03/02/2013 Sunday Politics East


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Here in the east: The changing face of our councils


as they make millions of pounds of savings again this year.


And the childcare costs that have risen higher here than anywhere


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2421 seconds


Hello, and a warm welcome to Sunday Politics East, I'm Etholle George.


Coming up later in the programme: We reveal how much more council tax


you're going to have to pay this year as our local authorities shave


millions off their budgets. And changes to childcare, will more


children looked after by fewer staff really make a difference to


I am not knocking it down Number Ten's door because we do not get


Tax Credits. The only way we can get back on our feet is a small


people work. But first, let's meet our guests


for this week. Andy Sawford, the recently elected Labour MP for


Corby and Councillor Kilian Bourke, the leader of the Liberal Democrat


group on Cambridgeshire County Council. Let's start with this


week's 60th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1953. The storm


surge claimed the lives of more than 300 people in this region as


coastal defences were overwhelmed and sea water swept two miles


inland. Since then, there has been millions


of pounds spent on sea defences in this region, but it's still around


a tenth of what Holland, who suffered the same surge, has


prepared for. Is it enough? concern about flood defences in


this country have, especially in constituencies like mine, is that


we have not looked at all the evidence about how we are likely to


experience increased flooding. We cannot always deal with one of


events. We can look at what more can be done to prevent animal


flooding. We cannot legislate for these natural disasters. The is no


way that we can prevent a massive event. You cannot build a Great


Wall of China along the coastline. Progress has been made. Instead of


destroying marshland, we are building marshes on the coast. If


there is flooding, it will be directed into those. I do not think


we cannot prevent disasters. what we can expect in the council


tax bills. Three-quarters of councils in the east have given us


their figures. �338 million is to be shaved off council budgets in


the East with the loss of at least 1230 jobs. 29th of our authorities


of freezing their council tax, taking advantage of the


Government's financial incentive. 8 the forehead teas are increasing


their council tax. -- ate a authorities. -- 8. In December, we


learn that the government was reducing the amount it was giving


to almost every council in the east. Reducing services is a way of


making savings. A growing number of councils in our region are trying


to make up the difference by finding the ways of generating


income. Local councils used to oversee


local planning, or provide towns and election or rubbish is


collected. The streets are kept clear of litter. Today's councils


do much more. This is the right Comp Centre which is part-funded


and owned by the local council. It provides office space for 55 local


businesses. Councils have a wonderful opportunity to regenerate


and bring goodness to the area. We are in a national economic crisis.


�50 million of inward investment is expected to Qamar here this year.


Renting out business units is not any good for the economy, it makes


money for the cancelled so we can keep council tax alone. This is the


latest money-making venture. 45 million new homes are being built.


It is very important. Government grants are being squeezed. Council


taxpayers paid too much tax. We have to raise income to subs detect


-- subsidise the TEC council tax payer. With less public money


available, councils have realised they have got to do the heavy


lifting and find ways of creating income. The council here offers


corporate membership at its leisure centres. But is also making money


from renting out business units, a man via authority to freeze council


tax for a 5th year and not cut frontline services. Half the say


this -- half the savings it has to make will be offset by new income.


It is about growing income. You have to think a measure of. We have


got a programme of growing income wherever we can. That is not by


increasing fears, it is by driving more people or more volume through


the council, treating it as a business. South Norfolk is making


money from the government's new homes bonus. So, too, is Uttlesford


in Essex. The government wants to see more councils generating their


own funding. But critics say it is not as easy as it sounds. It is a


very important feature of local government that we are there to


have a local approach, to meet the needs of our local communities.


They will be different. The ability to generate income will be


different. This council has found ways to generate extra income that


says it will not be an up to avoid cuts the two services. If you were


in a prosperous area, they -- they may not be the need for those


authorities to have any support from government. There may be a


continuing ability to generate even more income. The government wants


to see councils play more of a role in encouraging local growth and


wants them to be less reliant on the animal central grants. Some


have found a way to make this work, others fear they are being left


behind. I am joined by Brandon Lewis. Following on from the issues


raised in the film comedy you accept that some councils will find


it easier and to be more able to generate income than others? We are


already seeing some local authorities moving forward in that


way for a while. The forward- thinking councils take advantage of


what we have done with a local Act to give them more power. They will


get the most benefit and we will see more authority is looking at


best practice around the country are bringing back home. It is about


circumstances. Some councils do not have the space to build houses.


They have more elderly people or more deprived areas. That is the


reason you have to look at it as a whole package. We are moving into a


realm where we want to change the way local government is financed.


It is about what local authorities can do to help themselves. That is


also why we have changed the finance to take into account growth


in business rates. There is a incentive for local authorities


there. A isn't there a danger that you are creating two Tia councils?


All authorities have the same opportunities. Different


authorities will take advantage of the opportunities in different ways.


It is about giving the local councils the power for the people


who know their communities to deliver the best products for their


communities. What about the incentive to freeze council tax? IS


that not a private -- bright? central government do our best to


help the hard-working taxpayers. We are saying to people we have had a


freeze in council tax. We have frozen it for two years. We're


putting in place the opportunity for a freeze for a third year. We


want councils to take advantage and help hard-working taxpayers in our


communities. Andy Sawford, or your council has changed its mind. The


proposed 2% increase has gone and they are going for a tax freeze.


How are services going to be maintained? I have always


understood we were looking at a freeze because we recognise that


times are very tough for people. You have got to put these changes


into wider context. Lots of people are being charged to receive cancel


services. School transport costs more money. Social care services


are charging people. I do not think we should be taken away with the


Tory propaganda that they are helping ordinary people. The


poorest people in our country are suffering most, because of the


council tax benefit reduction, it is them that are going to be paying


the price for the Tory's failure to get the economy getting going and


keeping our services going. Let's talk about Cambridge are having to


make savings of �32 million. It looks set to cat 99 jobs. By you


looking to freeze cancel tax? council has already committed to


increasing council tax. I would say that the offer on the table from


central government is not a bribe, it is a con. The money that is


being offered, the equivalent of a 1% council tax increase this year


would disappear the following year. That is not how finances work. You


have to keep providing services. you want to come back on that?


that last statement, that is wrong. We have made it very clear that it


will not go after a year. It is there for the next few years. There


is a real issue. There are hard working people for we need to help.


The council tax freeze recognises that people are having tough times.


It is very good to be able to say that we are freezing council tax.


We had big rises under the last government and we have given all


the local authorities the chance to freeze it for a third year. Let's


talk about councils to what raising the council tax to a percentage


point just shy of the 2% that requires a referendum. Eric Pickles


this week has described the councils as democracy dodgers and


said they are treating residents with contempt. Do you agree? WHAT


he was referring to was more than that. They are rather a few Labour


authorities in the north shore are using a very technical system of


levies to avoid it and go at about 3.5% in reality and avoid a


referendum. That is simply not acceptable. With a authorities who


are looking at the opportunity to go at 1.95%, these people know that


at 2%, you have to have a referendum. If you are that close


to 2%, you are trying to dodge a referendum. This is a hypocrisy


from central government. They do not have a referendum. They have


cut working tax benefit in my constituency. There is one role for


local councils, cutting them any year after year by huge amounts


with huge consequences for services, but then this little bribe, I agree


with Kilian Bourke, this is a con. What about the general principle?


What about the councils to what are raising council tax just below that


2% level? If central government says you cannot increase council


tax by a 2% or more without a referendum, that means that you


what I'll be allowed to increase council tax by a slightly lower


than that to raise funds. And to start attacking of authorities for


doing that is a complete nonsense. We need to take account of the


particular circumstances of different local authorities.


Cambridgeshire county council, Labour and Conservative


Administration voted for the best project. As a result, we are �70


million out of pocket. That will wipe have -- that will wipe out


half of the council tax increase. That is a great example of public


transport where people are paying more. In my constituency, people


are paying a fortune. This week has seen Norfolk MP and


charter minister Liz Truss announce plans for nurseries and commanders


to be allowed to look after more children as part of Coalition


efforts to cut child care costs. Nursery cost in the east are higher


than the national average. The most striking increase is in shocker


cost four under two euros. -- to read year old. We spoke to someone


facing those costs. Francis Camps has two children under the age of


four and used to work in financial services but had to give up work


because of the cost of childcare. went back to work full time after I


had my first child and put him into a mystery because the cost of one


was not too bad. It has about �45 a day. But when I had my second child,


it was too much at once. I was trying to get two children are


ready in the morning and getting them to nursery. I interviewed a


couple of nannies, considering taking that approach, but the cast


is so much higher. It was never going to happen. -- cost. It was


not worth doing it. We thought we would end up being divorced if we


went down that path. After much discussion, we decided one of us


had to take a step back from full- time work. I am more than happy to


pay for our own children. That is perfectly valid. As a tax payer, I


have contributed a lot to society and some of my taxes would have


gone to other services where people needed help. Now, maybe it is my


turn to have some help. Under the new plans announced by Liz Truss,


in nurseries from September, one adult will be allowed to look after


four babies under one instead of three. All six 2 euros instead of


four. But any of their qualifications meet new standards.


I spoke to her a little earlier. The idea of reducing the ratio of


carers to children has caused consternation to many parents.


the moment, we have a situation where parents are paying the


highest cost in Europe and staff in nurseries are paid six than 60 an


hour on average which is only just above the minimum wage. -- �6.60.


We can get better quality by moving to a system like they have in


countries like France where they give nurses more flexibility but we


also get better paid, highly qualified staff. The outcomes are


beneficial for children. That is the direction I want us to move in.


Nursery say it will not save money. You have said just add that these


people are not by any means highly paid. I think it is important that


we also need to raise quality. At the moment, there is patchy quality.


Some places are very good, others are not. It is not very good in


deprived areas. We need to make it more available for parents. But the


moment, it can be difficult to find a full-time nursery place. Our


plans are about improving the quality and availability. Britain


spent the same as France does on early years care. They have better-


paid staff, higher ratios, higher satisfaction and parents are paying


half the cast. We can do it better. By have spoken to a lot of


nurseries for are keen to take this approach. They are keen to at


school their staff to operate in different ways to look at the way


they do on the Continent. When parents say that, they will be


encouraged. Tu understand that families like the Kemps think it is


their turn to get support. We did announce in the mid-term review


that we want to help working parents with childcare. Along with


this reform to improve the efficiency of our system and


improve the quality, we are looking at helping working families. When


will we know what the government plans to do for tax breaks to help


with a child care costs? We will announce our plans soon. But the


moment, I am making sure we get value for money for the �5 billion


that we spend. Compared to other countries, we are spending as much


money, but we are finding that nursery workers are underpaid for


the important job they do and that families are paying too much. We


must be able to get better value for money. At least this is an


attempt to reduce the problem. You must welcome it. Sometimes, I


wonder. These ministers, you show them announce these policies and


say that everybody supports them. If Liz Truss can show me any


childcare organisation that has not come out about this, I would be


gobsmacked. Everyone thinks it is a bad idea. She cites international


evidence. The most comparable but - - example is Holland where they


changed the ratios and it was a democratisation of child care which


pushed the costs about go at quality. But better qualifications


for people working in the industry must be a good thing. It is


important that people providing childcare have good qualifications.


That is why they think it is absolutely wrong that the county


council and they are cutting the funding that is provided for people


who provide a child-minding to get the qualifications they need. The


other thing is that just the other day others were four local children


centres talking about what they do. That is a great legacy of the last


Labour government that made a great difference to the quality,


availability and affordability of childcare. Can the government


afford to help families? POPE fully. I think the government is doing


something good by looking very seriously at soccer as an issue.


From 20th April 13, there is going to be free childcare. -- child care


as an issue. There will be free childcare available to poor


families. They are redressing the issue of childcare. More widely,


there is the issue of the squeezed middle. If both parents have to


work, especially in affluent areas, like Cambridge, then we have to


provide local accessible and affordable childcare. But it is a


government that you are supporting that is cutting child tax Credits,


Child Benefit. All sorts of ways that we help working families to


pay for shocker and meet the other cost of raising children. -- pay


for child care. We will have to leave it there. Now for our


political round-up of the week. Someone found themselves on the


naughty stuff. -- step. It is unfair that sixth-form


colleges are forced to pay VAT when schools do not have to according to


this MP. Will my Friend agree to investigate whether this can be


corrected so they can be a level playing-field for sixth-form


colleges? RICHARD Bacon complained that many countries are still using


illegal methods of reading cakes and called for a ban on the import


of the meat from parts of Europe. - - and Derwyn Jones. So I'll us do


not think they will benefit from the downgrading of the coastguard


station at Great Yarmouth. It is the anniversary of the


reorganisation of this hospital which was taken over by a private


healthcare company one year ago. It has missed its financial targets by


of the �3 million. John Birt Coe's rabbit did not miss its mark. You


would not behave like that in the courts. Do not behave like that in


this chamber. What you make of the fact that some of the pig industry


in Germany and some of it in Portugal are simply not compliant?


The key point to make is that the legislation has only become


effective this month. The European Commission has already issued finds


in the process -- finds to the countries that are not compliant.


Those who do not comply. Is that why people are opposed to Europe?


ABSOLUTELY right. But there are rules that Britain is following,


other countries should be made to. That is why we need a powerful


government with a powerful Prime Minister who has influence across


Europe. That's all for now. You can keep in


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