12/02/2012 Sunday Politics East Midlands


Andrew Neil and Marie Ashby with the latest political news, interviews and debate including cabinet minister Eric Pickles on the government's NHS bill.

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Here, the battle between Communities Secretary Eric Pickles


and community councils. And the bosses' leader who claims


that cutting pupils at vocational qualifications will hit


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1696 seconds


Hello. I am Marie Ashby. Our guests this week are the Labour MP for


Leicester West, Liz Kendall, and the Lib-Dem candidate for Ashfield,


Jason Zadrozny. Liz Kendall is shadow Health Minister and she is


playing a key role in the fight against the government's Health


Bill. Jason was just a whisker away from overturning a 10,000 Labour


majority in Ashfield at the last election. Next week the Lib-Dems


hold their regional conference. What does the future hold for the


Liberal Democrats in the East Midlands, the only region in the


country without a single Liberal Democrat MP? I think things are


starting to look up for the Liberal Democrats. We have had the news of


two very impressive by-election gains in Northamptonshire, one with


a 30 % swing to the Liberal Democrats. I think there will be


much positive discussion at the conference. Would it help if you


stop blaming Labour for everything? If Labour were not to blame for


everything, that would be a possibility. I think people see us


in a different light. In different is the Liberal Democrats are


becoming more acceptable because we have our message and a record in


government. We fed the Liberal Democrat Sea would have had an even


bigger uphill climb against the Government's health bill, wouldn't


you? No, I think the government has had trouble on its health bill


because doctors and nurses think it is wrong. Patience and the public


are starting to see the consequences in increased waits for


treatment and more waste. That is the real reason why the Government


has got problems. In the interest of patients and the taxpayer, the


Government should drop the Bill. you find it difficult to stomach


the extent to which Nick Clegg has hitched his wagon to David Cameron?


We are in a coalition and we have to stand by some things that are


not Liberal Democrat policy to get through that. Are I understand you


have had discussions with senior Labour will -- with senior Labour


officials in Nottinghamshire about switching to Labour? No. It would


be irresponsible for any opposition member not to have discussions


about ways of working with other parties. So you have spoken to


Labour officials, but not about joining Labour? Not about joining


Labour. But I speak to all sorts of officials about how we can say what


we mean when we're giving our messages and making sure that they


come through. We have put through the biggest pension rises ever and


changes to the tax system that a stand-alone Conservative government


would never have done. And you joining Labour has never been


brought up? No, it is not on the cards. But you have resigned from


the East Midlands executive of the Liberal Democrats? Yes, because I


have other responsibilities. It is only fair to lead brand new people


come through. There are bound to be Liberal-Democrats that an unhappy


with the coalition, but that is not translating to more support for you,


the Labour Party? Eight days. In my constituency, the remaining liberal


Democrat councillors lost their seats to Labour. -- it is. People


who voted Liberal Democrat last time say to me that they cannot


believe that after pledging to scrap tuition fees, to reorganise


the NHS, they just do not recognise what they see and they feel


betrayed by that. But I know that Labour has to work really hard to


get back the support of people. We do not take that for granted and we


will be campaigning for every vote. This week has also seen a war of


words between Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and fellow


Conservatives on Nottinghamshire county council over spending cuts.


He has accused them of making disproportionate cuts in the money


they give the voluntary sector. It is a charge they vigorously deny.


And their deputy leader, Martin Suthers, joins us now.


If you have cut the grants that you give voluntary groups by �1 million,


34 %, when the money you get from central government is being reduced


by 8%. Is it any wonder that Eric Pickles sees that as


disproportionate? That is perfectly true, we did carted by 34 %. But


let's make it clear that you will not find another county in the


country that was giving �3 million in voluntary aid to that sector.


Most of the support to the voluntary sector raised through


commissioning services, and the grant aid, we take the view that it


should be the icing on the cake. We're probably finding the


voluntary sector to the tune of about �25 million. Why so much in


one year, so fast and so hard in one year? Partly to get the


voluntary sector to make the same hard decisions over overheads that


we're having to make. Over a four year appeared we will be facing a


reduction in government support of around 38 %. That sort of figure.


We have had some great success in doing that because across the


voluntary sector, they have been cutting back on overheads and


collaborating with each other, applying successfully for


substantial sums of lottery funding. It has made them think about those


issues so we get better value for money, and they get stability.


These cuts have got to be made and you are basically saying we have


got to get them done? I think that in Nottinghamshire they are


disproportionately cutting from the voluntary sector and front loading


the cuts. The reason that is a problem is because most of them run


on very low overheads. If you take a big cut in the first year, many


will end up closing. It is important because voluntary


organisations provide a lifeline for many people. RDA cutting the


lifeline? I think they are. The Tory government is making massive


cuts, and the council's on top of that are doing that


disproportionately to the voluntary sector. There are difficult


decisions to make but in my experience, voluntary organisations


do not have massive overheads. We're starting from a different


position, from virtually any other county council. That is part of it.


Over the four year period you will find that because we're achieving


stability, that maintaining the 2 million for the next three years,


which is what is in our budget strategy, then over that time the


cuts will be proportionate, but the voluntary sector will have the


stability of knowing where they are. We are entering into three-year


agreements with as many of them as we can. Did you vote against this


34 % cut? Yes, and there were some issues which the Liberal Democrats


raised then. The cuts were front loaded. I do not think they are so


disproportionate across the medium term. They hit the voluntary sector


in a way that perhaps we would not like, but the medium term gives


them some stability. One of the fundamental principles of the


coalition government in terms of local government is that local


people should decide. Like it or heated, the Conservatives have an


outright majority on Nottinghamshire council, and Eric


Pickles should not be meddling. problem with front loading the cuts


to the voluntary sector is if they work on a shoestring and have small


budgets, they will be decimated and they will close. That is the real


concern. I think the cuts go too fast. We need to make sure that we


retain a good voluntary sector. They are absolutely vital. It is


hypocritical of a coalition government that said they wanted


Big Society. Do you want to decimate the voluntary sector?


is not happening. We work very closely with them. And we will


continue to do so. �5 million has gone to help people with learning


difficulties, two point five times the grant aid budget. Taking the


attitude that we have has given us a positive response. Citizens


Advice Bureaux, for instance, we now say to them, here is �2,000


grant, you decide, not politicians, you decide where to spend that


money. You have about �25 million in unallocated reserves, you could


take money out of that, would that be a solution? Apart from the fact


that we have to keep reserves for any unexpected contingencies...


a rainy day? Yes, but there are problems that will rise. There is a


very ambitious programme on the road network Q. We cannot squander


the reserves in the meantime. -- road network.


Next, an unlikely critic of the government's decision to downgrade


pupils' vocational qualifications. In future they will count for less


in schools league tables. But bosses leader Lord Digby Jones says


that is bad news for pupils and employers in the East Midlands. Rob


Whitehouse reports. This story has been a gift, you


could say a gift horse. That is to those who are opposed to vocational


education. Our schools really teaching horse management, how to


mark out? Yes, that is one of the 3,000 vocational courses being


downgraded by the Government after they heard the results of a highly


critical report. A lot of vocational qualifications are just


that. They do not belong in a measure of how well as school is


providing education for children. The Government says that many


schools are using GCSE equivalent courses to boost their position in


the school league tables. At this college in Derby they denied the


charge. We set our curriculum up to benefit our students, not to chase


league table rankings. These students learning catering skills


in the college kitchen certainly value their course. I would not


like them to go because people would be struggling without them.


It is a massive help for me. I want to be a chef. Do you think it will


help you get a job? Yes. At this prestigious Academy, it is


the downgrading of their engineering diploma, once


equivalent to five GCSEs, soon to be just one, that has caused real


offence. They insist it is a rounded course. A qualification


like this really prepares young people. It gives them core skills


in engineering. That is what employers tell us they want. That


is what our partner organisations like Rolls-Royce and tie or a tap


tell us they want young people to leave with. It is the message this


sends to bosses that worries some. I hope the government will change


their mind. It is worth fighting for this one because it is


important for the country and the East Midlands economy.


pretending that everything is equal and everything is suitable for a


15-year-old, we have not increased his stake is a vocational


qualifications, we have done the opposite. But a public school that


charges �9,000 per term is more than happy to defend the value of


such courses. Abbotsholme School, set in the Derbyshire hills,


regards this kind of education as essential. Vocational courses


provide an education for life, not just University. They provide


skills for pupils to be implied. Doing this for occasional cause


will ensure that I have practical skills to do they know any medicine


at university. It is totally different from being in a classroom,


but in the real-world, I think it means more to people. Abbotsholme


school was created by an educational vision a, a man called


Dr Cecil Reddie. His aim was to instil education for life. The


staff here feel that he would not approve of the current bonfire of


vocation or qualifications. Clearly a lot of concern, but some


people will say that Labour was asking for trouble when it decided


to let schools and colleges trade so many GCSEs for Vocational


qualifications? We have got to make sure that children do not end up


taking subjects if they want to go to university, that those


universities will not accept. We also need to make sure that people


get good quality vocational qualifications. It is interesting


that businesses are saying that they valued good quality


qualifications. It is vital for the country. We need to get the balance


right and my concern is that the Government is throwing the baby out


with the bathwater. That engineering qualification is now


worth one GCSE instead of five. that is developed by good, high


quality businesses. It worries me that those good quality vocational


courses that business's value and young people like doing are going


to be thrown out. Wasn't this widely interpreted as a way of


making the school league tables League better anyway? We need to


find a way of really stretching children. But also to value the


vocational qualifications. I think the government is going too far.


Whose camp are you in? Professor Wolf's or Digby Jones? A little of


both, as you would expect from a Liberal Democrat. I think there has


been a downgrading of occasional qualifications. I was not brilliant


in the classrooms so I did a practical qualification.


National Diploma in performing arts? Yes, and it did me no harm. I


knew where it was leading. Now we have nearly 170,000 students are to


doing courses that do not leading to many were caught other


qualifications. I can understand why there is a last of -- why there


is a loss of aspirations. In my constituency, sometimes there is


fourth-generation unemployment. everyone is academic? And no, but


the head teachers in my constituency will say to me,


actually, vocational qualifications sometimes act as a hook backing to


academic qualifications. They see they can succeed and they can use


their skills at. We need to concentrate on our core subjects as


well. Our reputation for languages is terrible? Yes, literacy and


numeracy are the absolute basics. I am worried about moving towards a


curriculum which does not recognise the value of occasional


qualifications. I have so many businesses saying to me, we do not


get the people we need with the skills we need come and getting


jobs is what we need in the East Midlands.


Time now for our regular round-up of the week's political stories in


the East Midlands. A dozen East Midlands MPs have


called on David Cameron to cut subsidies to the wind-power


industry. They want brand new planning rules to make it easier


for local communities to object to wind farms. Nick Clegg is hit back


saying he is a massive supporter of renewables.


Senior Conservative councillors are calling on their leader and


Leicestershire to resign. It follows an investigation into his


travel expenses to Europe. He denies any wrongdoing.


This Leicester teenager is not playing his protest by the book. He


has made a YouTube video to speak out against the closure of his


library on his estate. I believe this decision should be reversed.


Finally, the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has been named old person of


the year by the magazine that describes itself as the antidote to


youth culture. And to think, he is only 71!


What do you think Ken will make of that? I think so, it is a bit of


fun, but the serious side is that age is not a barrier to anything.


do not think he is an old person. I think 70 is the brand new 50. I


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