision was made. Everybody had the routes but at the end of the day, we


have to choose one. We need to speed up infrastructure and we need, I


think in your report, John, you talk about a succession of large projects


so investors can see a succession of good returning schemes coming in.


But it is absolutely right that we cannot lose the voice of local


people. Some may call them nimbies but they have a right to be heard


and to be taken seriously. Even with HS2, the campaigns against it have


improved the project already, so there is a positive role, not just a


representational role, for a voice at a local level.


wise people taking decisions for the longer term up of which the


politicians will rubber-stamp or longer term up of which the


vote against it? I do not. If people object and they take the wrong


decisions, people put them out of object and they take the wrong


office. Wise men and women in white will not the answer to this. I am


trying to get the best evidence in front of politicians. This is not


taking democratic debate out of the process but it is making sure that


process takes place against a very balanced and well thought through


set of assessments. That is what politicians need. Good evidence to


make decisions on. Politicians on the left and the right already love


make decisions on. Politicians on big projects. Whereas smaller things


that need to be down, improving some of our secondary roads, improving


some of our existing railway lines, improving some of our existing


airports, that is in danger of being crowded out for the big prestige


project that people like Tony Blair and David Cameron and Ed Miliband


can put their names too. Successful infrastructure is not just about the


projects, it is about making the best out of what we have got. It is


about encouraging you and me to use less electricity, not just to keep


using more. Could prices are going all the time! If you are now in


charge of it, should we build HS2? My personal opinion I believe we


should. Should we build a third runway at Heathrow? I am on the


commission so I cannot comment on that but it has been fascinating


listening to the different arguments for and against, about capacity, and


different airlines even have different views. That depends on


whether or not you have a lot of slots at Heathrow! When will you


report on that? Preliminary report is this December. The final report


is after the next election. Should we be having a dash for gas,


fracking? We should understand the potential for fracking and then make


judgements about what it can do for this country and the impacts before


making a final decision. Although people are right to be sceptical


about politicians decisions -- their ability to take long-term decisions,


people will think there is sense to sit down and identify what the big


infrastructure things we will need in the next decade? Absolutely, we


are beginning to see problems with insufficient power in parts of the


country outside London and that cannot be done overnight. Fracking


is another way of generating energy. These are long-term problems that


need to be solved. If we turn our back on this now we will have very


serious problems in 20 years that will undermine the economy


potentially. There is an understanding we have to work


together to work out the priorities and take some of these decisions and


get a move on. I have seen it done at Hinkley point and other places


like that, where whether those decisions are right and wrong, if we


do not take them, our capital city would and major cities will have a


real problem. Can you do a bit more because you have lots of land that


is not currently being used? We have lots of land on which we are


building. We build as fast as the planning regime will allow us to


build. You telling me for every piece of land you have planning


permission you are building on? I piece of land you have planning


certainly am. Planning consent drives us to construction and that


is the problem with housing and supply in this country. We need more


opportunity for supply. You have done this for Ed Miliband and Ed


Balls, but would it not be worth also at least going to the


government to get their reaction? I rang Paul Dighton yesterday and told


him what I would be sailing and I would be delighted if the government


showed some interest in this -- what I would be saying. Credit to


Berkeley homes, they continued building through the recession, but


there are 400,000 homes with planning permission with no shovels


on the ground yet. In the end it is down to money. Shall we give you a


shovel on the way out? Thank you very much.


Town and city halls are looking at how they will manage funding


Town and city halls are looking at because of cuts from the Government.


They all say they have had to shoulder an unfair share of the


austerity budget. Has local Government been shaken out of


financial complacency or has it been squeezed until the pips


squeak? In the offices of Hammersmith and


squeak? Fulham Council in London they offer


the services we come to expect from local Government. But unusually in


the face of cuts to their grant from central Government, up


residence in neighbouring Kensington and Chelsea and in


Westminster are very often dealing with the same staff in a server


sharing plan they call the tri- borough partnership. It has been a


success. Sharing back-office services and training departments


together makes a considerable contribution to the overall target


without it becoming apparent on the streets. Three wealthy, a


neighbouring, all Conservative councils. A unique partnership or


one that could work elsewhere? Other councils are looking at


policies of this kind. Some of them have got joint chief executives and


many more could work together in this way. Radical ideas on how


council's empty our bins and how they provide health and social care


for adults and the elderly, have been the order of the day across


the UK as the Government tries to tidy the nation's finances. But


there is a growing sense councils of all political colours have cut


as much as they can. We cannot continue to make efficiency savings


because that will not go the way of meeting the savings in finance we


have to make. We are going to have to stop doing things and that is


the reality that is going to be faced by local Government. Local


Government has made more than its fair share a contribution towards


the reductions. But that cannot go on for ever and it cannot go on in


a sort of cheese-paring fashion that we have become used to. People


in white or know that deep in their hearts. You cannot go on doing this


for ever, but for the moment they cannot think of a way of stopping


it. What makes it more difficult is it is not just about the money from


central Government that affects it is not just about the money from


local Government costs. We looked at Eric Pickles's' 50 suggested


savings and there is nothing in that for us at all. Much of it we


had in place. But our costs keep going up and here in Birmingham the


demographics are that we have a growing elderly population. It is


an increased demand on adult care services and those adult care


services have to be paid for and Government are not recognising that.


There are two things local authorities seem to agree on. They


dislike lectures or deficiency from a Whitehall that struggles to do it


themselves and the solution is one the Government will not like, and


greater local tax-raising powers. Do not expect that in any national


manifesto soon. We have got Sir Merrick Cockell, of


manifesto soon. the Local Government Association.


Are you expecting local authorities to make more cuts and savings?


Local Government makes up a huge part of the Public Sector spend. We


think local Government has done it really well so far, but there is


more a work we can do. The work of the tri-borough partnership is a


good example. There is more that we can save and more areas can learn


great lessons. Great councils are doing it and being innovative for


the benefit of residence and the taxpayer. You are asking local


Government to make more savings than you are demanded of your own


central Government? We have saved around 40% ourselves, so we


practise what we preach. Local Government makes up around 25% of


Government spending. It is not about savings, it is about


efficiency. It is about making sure we collect all the council tax will


stop it is cracking down on that as well as being innovative. You have


got so many departments and so many well as being innovative. You have


ministers that the Cabinet table has had to be extended so they can


sit around it. We have practised what we preach, we have cut our


costs by 40% and we will be continuing to make sure that local


costs by 40% and we will be councils have the tools to make


innovations and savings. Next year there will be £100 million a year


to encourage councils, to share management and share services, to


bring the public sector together and have a better service for


residents. He has mentioned the three boroughs in London,


Hammersmith, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, who came together


to share back-office functions. Far more than back office. Has that


resulted in substantial savings? Yes, we are still on target to save


about £50 million a year by the end of the year 2015-2016. So he is


right? The difficulty is we have already taken 42% cut in our grant


from central Government. We have already taken 42% cut in our grant


had a one-year 10% reduction implemented, in a couple of years'


time, which turns out to be about 15%. I have looked at the tri-


borough figures. They will have to save another 50 million. Simply


being at the very forefront of integration and working together is


not sufficient. The fact is we have run out of money and the system is


bust. I think we run this country a bit like we did when we had an


empire. We have a Government department budgets run in silos


right the way down to almost local level decisions being taken and


signed off by permanent secretaries will stop we have to change the


system. We have got a lot of change to do, but Government has got a lot


of change to do. We have to move it from the parent-child relationship


of Government. We get our figures a from the parent-child relationship


few months before each financial year. We have to move to a more


mature grown-up way. We should be negotiating the full term of


funding for that Government and ministers should say, you have


agreed the bottom line, you sort out the differentiation between the


growth areas of London and the other parts of the country and the


most needy parts. It is not our problem any more. But we have all


got to make a big change, we cannot carry on as we are. We are simply


running out of money. What do you say to that? He is right, try


borough has shown what can be done by integrating local authorities.


We are now rolling it out around the country. Independent reports


say that will save 20 billion and give better service. But when local


Government says they are running out of money, that is when they


have had money added to their reserves, so they have got money


there. They need to use it to their ability to encourage businesses


into the areas and then we can see a flourishing economy and a strong


into the areas and then we can see future for local Government as well.


If you are claiming to have no money, why do you have £19 billion


of reserves? I have never understood when central Government


has money available that is a success and when local Government


has, it is surplus money. Part of the problem is because we are am


clear about our future funding system. A cut of 15% Leeds to


uncertainty. We do not know how much money we will have. We do not


have a choice of borrowing money. Uncertainty leads to caution and


caution leads to holding money in reserves because you do not know


whether there is money available. Why are you adding to Europe


reserves? Because it is even more uncertain. The cut of 10% has


turned into 15%. It is unnecessary. If we had the relationship I talked


about earlier, we would be less cautious and we would have less


reserves. The local governments are adding to their reserves because


they are prudent. He blamed the last Government for not building


the Rupert when the sun was shining. You are blaming them for not


building the roof even when it is raining. It is not sensible and I


do not think viewers today will understand the council saying, we


are short of money and why they are putting away 19 billion N1 region.


The main thing is to be more innovative, to be more effective


and for residents to change their councils and to challenge them and


asked them why they are not being more innovative. They have to look


at other councils who are working across the public sector and making


savings and giving better services for all of us to enjoy. There is no


chance this Government will agree to local authorities having new


revenue-raising powers? We have worked very hard to freeze the


council tax in the last few years and that this time we want to make


sure residence understand this Government wants to do what they


can for hard-working, council tax payers and keep it low and get good


services. He wanted a municipal bond market of the type they had in


the United States. You are not going to get that either a. It


these bonds were defaulted, the Government would have to step in.


We have been operating under Prudential borrowing for a long


time. We have been looking at the Scandinavian model. There is a


market out there that the city once that we at a local level could use.


But if Liverpool or Manchester or Glasgow defaults...? Where is the


record of default? Local councils meet their budget every year. We


would not be allowed to borrow on highly risky projects. We want the


same sort of freedom that is perfectly normal in other countries.


We do not require a change in the law. We are going ahead to offer


some competition to the Treasury. The would you like to see a


municipal bond market? Our tax payers, the residents who elect the


councils, want to see councils providing the goods services they


do. We want to make sure we keep council tax low. Residents do not


want to see any kind of local tax that puts the council tax up.


Municipal bonds, not council tax. Have we got news for you? Cancer


and used to be precise. We are talking local politics. We all like


to moan about our local council. Bins, pot holes, foxes, and if we


could we would blame them about the weather. Here are some local


headlines and we are going to put Sir Merrick Cockell to the test.


Is it double yellow lines? Yes, over a dead hedgehog. John Humphrys


has had his what ruin? A double yellow line? You are one of my


residence. I was trying to work out whether John Humphrys was as well.


Thank you to all of our guests. The One o'clock News is starting over


on BBC One. I will be here at noon tomorrow with all the big,


political stories of the day. Join me then. Goodbye.


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