14/07/2013 Sunday Politics East


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Two councils, one staff. Is sharing the only way our local authorities


can survive? And MP Nadine Dorries on UKIP, expenses and reality


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2218 seconds


the programme. I'm Etholle George. Coming up:


Share and share alike - the two councils with one staff. Is this the


only way to go when money's tight and getting tighter? We could not


continue as we were before. Two small district councils cannot


afford now to be on their own. need partners. There is going to be


treasure to merge the whole thing. It will certainly save money but I


think it runs the risk of alienating people from local government,


because the authorities that they live in are too big.


First though, let's meet our guests. Stephen Giles-Medhurst leads the


Liberal Democrats on Hertfordshire County Council and is also a Three


Rivers district councillor. He was head of Customs at Stansted Airport


before going into local politics full-time.


And the woman who went into the jungle and out of the Conservative


party, for six months at least. Now, Nadine Dorries is back in the fold,


as the Tory MP for Mid-Bedfordshire. Of course, she's never afraid to


speak her mind - famously describing the Prime Minister and the


Chancellor as a "couple of posh boys". Welcome to you both.


But let's talk first about public sector payoffs. This week, BBC top


brass were given a dressing down by the public accounts committee for


huge pay-offs to senior managers. And here we have our own row


brewing. Norfolk County Council has launched an inquiry over a payment


of �106,000 to its former Chief Executive, David White, who was made


redundant in April. Councillors were not told about the full amount. The


Conservatives controlled the council at the time. The then-leader Bill


Borrett said there was no intention to cover anything up. We paid the


Chief Executive 35 -- �35,000 for being made redundant. The honour


money is three months notice, some money towards his pension. That is


standard. The thing is, it he was paid a very large sum of money so


all the features are big. From your standpoint on


Hertfordshire County Council, does a �106,000 payoff to a Chief Executive


sound like too much? It is obviously a large amount, nowadays. The


question is whether or not that perch in person was -- that person


is contractually obliged. It goes back to how he was employed


originally on whether this was discretionary. This is not the first


time we have had this problem in the East of England. We had the �200,000


payoff to the Chief Executive in Suffolk a couple of years ago. It is


a question of how the contract was drawn up originally. Has that person


been paid what they are entitled to or been given extra bonus payments?


Are we developing a witchhunt mentality towards the public sector?


I don't think it's a witchhunt mentality. Its accountability. The


problem is that many of these contracts which are drawn up I've


done so with poor HR practice. So that when the time comes for a Chief


Executive or whoever to leave, people in the BBC even, a massive


pay-out seems immoral to the general public, although, legally, they are


correct. You cannot criticise that payment because legally, it is as


the contract was drawn up. It is as it should be. One has to ask who


drew it in the first place and, morally, this is something that will


be Republican Guard -- will be repugnant to the general public.


We've been talking about a council chief executive but MPs look set to


lose their �33,000 Golden Goodbyes when they leave Parliament. Are you


happy with that? When I first became MP, we used to get two and a half


years salary and it was dropped down to �33,000. I think the problem is


that the average life of an MP is eight years. Your future is not in


your hands. It is in the hands of the electorate. You have to except


that. And MPs pay - a 10% rise being


While we're talking about public bodies saving money, here's a tale


of two councils. Mid-Suffolk and Babergh are already next door


neighbours. But now, the relationship has become much closer.


They're the first in the country to share one staff team between them.


It will save �1.8 million per year, every year. And that's 9% of the


joint annual budget. District councils are under huge financial


pressure. So are mergers the only way to stay afloat in the future?


Liz Perryman really cares about local housing. An active member of


her local tenants forum, she's now on the Joint Housing Board because


Babergh Council and neighbouring Mid-Suffolk have pooled their staff.


Now that they have merged, it is a lot better. So you would see it as


an improvement? In terms of service, DS. Do you put that down to the fact


there is one single team for both? Yes, I think I do. I have to say, I


was a bit dubious. Now, it is working and it is all set up


properly, it seems to be better than it was. These are Babergh district


Council offices in Hadleigh. These are Mid-Suffolk's. Both councils


have agreed to completely integrate their staff into a single team,


serving to councils. These days, the leaders of the two


councils have to spend a lot of time together. But if the result of a


referendum in 2011 had been different, there would have been


only one of them. A super authority would have been created, following a


total merger of both councils. But the vote wasn't in favour - so


they've gone for a complete staff integration instead. If you merge,


you are sending out a very different picture. We felt that we should go


out to the public. We had agreed between the councils that it had to


be agreed on both or it would not go ahead. It was not agreed.


Mid-Suffolk were for, Babergh were against. We still went ahead with


integration and transformation. could not continue as we were


before. No two small district councils can afford now to be on


their own. You need partners. I think the communities expect us to


do things differently. We live in a changing world. Local government


cannot stay as it was. There was a referendum a couple of years ago,


did you vote? No.Did you vote? did and said no. I like to have it


here, the further away they go, the less chance of having any, you have


local democracy, is what I thought you're going to have. It seems to


want to get bigger and bigger and less personal. I voted against it


because I would sooner have local accountability. But it's not


happening, is it? It's pretty difficult to argue that the staff


should be merged and yet the number of councillors should remain the


same. There is going to be pressure to merge the whole thing. That


brings a certain difficulties. It will certainly save money but I


think it runs the risk of alienating people from local government because


the authorities that they live in are too big.


Whatever the concerns over the strength of the links between


communities and their authorities, the traditional model of district


councils standing alone appears to be in its death throes. It is very


hard to see how the separate authorities can be retained. There


will be pressure to merge and get better. While that might bring the


economies of scale, it also brings disadvantages of people being


disconnected from the local authorities they live in. Merged


councils might be cheaper to run but they could lead to even more


political disengagement. If we are changing everything else, why do we


still want to keep the same number of councillors? Why? What rationale


is behind it? There is not one. Those who would like more


councillors representing fewer people and a more local democracy


might disagree. Brandon Lewis is the Local


Government Minister and also the MP for Great Yarmouth. He told Andrew


Sinclair that sharing staff is the way only forward for district


councils. Absolutely. We are actively encouraging local


government conferences for small district councils to look at going


down this type of fraud. There are variations and looking at what is


right for every council will be slightly different. As a matter of


principle, this is where a small districts should be going. Is there


any evidence that this does save money? Absolutely. One of the first


regions to do this was outside our region and the saving about 20%.


When you have a �10 million budget, that is substantial. But regularly


in terms of what the taxpayer funds. Many councils have done it. There


are some very good examples as to how it works and the benefits.


an interesting match, in Suffolk. Babergh increased council tracks and


-- council tax and Mid-Suffolk slows theirs. That confirms why this works


so well. You keep your local democratic sovereignty. Those


councillors make decisions for their area. The fact that you get


different decisions is fine. Babergh can make the right decision. The


fact that their management team is shared with Mid-Suffolk does not


change that. Even though Babergh increased taxes


and therefore want to spend more money and Mid-Suffolk does not.


of the reasons that some regions were able to do this is that they


had a low base in the first place. It could be the have reticular


services they want to focus on spin Bunny. That just proves that it


works. Those local councillors, in that area, still have the


sovereignty to make decisions for that area. Sharing management


doesn't change that. In anything, you share offices and can get


different views. Different experience. Is there not a danger


that, even under this system, councils to become more remote and


less accessible? You still have the local councillors in place, but the


management is overseeing a much wider area and therefore cannot know


the local area as well. I think what makes a Council accountable and


local is the counsellor. They are who we elect. I want to see


councillors have the best officers possible. It is the councillors were


the decisions that. That is why it is important we keep that local,


accountable democracy. Sharing Management allows the best financial


prospects. This Government said that they will not go in for local


government reorganisation. That is because it is expensive and


top-down. This is about localism. We can encourage councils to do what we


think is right and show them best practice, like Mid-Suffolk and! Are


now showing. There are many others I could name but it will not take up


all my time with that. -- all your time. That is very different to ours


drawing a line and saying this is what we shall do. We are saying this


is the right way to go for local taxpayers but they can decide who


they wanted to partner with and how they want to structure. Then it is


locally driven and decided. Are we seeing the end of our


district councils? I don't agree with that. If residents want mergers


of council that is how the board. In this instance, they did not want


that. That was the Democratic well and the two councils accepted that.


Since local government is facing enormous pressures, reduction in


grants, shared services, backroom offices, in terms of staffing, is


the way forward. It is not necessarily merging councils. The


third of need to be local accountability and local


decision-making. There is an issue, if you have a much larger authority,


many people say county councils are remote if you live in one end of the


county, 15 or 20 miles away from County Hall. There is the danger of


that. Do you agree with that? As long as the services are good, do


people really care whether they are shared? I agree about local


constable to and local councillors. Able to want that. -- local account


-- accountability. They wanted to be somebody they can approach easily.


In Bedfordshire, we got rid of County Council and went unitary a


few years ago. We now have three unitary authorities. You have to


take into account the diversity of the areas where they operate offered


and Luton and a rural area in the middle. We have three councils who


address the needs specifically. in reality, a merger is on the


cards, that is not what people voted for. It is not terribly democratic,


is it? No. That would be for residents to tell their local


councillors at the next local elections but that is not what they


want and make it clear. There was a difference of opinion about the


council tax. Is a worry about councillors' caseloads? If you are


in a disparate area between urban and rural, there will be a different


element of casework and different pressures. Areas of deprivation.


They give problems for residents and the need to go to the council more


with Nadine Dorries. You've just been re-adopted as Mid


Beds' Conservative candidate for the next election. But you said in May


that you're considering a joint Tory-UKIP ticket, is that still on


the cards? I think the Conservative party have made it clear that there


will be no joint tickets and they will not be going forward in a


relationship with UKIP, it is not on the cards. I was not particularly


concerned or myself, to be frank. I think the issue for me was more to


do with my councillors. Many of the councillors in mid-Bedfordshire are


all died in the wool Conservatives who embody those values. Actually,


they have exactly the same policies and belief as any UKIP councillors


standing next to them. I did not see the point of there being two people


standing on the same ticket. For me, it was about saying to UKIP that


we believe in many of the same things you do and so take your


conservative firepower elsewhere. You're not defecting but you hardly


curry favour with the leadership - famously calling David Cameron and


George Osborne "arrogant posh boys". Do you regret that? I never regret


anything I do. On the subject of MPs expenses,


you've said you're not going to claim them and pay everything out of


your salary. Is this anything to do with two ongoing investigations into


your expenses? No. Actually, I have not claimed travel expenses for a


while now. I think as a high profile MP, I am a sitting duck. Anybody who


wants to have a pot at me can do so. All I have to do is pick up the


phone and make a complaint. That is a position you put yourself in.


have taken the decision that I do not want to claim any more


expenses. I have never claimed for late-night meals or child care.


there a witchhunt? It is interesting because somebody else in the BBC


said to me that there is a small group of people who talk to each


other every single day about you on Twitter on the Internet. The plot


what they are going to do next. do you feel about that? I don't read


it or see it but have to deal with the consequences. If I just removed


myself from the expenses, it will cost me �30,000 a year and means I


am doing my job for free. What about the money you earned from


appearing on I'm a Celebrity. Are you going to declare it? You say you


haven't earned it but it must have reached a bank account somewhere.


One of the inquiries, I am very much forward to that report. When you


have that thorough report, you will have that answer. Are you not go


into answer any questions? I can't, there is an investigation ongoing.


All I will say is wheat until the report is produced. I am looking


forward to that. When you expecting an outcome? How do you feel about it


hanging over your head? Very soon. I can't wait for it to come at. I


can't wait for these reports to comment. The summer is coming and I


would quite like to to just get over that. You did get paid, did you not?


Wait till it comes out. You're not denying that you got paid? Wait


until the report. What about Strictly Come Dancing? That is


nonsense! That is a joke! I think somebody said to me on Twitter, I


don't even remember, wasn't on Twitter or in an interview? Somebody


ask me if I would do it and I said laughing that I had enough of


reality TV and then said it would be fun. Would you do it?No. Your local


party chairman told us he'd tie a ball and chain to your ankles to


stop you. Would you do other reality TV? No. My constituents loved it, it


was not inappropriate. What might -- what it has done is given me access


to people I never had access to before, like teenagers.


It's been a good week for our fisherman and Harlow's Robert Halfon


has been standing out from the crowd in the Commons.


Here's Ian Barmer with our 60 second round-up.


Good news, this week, for east coast fishermen. Not the big trawlers but


the one-man bands in small boats. With Government support, they now


have a bigger slice of North Sea quotas. It is a lifeline for many of


the fishermen along our shores. They want that quarterback, we want our


fishing industry is to survive. MP Peter Bone introduced a bill to


eradicate modern-day slavery. His ten minute rule bill passed


unopposed but still needs government support.


Energy Minister Greg Barker came to the Corby steelworks to hear they're


losing business because gas and electricity are so expensive. And


how could you miss Robert Halfon in a suit like that? The Speaker


couldn't. Anything to catch your eye, Mr Speaker. And neither could


the Communities Secretary. One knows when one has been tangled.


The harlow MP is a man who knows being noticed is a big part of the


political game. A very bright suit, Nadine Dorries.


Is it important for MPs to keep a high profile? I think so. I think


Robert should have gone into the jungle! Robert wearing that suit and


doing anything he can to make sure that the residents of Havel know who


he is and now his name will do him, serve him good.


Is profile just as important at a local level? Have you got a


brightly-coloured suit in the wardrobe? I have some colourful


shirts but it is important to keep a high profile on the issues that


matter to residents. Aren't we a bit obsessed with


profile though? You went into the jungle to make yourself a household


name, you say, but aren't you playing into a superficial celebrity


culture? I don't think so, no. It's really interesting because I think


one of the most important things as an MP is to make sure that people do


know who you are and can access you and understand you and know what you


were like. The one thing that I do know about being a high profile MP


is that it means my caseload is much bigger than it ever was before. By


office is far harder worked than it ever was before. That is because


people know who I am and now they can approach me.


Does profile translate into votes? We will know at the next election.


It may or may not do. It depends on whether you can help those


residents. The higher profile means you get more casework and if that


helps people sell their problems and can find a way out for the issues,


that is a good thing. Thank you for joining us. That's all from us for


the summer, as the MPs go on their holidays next week.


But you can still keep in touch via our website, where Deborah


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