24/05/2012 Dragon's Eye


24/05/2012

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The former leader of Cardiff Council is warning that the

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authority's decision to pull plans for a business district could

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damage confidence in the city. Rodney Berman, who lost power in

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this month's election, says it may be harder to attract financial

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companies to the capital unless the new Labour administration

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reconsiders. But the council says "the new administration is business

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savvy and it will be reviewing all the Council's projects to ensure

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that they are fit for purpose and have a real prospect of being

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It was said it was a crazy scheme. The government of the day creating

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an enterprise zone on the Docklands. 20 Oddy has made a Canary Wharf is

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becoming the preferred site for the world's banks. Plans for the

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Cardiff District might be less grand. Cardiff's call exchange was

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once the centre of commercial life in the city. In more recent times

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the capital has been fairly successful in attracting businesses

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particularly from the financial services. But the business district

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has been put on hold by the newly elected council. Some economists

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warned that private business must be involved. If this was purely

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backed by council, I don't think it will work. We have to have private

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sector investment so other organisations see people are

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willing to put their money where their mouth is. That will pump

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confidence through the project. It is a bit like Canary Wharf. We have

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seen this in Scotland as well. It is led by private sector

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development. Cardiff Council will invest millions around this area in

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a bid to attract professional services. One of the things we were

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developing was a financial model that meant �30 million was going in

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from the council and the Welsh Government. That was dependent on

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plans we had going for it. If the new administration is not went to

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carry on with these plans, if to fulfil some pledges on reducing

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council tax, those plans are going to be scrapped. The people of

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Cardiff need to know that. But has not made clear when people were

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voting in the election. The Lib- Dems reset it as First Minister's

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Questions. You government gave a vote of confidence and to the

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council for this investment zone. This morning Cardiff council

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announced it has scrapped the plans and delaying the creation of those

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thousands of new jobs. How will you deliver an enterprise zone in

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Cardiff Central business District give Cardiff does not have a

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central business district? It has a District business for -- business

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District. We will continue to advance Cardiff as a business

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district as we have done in the months gone past. The Welsh

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Government and Cardiff Council are keen to build on the base the

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capital has. Some say the ideas of the enterprise zone and the

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business District need to be joined up. You had the Cardiff business

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District where we weren't sure if you were going to have enterprise

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zones. If the two had come about at the same time this issue will not

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be there. We would be singing from the same hymn sheet. Because it was

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tacked on after words there is an overlap of when one's

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responsibility ends. By that things the new Labour administration's

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decision could damage the city. -- Rodney Berman thinks. You don't

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want to put a lack of confidence in investors. We also batsman always

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envisaged it as a 15 year project. The training floor here may have

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long since given way to live music events and functions better it is

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traits of a different kind that is coming under the spotlight. If some

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are demanding the time is right for a Europe-wide transaction time. UK

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Government is fighting proposals from Europe to introduce the tax.

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It will hit London but only -- over sent to 5% of transactions occur. -

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- over 75%. Can you tell us where you stand on that EU-wide

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transaction tax? Are you with Francois Hollande or with the two

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leaders of London? It does make sense as long as it is applied as

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broadly as possible. It should include North America as well.

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have argued that companies will simply move of the tax is applied

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only in Europe. Critics say with his is you hovering over the head

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of the financial sector if it could make companies less likely to

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expand to cities, including Cardiff. It has been compared to inducing

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HGVs tax in France. They would never put up with it. If we think

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of the income we get from financial services, a significant proportion

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of tax come from the sector. Then to be country -- regrowth

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Manufacturing, until we have grown other sectors of the economy to

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compensate, to think of it financial-services tax is

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absolutely mad. If you do decide what kind of society we want to

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create a stir up I we're rebuilding the economy with a business-as-

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usual approach or a more equity this society? Only working

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people,... It seems bizarre to me that speculative behaviour by City

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financiers and not curved or taxed in any way. Cardiff may not be able

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to rival London for financial- services but it can compete with

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other large cities across Europe. Brian Meechan reporting. I spoke to

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Mark Barry, an idependant business consultant and transport advisor to

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the Cardiff Business Partnership, and business analyst Simon Evans.

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What is your reaction to the decision by Cardiff Council to put

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their plans for a financial zone on hold? I am quite disappointed. The

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eyes of the world around Cardiff as the Olympic torch can see it. At

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this is something that was heralded, when it was announced, as a huge

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investment into the economy are Cardiff. It was something that was

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very much needed. However, what I will temper that with his, the plan

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and the project has to be the right one and it has to be a foundation

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that is laid for the future not something that is the scheme that

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has built for some what is clear. What is clear, private sector

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involvement is something that has not been nailed down. Maybe we can

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pick up on that in the second. We have seen the Welsh Government

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outline its plans for Ray financial zone, we are left with a single set

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of plans. There's that makes sense in that way? -- does that make

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sense in that way? We could bring ideas and to create a single

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function that can deliver for Cardiff. This could be the most

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transforming project in the city. It is important. There is time to

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reflect on what was proposed before, catch our best batsmen breath and

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put it in place. We don't need to rush into this. I am glad we have

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this opportunity now to see where - - whether the scheme is not working

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as it should be first up the need to see where the private sector can

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come in. It is better to know now sue can make sure the scheme works

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right in the future. We want something that is good for business

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in Wales and something that is good for the economy. How do put your

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best foot forward particularly in uncertain times where there seems

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to be a lot of business confidence and the reluctance with diseases to

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commit money? The challenge is, think where this place could be in

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2025. Cardiff will be competing in Manchester, Barcelona, Milan. What

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do we have to put in place to eight make it end attracted this is

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region? -- to make it unattractive business region. 1.4 million people

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can get to work in this location. We have to be internationally

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We have access to the city of London. By 2020 we could be saying

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Cardiff, it is just under two hours from at Canary Wharf. You can sell

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that. Is that how you get businesses involved at ground level

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before a brick has been made? Absolutely. Infrastructure and

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confidence are key. Businesses have to be involved. We saw the

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development of Canary Wharf, there was a key financials institution

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who was part of it from the on said. We need the faint -- the same to

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happen here in Cardiff. If they knew they had excellent transport

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links those things and key for the private sector. Added to that a

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great talent of Labour we have in Wales, for them to tap into all of

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those things that are important. We need that private sector confidence.

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When your company to comment and make sure this scheme can forge

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ahead. Do you see an appetite for that? Anyone who is interested in

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the city will be interested to contribute to help. It is going to

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be vital to have been put in. It is going to be accelerated. You need

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to build a team with a capability and expertise and network to talk

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to it the professional services, not just in South Wales but in

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London, Europe and North America a stop we need to present them with a

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compelling offer. We have the time to put the right plan in place.

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you share that optimism? I do. We are a proud nation in Wales and we

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are going for it. We have the same political colour in Cardiff Bay as

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we have in Cardiff centre. That is important. His us likes to see

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confidence and stability. -- business. The developmentof the

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Welsh and and wider UK economies depends a great deal on what

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happens in the Eurozone. Last night EU leaders attended an informal

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summit where they were supposed to be talking about how to stimulate

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growth, but the uncertainty about Greece and whether it will fall out

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of the single currency will have figured largely in discussions.

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Michael Arghyrou is an economist at Cardiff Business School.

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Welcome. It does explain as you would like what happens in Greece

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matters to us in Wales's it is important and I can do you are a

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few examples. If this situation continues and escalate, the global

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economy faces the prospect of a new credit crunch. Interest rates may

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go all up and this will directly affect Welsh businesses, Welsh

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mortgages and personal loans. That is the first important challenge

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which the Welsh economy will be affected. The second is the

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eurozone which is affected by the Greek situation is the UK's largest

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trading partner. If that is short of money you will export last. It

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will affect job prospects and the Welsh economy, living standards.

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What are the likely scenario is facing the eurozone in relation to

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the dangers that Greece's posing? There are two possibilities. Their

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first is that the Greek elections which will take place on 17th June

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will produce a pro-European government. In which case, I would

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expect the emergence of a new compromise between Greece and the

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you. Police will remain part of the eurozone. We will hope for the best.

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It will not solve the situation overnight but it will give them

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further time. Where they Greece will take that up is another

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discussion. The worst-case scenario is the situation where we have five

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they hung parliament off -- or the emergence of a left-wing government.

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In which case, negotiations may break down. We will be in uncharted

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territory. Greece may leave the eurozone. If Greece were to lead

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the eurozone what could that mean? For Greece, it will be very bad.

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Although one can make an economic argument a new currency would give

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competitiveness, there will be large negative welfare consequences.

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The Greek money will be devalued. The Greek state will go bankrupt

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and that will cut of credit to the banks. It will be dramatic. For the

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eurozone it will be also very difficult because you have a fee of

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contagion. The problem is people and Portugal, Spain, possibly Italy

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as well, was that if they give Greece have left we may be the next

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ones to leave the stock it will bring in uncertainty. A presumably

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the governments of the United Kingdom and the difference eurozone

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countries will be drawing up contingency plans at this stage to

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do with a possibly worse case scenario. At this stage nobody will

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confirm officially that these plans are shaped and Abbey worked on. I

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would be surprised if those contingency plans went made now.

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There are things that the UK Government can do in the event of a

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Greek exit from the eurozone or other European countries. I am

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pretty sure what the authorities are doing now here will be to

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In the meantime, our politicians left crossing their fingers for

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that outcome of the elections on 17th June? Yes, they are. Thank you

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for joining us this evening. Thousands of families in Wales need

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a home, but either can't afford one or fined one suitable. This week,

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the Welsh government published its plans to get to grips with the

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issue. Part of that included bringing back into use 22,000 empty

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homes. To do that, one idea is to that allow local authorities to

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charge 200% council tax on any house that has been empty for more

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than two years. They are a blight in many towns and

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villages. Homes lying empty. There are 22,000 empty homes in

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Wales like this one. There was governments say not only are their

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untidy, but they are also wasteful. There are thousands of families in

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need of a home so ministers have now said that sites like this one

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are no longer acceptable. What to do about it is a lot more

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difficult. It is a tremendous waste of resources when we realise we

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have a shortage of family homes of all kinds, for sale and for rent.

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We need to first of all taken interest free loan regime from the

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assembly so that the owners of those properties can be assisted

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financially to do up those properties for use so that families

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can use them. Also we are aware that if that is the carrot, there

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may be a necessity for some element of a stick as well. The stick in

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question is to give councils the right to increase council tax on

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homes like this one which have been empty for over one year.

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figures we have looked at in the past has been looking to increase

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it up to 200% and that is something that would then provide you with

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the finance you require to do the necessary work on the owls. It

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would also create a funding stream where this could be an ongoing

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thing. You are not talking about one house in one street, but rather

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an area or. Some towns and villages have a collection of houses that

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need to be tackled. These ideas are outlined in the Welsh government

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plan is to give councils the ability to charge up to two men do

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percent on homes that have been empty for over one year.

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Councils could be able to set their own rates, but the government think

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they could raise up to �33 million by doing that which could then be

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ring-fenced and the money used to pay for more affordable homes.

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Not everyone thinks that is fair. Many thinks it Geoff catch all tax

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could do as much harm as good. Recently we have spoken to a family

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who have bought her a second home with in their locality purely so

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that they can have some were for their children to come back and

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live near to them after they finish their studies. There are different

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situations. There is also the issue of local families inheriting homes

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where they want to retain that home again so that they provide

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somewhere for their children to come back to. Council tax go to all

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kinds of services, but if a house is empty, you don't use those

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services. The point is, you pay your council tax to get services.

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If you have an empty home, you are not using services yet still paying

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for them. The point is that doubling council tax for up empty

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houses is a double tax which will not solve the problems and business

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using the tax system. The tax system is there to pay for services

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it we use in everyday life, not as a punishment because you are using

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your house in the way that the government does not want. The real

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problem is not any kind of revenue shortage, it is a shortage of homes.

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We don't want to collect council tax on these homes, we want them to

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stop being empty and get back into the market or on to the rental

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market for used by wealthy families. They have been calls for higher

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council tax on second homes as well, even though the government said it

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is not included in the White Paper. My discussions with the minister

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over recent months is that he did not warm to the idea. Arrested on a

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number of occasions and you could see the collaboration between the

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ability to raise funds on those houses that I am occupied for large

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periods of the year to then produce this fund that will give us the

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ability to build affordable homes for local people.

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Building more affordable homes is a tricky enough business for councils

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like this protest last year demonstrates. More money may help

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the local authorities, but even then, convincing people to allow

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are affordable homes to be built might be a different matter

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altogether. Joining me now, Peter Black of the

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Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives Nick Ramsey.

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Nick Ramsey, what do you make of the idea of doubling council tax on

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NT properties? I find it strange. I concede the principle behind his

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white paper and why the government want to have more homes, sadly the

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previous government built their Fracture -- fraction of the homes

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we need, but doubling council tax risks penalising people rather than

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providing extra housing. If you decide that you want to use council

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tax in that way, why stick to an arbitrary after 12 months limit and

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why stick to 200%? I fear a lot of people will be caught out by this.

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Peter Black, what you make of the argument of the misuse of council

:21:51.:22:01.
:22:01.:22:02.

tax? I don't accept that it is a misuse of council tax. I think

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local authorities need to have a stake to encourage homeowners who

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have left house is empty for a substantial period of time. I do

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agree that 12 months is too short a period. Councils already have the

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power to introduce his after 12 months, but what we need is maybe

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after five years. There are a substantial number of properties

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made empty for five years that are a blight on the community and are

:22:29.:22:33.

imposing quite a few problems for the neighbours. In those instances

:22:33.:22:37.

where the owners of homes have been reluctant to bring them back into

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use, having missed it available as a means to encouraging them to do

:22:41.:22:46.

so is a very useful tool. In those circumstances I would favour of

:22:46.:22:53.

this provision. Mick, what you make of a five-year threshold? T a prose

:22:53.:23:01.

it in principle? I agree with Peter that 12 months is too short. As for

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five years, I don't think enough analysis has been done to decipher

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whether council tax is the right mechanism. Peter calls this a big

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stick, it is a massive stake. Where are the government going down the

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line of trying to pass regulation, legislation and forcing people who

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have empty houses out of their homes by raising council tax. What

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they should be doing is liaising with their owners and find out why

:23:30.:23:34.

the houses are empty and then move forward in a way that is far more

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collegiate than this. It is an authoritarian, we don't want you to

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have this and we will drive you out. There is a long tradition of using

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taxes to us at -- incentive eyes certain behaviours. Labour

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governments have used taxes in that way as have Conservative

:23:52.:24:00.

governments. Not for council tax to be used like that. The purpose of

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council tax is a top-up tax to the many that councils get from central

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government. Council tax has never been used by this and the point was

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made earlier, that if you are using council tax to pay for services, if

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a house is empty for a year, then people who are owned that house on

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not getting any service. Peter Black, what would you do to try to

:24:24.:24:29.

tackle the issue of empty houses? A five-year period, some might say,

:24:30.:24:34.

is too generous for houses sitting empty in communities where there

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are people who would love to be able to live but cannot get a house.

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I still think there are thousands of homes that can be bought back

:24:43.:24:49.

into use. We have to allow for the use where people have inherited

:24:49.:24:54.

houses. We also have to allow for people to improve their homes so it

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may remain empty for longer than 12 months, but I do agree, we can't

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have this as the only tool in the box. There has to be a proper

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strategy are making use of a range of tools including the recyclable

:25:08.:25:18.
:25:18.:25:19.

loan scheme. Including the use of compulsory purchase, or and also

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having an empty properties officer in every local authority who is

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working with owners to bring homes back into use. If all else fails,

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we have to have that stick to encourage owners and give them a

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little prod to say that if you carry on it will cost you more

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money to leave this house empty. I have to tell you that many homes

:25:41.:25:47.

are Blyton the community and a lot of those have been empty up to 25

:25:47.:25:53.

years. That is unacceptable when people are looking for a home.

:25:53.:25:55.

grateful to you both for joining us this evening.

:25:55.:26:04.

Now, let's move over here and talk to Betsan, our political editor. So,

:26:04.:26:09.

we are expecting a Green Paper on rearrangement of assembly

:26:09.:26:15.

constituency boundaries. Give us the background. The UK government

:26:15.:26:18.

start of it consultation into what the boundaries ought to look like

:26:18.:26:24.

in Wales. It is not about empty homes, but constituencies that they

:26:24.:26:31.

think might be to fall or to empty. Looking at Cardiff South, 76 people.

:26:31.:26:37.

They have to consider that as the argument. The consultation paper

:26:37.:26:44.

has been revealed. She says she has an open mind and also has in mind

:26:44.:26:49.

and elegance situation and simple saying it -- solution of 30

:26:49.:26:54.

constituents rather than the 40 that we have now. And 20 Am's

:26:54.:27:02.

chosen from the region. 31st past the post Am's. The other parties

:27:02.:27:06.

all have ideas that are slightly different and ideas as to who

:27:06.:27:10.

should be making these decisions and the first place. Yes, because

:27:10.:27:15.

they are claims and counter-claims about what these proposals mean for

:27:15.:27:20.

different parties interests in terms of electoral success.

:27:20.:27:25.

Precisely. It is a big if as to whether constituencies for

:27:25.:27:30.

Westminster will change. If they do, the thought was that she will not

:27:30.:27:35.

have 40 MPs anymore so that will change to 30, should the Assembly

:27:35.:27:39.

changed as well? We have Labour and Plaid Cymru saying it is not up to

:27:39.:27:46.

the UK to -- Westminster to decide this at all. If changed, there

:27:46.:27:50.

should be 30 constituencies and to first past the palace from those

:27:50.:27:55.

constituencies. The other parties are saying they are getting rid of

:27:55.:28:01.

any proportionality, and he will suffer, us. The Lib Dems saying it

:28:01.:28:05.

proportionality must remain important. He might have a

:28:05.:28:08.

situation where the assembly changes and the Westminster ones do

:28:08.:28:15.

not. Then it will get complex. Because of arguments over reform of

:28:15.:28:21.

Join Felicity Evans as she takes a fresh look at politics through the Dragon's Eye.

Whether it is your local council, the National Assembly, Westminster or Europe, Dragon's Eye will be probing, scrutinising and shedding light on our democratic institutions.


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