12/02/2012 Sunday Politics East


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Here in the east, the community Secretary hits out at out councils


for refusing to keep to a council tax freeze. How long can needy


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1574 seconds


Would you like Rupert Murdoch to depart the shores? A I would like


him to stand up for clean You have a view on most things


Rupert Murdoch does. I just want him to take responsibility for his


company. So far, many people lower down the food chain have carried


the can. He needs to take his share of responsibility. Given the arrest,


his report Murdoch be fit and proper person? Know. I don't think


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1574 seconds


We have Baroness Angela Smith, a former MP for Basildon, and Brandon


lowest, MP for Great Yarmouth. We have the committee secretary


throwing down the gauntlet over authorities refusing to stick to a


council tax freeze. More later. Let us have a quick word about the


health reforms, suffering defeats in the House of Lords. The question


mark hanging over the Health and Social Care Bill. Brandon, a


Conservative website now says three Cabinet ministers want the Bill


scrapped. Do you? No, I don't. I think we need the bill working for


the customer. Why do about Andrew Lansley, should he go? No, we have


good reforms. GPs in our area, with the pathfinder Group, are keen to


go ahead. Do you think Angela Smith's -- Andrew Lansley should go,


Angela? I don't think patients are customers. The Bill is deeply


flawed. It is hugely expensive, taking money out the NHS. The


taking money out the NHS. The taking money out the NHS. The


Government should publish the risk a register, about where the dangers


are in this Bill. The mostly government can hope for of the Bill


is that it continues its passage through Parliament. They are trying


to sweeten the pill for council tax payers. We can reveal that councils


in the east are having to save a quarter of a billion pounds. Most


are freezing council tax, but Eric Pickles has attacked the


authorities who are not. Saying they should have the guts to take


the issue to the electorate. Where Harlow council Leeds, they believe


others will follow. Pets corner, run by the council, is one of


several services which will be handed over to voluntary services


to save money. The this can be an example to other councils, Harlow


is keeping them open with in it are the solutions. -- innovative for.


After a tribute for the Jubilee, Essex County Council fine-tuned its


budget for the following year. The Conservative-run council says it is


on course to make savings of over �300 million by 20th March 13. But


they will no longer share the chief executive with Brentwood council,


as the partnership between the county and borough comes to an end.


county and borough comes to an end. county and borough comes to an end.


We need our TV executive to work full-time, we have a huge amount of


work to do. Where it was introduced it seemed to be one of the new


ideas, with a chief executive of all of the district councils. We


never thought it was possible. Council has across the East are all


having to make savings, up to 123 million in Essex. Across the region


councils are having to save in total more than a quarter of a


billion pounds. The government does not what -- want council tax to go


up so they are offering them a big increase. Council has are


effectively being put on a diet. Being told to lose weight or spend


less. Year after year the government is handing out smaller


and smaller portions of cash, but this year the government is


basically saying, we can see you are hungry, if you don't put up


council tax we will give you something extra. But it is for one


year only. And councils are worried when that gets taken away and the


portions are smaller again, it will just leave them feeling hungry


again. Chelmsford Borough Council is planning to reject the offer.


They believe it would be the right decision for residents in the


longer term despite pressure from the government. What they are doing


is comparing house with another council that perhaps is not as far


forward in making efficiency savings as we are. In many councils


it would be of benefit, but because we have done the efficiency stuff,


you cannot keep doing that. We felt we had to make a decision and


protect our residents medium to long term. They are not alone, four


councils in Cambridgeshire are looking to put up council tax, they


are all Conservative-run. I find it astonishing that the necessity to


increase council tax, just under the level to raise a referendum, is


the right amount. The overwhelming majority of councils are taking the


freeze. We are very grateful for that. It it is not so much about


Conservative councils as those needing their own control.


backbench councillor in Eric Pickles's own yard is putting


forward the idea of a lottery. have a situation where the coffers


are strained. We need to have different projects that we could


not do without the extra income. Councillors will look at details


like prizes later this month before deciding if, in times of austerity,


the only way is a lottery. Joining us his Royal Whitehead, the leader


of Chelmsford Borough Council. Eric Pickles is clearly angry with you


for not keeping to the freeze but also not taking this to the


electorate. We are in a situation where we had an election last year.


We, as Conservatives got a huge majority in comparison with our


previous majority. One of our pledges at this time was to keep


council tax rises low. We have done that. We are grateful to Eric


Pickles for his offer, but we believe he could use it better


elsewhere, whilst we put our council tax up by �4.10 per year,


8p per week. I don't think it will break the residents of Chelmsford.


Eric Pickles is blaming councils like cures of bad leadership. You


have overspent in the past. What do you say to that? As my colleague


was heard to say earlier on, we started making reductions from the


moment we took over in 2003. From that time, we have made regular


reductions in our overheads and increased our work for services. We


brought back from fortnightly collections, weekly collections.


One of Eric Pickles favourite topics. Are you not being disloyal?


No, I don't think is -- that is the case. We predicted this would


happen. We are only getting a one- year subsidy, we are in a situation


with Greece, in the European Union, where they are trying to bail out


Greece, but it will make more mistakes the following year because


it has not balance its budget. we seeing a sea change in the way


that services are delivered by councils, this is a time of huge


transformation isn't it? It is. We reduced our back office staff when


I took over, we had 21 heads of service. I mentioned earlier, at


Essex County Council, we have a chief executive who works three and


a half days a week. We have reduced the head count even further at the


top. We are keeping people on the job, on the streets. Cleaning


streets, cleaning rubbish. In the snow we were dead on time


collecting things we have to do. From that point of view, the


residents are appreciative of rail services. A I want to bring the


guests in. Brandon, don't you think it is disloyal for other


Conservative councils to not be freezing council tax? I don't think


it is disloyal. They must do what they think is right, but it is


unfortunate that they cannot look at more shared services and other


ideas, and not keep it at zero. I am pleased my council is doing that.


What is the Labour view? I think they have got themselves in a


pickle. Reducing costs but putting up a marginal increase for services,


I understand that because they are losing so much money from


government year on year. The phrase, that is just a gimmick. The


council's need certainty. Why does it say about local democracy?


government set a limit, it is a bit rich of Eric Pickles now to say


have a referendum. But local people need a decision at the next ballot


box. It is very difficult for councils at the moment to try and


find ways to make so many cuts, these cuts are front loaded. They


never said we cannot make savings, just give us the time to do it in.


You are agreeing with a Conservative-led council? They are


trying to do what they can with an appalling relationship between the


government and themselves. We always had good relationships with


local councils. Eric Pickles's Commons seem to be to attack


councils. They may not be doing what he wants them to do but they


are doing their best. You lead an experiment to amalgamate roles, it


has been proven that that has not worked. In Essex it stopped working.


Quite the opposite. The reason things have moved on in Essex is


that it did work. We did the deal to get a particular set of


circumstances. The role has been done. Brentwood now does not need a


chief executive. That is another saving. The idea that there was a


day of central government not interfering is not the case. That


is not what I said. One of the services councils still seem to be


committed to our start centres, despite the ring-fencing being


removed in 2010. Started in 1999 by Labour, they were supposed to play


a crucial role for needy families. How are they faring in these


difficult times? Essex has lost �3 million from its Sure Start budget,


Suffolk losing 1.5 million, Peterborough 1 million.


Northamptonshire �500,000, and Luton �400,000. In total, �7.8


million. Although no centres have been closed yet, services are going


out to tender in places like Norfolk. We visited one of the


Lots of our families don't have qualifications. They have never


really had the opportunities or encouragement to stay on at school.


People are living on benefits for generations. At the Priory Centre


they talk about Great Yarmouth's hidden deprivation. It is not


always obvious, but it is there. Spending �850,000 a year at the


centre on a wide range of children's services. We have to do


it for the children, for the future. What kind of a society is that if


we don't? The under-fives need the best but we can give them. Jade and


is one of the Trojan the centre helps. He is autistic. He cannot


talk, he struggles to communicate and often has tantrums. According


to his mother, these music therapy sessions have helped a lot. It took


a while, but he can express himself. He he can feel and touch things, he


plays the drums, he is a happy little boy. When it comes to levels


of child poverty, some areas of great charm are far more than twice


the national average. Alex, Jordan, and their son have had help from


the Priory Centre. The visits from a support worker, counselling and


parenting classes. Alex and Jordan are both unemployed and live life


on benefits, but they don't want it that way. We want to get money in


for the family, feel better about the family. It is very depressing


for me and the family. It does put strain on at times financially.


don't want to be on benefits? not at all. I hate it. The centre


it has put all services out to tender. The council says the �14.8


million budget will be unchanged, but the Priory is facing an eight


per cent cut. With changes in the benefits system, services will be


under more pressure. I think families will struggle more and we


are likely to see an increase in child protection issues. There is


the possibility that there will be more family breakdown as a result.


Families will struggle, significantly more, over the next


few years. The work which began with a sure start goes on, some of


the most vulnerable in our society needs the most help they need. Less


money and more demand means things If you are proud of the Priory how


do you feel about it facing a cut of the eight per cent? They have


got a fantastic team, superb. It goes Biondi sure Start centre. They


will survive and be fine and move forward in a positive way. We are


in a tough economic time, we have got to fix the economy. I think


they will be fine. Are you surprised it has been backed by the


coalition government? David Cameron made a pledge to back it and


improve it. He accused the Labour Party of scaremongering. It has


illustrated the kind of cuts they are facing now. The government


tells the public we have given councils money for Sure Start, then


tells councils you have got 20 per cent less money. Money for an early


intervention, but it is something you can spend. On what you want.


The centres are doing tremendous work, as Brendan said. But they


will lose out. We mentioned earlier about a sea change and what the


services can deliver. What is happening is real localism. Central


government is not telling councils how to do it. It is letting


councils make decisions on what they need in their area. We are


increasing spending generates. have seen cuts across the country,


the thing about Sure Start, it was not just for children with problems,


it was for any child and their parents. For every criteria it has


been issued success. It worries me that if it fails and we see this


constant chip away, the community as a whole loses out. Is this small


government by the fault and not by people's choosing? It is because of


the economic inheritance, but this is about localism. Local


authorities making decisions for their residents. A the economy is


getting worse now, that is the problem. Now, time for our round-up


of political highlight over the last seven days. What a sparkling


This week the Queen was honoured by children in north up on her diamond


jubilee. It is a little-known fact that the household member is a go-


between for the Queen and Parliament. Mr Speaker, a message


from her Majesty the Queen. leader of UKIP revealed a secret on


his visit to Great Yarmouth where he made a admission that he once


voted Green. Peter Bone made no secret of his disapproval at a


children's minister, who failed to support the government. On occasion


I have spoken against the government, but I am not a


government minister. Why is she still a government minister? Royal


favourite horse racing was a subject of a new Bill, following a


change in the gambling laws. A man who can demonstrate his credentials


A quick word on the diamond jubilee. Lifting people's spirits at a


difficult time.. It did it shows off what we are brilliant at.


Something really exciting for everybody this summer. I think


people will enjoy it. I think most MPs and peers will be there. It is


something children will remember. When they are four or five, now,


they will remember this in 20 years' time. The Olympics coming to


your doorstep? I have to confess I am not that sporty, I don't know if


I will be there. But people will want to be there. I have always


thought the Olympics were a fantastic opportunity to show off


this country, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hope to get there


and I think it is a great thing for our country. Thank you both. That


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