23/09/2012 Sunday Politics North East and Cumbria


Andrew Neil and Richard Moss with the latest political news, debate and interviews including chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and communities secretary Eric Pickles.

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In the North East and Cumbria, we talk to Liberal Democrat leader


Nick Clegg. Also, can bus routes be saved from


the axe by giving councils in Tyne and Wear more control over the


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2005 seconds


Hello, and welcome to your local part of the show. We are back every


Sunday with all the latest political news and views from right


across the North East and Cumbria. Coming up, as dozens of routes


across the region face the axe, there is a battle for control of


the buses. Would putting councils in the driving seat deliver a


better deal for passengers? My guests here at the start of the


party conference season are the North's longest-serving MP, Sir


Alan Beith, and one of the rising stars on the Labour benches,


Catherine McKinnell. Sir Alan, you are a former deputy leader of the


Liberal Democrats. Has Nick Clegg done the right thing with his very


public apology this week? Good morning. There has to be a first


time, politician apologising. I think it was the right thing to do.


The issue of the pledge was clouding out what we should do


about higher education. The policy we have now got is better than what


we had before. There are no upfront fees and part-time students benefit


as well. That was all consumed by the fact that we made a promise and


that promise was not kept. A lot of people would say that Labour have a


lot to apologise for. Sue politicians apologise if they get


things wrong? There are occasions when an apology is due and should


be given, but it is hard to take seriously an apology from someone


who promised us no VAT, just before the election, and then they


delivered it in government. They pledged not to raise tuition fees


and then Dave -- and then they did in government. I think this apology


was a cynical ploy. Nick Clegg may be in apologetic


mood but he still has a lot to do to win back disillusioned


supporters in the North who have deserted his party since the


general election. With the highest unemployment in


the UK and further public spending cuts to come, the coalition has


been accused by Durham's council leader of picking up where Mrs


Thatcher left off. Nick Clegg trumpeted the National Growth Fund


as part of the solution, but a recent report called it a


scandalous failure. Then there is the idea of regional pay for public


sector workers. Liberal-Democrat MP Tim Farron described it as an


insult to workers in the north. Our correspondent met up with the


Deputy Prime Minister this week and asked him to what extent he he


agreed with the Cumbrian MP's comments. I certainly agree with


the view that if what people have in mind by regional pay is


something that will widen the North-South divide, I will flatly


reject that, blocking it. Not least as a Sheffield MP with many people


in the public service in my constituency. You say you will stop


it, does that mean it is a red line, because we understand that George


Osborne is very keen on it? Yes. We have asked independent pay review


bodies to look at this issue. It is worth bearing in mind that the


Labour government introduced at form of local market pay in the


courts service. If they come up with conclusions which in my


judgment would make the North-says divide worse, I will not support it.


Let's speak about the regional growth fund. You are in an


apologising mood at the moment. Will you apologised for the delays


in getting money from that fund? is very important for people to


remember about the regional growth fund that while I was the person


who created this fund in a sense, I want to see money out of the door


as rapidly as possible. I am frustrated at the delays, but it is


important to remember that the projects themselves start before


the checked his -- before the cash checked his received from Whitehall.


People do not need to wait for permission to start their projects.


Private businesses need an assurance that the money is on its


way. That is the reason why 50 % of the project have actually started.


50 % is not a very good figure? am saying it is a lot more at --


the projects that have got the regional growth fund money. I am


afraid it is one of those things were we have set up a brand new


growth fund that will create hundreds of jobs around the country.


It is precisely designed to help regions like the North East that


have been over-reliant on public sector employment. It is working


and it will get faster and faster as time goes on. Enterprise zones,


and other initiatives from the government, we have got them in the


North East, but not in Cumbria. How soon until we get them in Cumbria?


We need good proposals around the country. We have given money it to


various proposals where it is obvious that they would help with


growth. So they would not help Cumbria? Each place will have to


justify why our regional enterprise zone it is good for that area.


Remember what each zone is? There will be tax breaks, exemptions from


planning rules, preferential treatment for businesses in those


areas. He it is right for us in government to set the bar high.


will not grant this status to everybody. The case has got to be


proven. More bad news this week, 300 workers' jobs going at


caterpillar in County Durham. What message do you send to people like


that? There is a great deal of anxiety about the future in that


situation. It is a personal tragedy and we will have to work to counter


it. Sir Alan Beith, is it not obvious that paying regional pay,


at teachers in the north last, it is going to damage the economy? Why


does Nick Clegg not just say, we're not going to let this happen?


is effectively the message we are delivering. We have got to listen


to what the pay review body says. It is a reality that if you want to


get some people in some occupations in London, you have to pay more.


Any move to systematically pay teachers less in the North, we


simply would not accept. Is there any harm in investigating this


regional pay our idea? There are academics that say this would help


people compete for Labour? And create more jobs? I am reassured by


what Sir Alan is saying, but the worry is that a Liberal Democrat


promise is not worth the paper it is written on. It is not true to


suggest that with trying more money from the public sector in the North


East will create private sector jobs. How do you know that? There


is less money in the economy being spent by local people in local


businesses. It is not just the Labour Party which is against this,


but local businesses as well. I hope that what the Liberal-


Democrats are saying, that they will block this in government, I


hope they will deliver that. There is no sign of the serious economic


revival. Does the Government have anything else? There is no sign of


a serious economic revival across the world. Changing the world is


difficult. But there are things you can do? Yes, and I want you to


recognise that that is a key factor in the present situation but the


North East manufacturing industry is doing well compared to other


parts of the country, and the Government wants to encourage that


with things like the development of offshore wind technology. It takes


time to get some of this money through, but I think Nick Clegg is


right, we should not be paying out money without being sure that it is


delivering the jobs and expansion that we want. Properly targeted


money to help things like infrastructure could help.


money is not being spent on infrastructure? They are is a


completely different set of measures to spend money on


infrastructure. It is making improvements in this county. There


are also apprenticeships. Catherine McKinnell, with the recent falls of


unemployment in the North East, perhaps the Government's strategy


is working in the North East? think these figures are worrying


and we should not misinterpret what is being said. Long-term


unemployment is rising and youth unemployment is rising and we are


stockpiling a massive problem for the future. I worry for young


people coming into the job market today. The EU see any signs of the


Government's strategy working? of the improvements in the North


East are because of the work the previous government did. The


regional growth fund was put in place and the previous scheme was


abolished. 37,000 jobs were promised, but only 5,000 have been


delivered. That is a massive worry for the people who are being made


an implied and two are looking to join the workforce. Your party has


continued to lose councillors in the North East and Cumbria. Will


you have to console the people at the Liberal Democrat conference?


Some places have done very good indeed. A Newcastle, we did


significantly better than the one before. It will take us time to


rebuild now we are party of government. When you are in


government, people will take a dislike to the things that happen


and they get frustrated. But you will get back to the point were


people realise that what he did was the right thing and they will


support you. -- that what you did. More than 1,500 people have signed


a petition set up by a Wearside MP demanding a change to the the way


our buses are run. They are supporting a London-style service


called a quality contract. It would pass control of routes and


timetables from the bus operators to councillors from the five local


authorities in Tyne and Wear. The idea has been fiercely opposed by


the local bus companies. But would it do anything to keep unprofitable


routes open or cut fares? Fergus Hewison visited North Tyneside to


find out. Buses, you wait for one, and then


they cancel the service. This is where people who live in this


village could once get the service straight to Newcastle. But the


service was re-routed. The bus company say that the rate was


under-used. We have got to go to a different village to get in


Newcastle. It is the walk down to the village in the rain and the


snow and the wind. You are probably are out of the house for an hour


longer because it takes longer to get home. I have to go to the


Freeman Hospital to get treatment and I do not know how I will get


there. I will have to get a taxi. My wife cannot walk. It is tempting


for bus companies to reduce services where there are no


passengers, but this is a scheme that could see those routes stay


open. It is called a quality contract. Companies would be


awarded contracts to run buses on certain routes and be paid money to


do so. The local authority would make up any shortfall between the


fares from the passengers and the amount of money required. A similar


system operates in London. We need a system that is more comprehensive,


that is easier to use and understand. We need a comprehensive


network, not just as series of individual measures. We need is to


deliver value for money for taxpayers. Bus companies dismiss


comparisons with London and most want a partnership agreement


between them and the councils instead. The bus companies also


believe that this could leave a big hole in the public finances.


Quality contracts are very expensive and they rely on


passenger growth. The ratepayer will have to subsidise the


difference. Such is the anger, legal action may be looming from


the bus operators. The business would be at risk, and we cannot


afford to lose another business in the North of England. This fighting


cock has alarmed some people, among them one councillor who belongs to


the region's transporter authority. This will lead to a war between the


transport authorities and the bus companies. It will end up hurting


the passengers in terms of the taxpayers and the cost. I cannot


see the bus companies taking this lightly. The Transport Select


Committee accused bus companies in the North East of running a non-


aggression pact, not competing with each other in some places. It is


something that they deny. The bus companies receive almost half of


their income from the taxpayer already. That will not change, but


the system will deliver greater transparency about how the money is


being spent. The passengers have to wait for the outcome of this war on


the buses. Catherine McKinnell, with cuts as they are, whoever runs


this, the councils are the bus service, there will be cuts. What


difference will this make? It is dead are stating for the people who


are affected by their routes being cut. I have had this problem in my


own constituency. They are being cut back because they are not


profitable for the bus companies. You can take an overall view of the


requirements of the people within the vicinity and how can the bus


routes the best directed to those people. These are some of the most


vulnerable people that are losing their routes. Elderly people. The


routes are being pulled overnight and it is very difficult for


vulnerable people to accept. Alan Beith, it is not affecting


your area, but should it do? does, because in rural areas the


bus services are subsidised. Local authorities are deciding what


routes there should be and subsidising the bus companies to


provide them. But they are not always the routes that people want.


I have had the same experience as Catherine McKinnell, routes been


cancelled. People get very angry and upset when they lose access to


buses. Is this not part of the problem caused by cuts introduced


by your government? Part of the problem is money. There is not


limitless money available. It seems mad to cut services that help the


environment and people? That is why there is a significant bus subsidy.


Local authorities do have a role to play. There is scope for some kind


of partnership. I would be appalled if the bus companies went to court


and the local authorities spent lots of money on legal fees.


Effective partnership between local councils and bus companies would be


worthwhile. If this leads to a battle in the courts, that will not


help passengers? Nobody wants that, the cost, the time wasted on


battling this out. I think Bridget Phillipson summed it up well. This


gives a stronger voice to the taxpayers who are subsidising the


services, and local people who really rely on these services.


you get politicians involved in this, do they not take their


favourites? They will look at who is working and Wear, and they will


decide that is the bus rate they will bother about? No, they will


focus on the needs of people. It is mostly elderly people in my


constituency that need to stay connected with their local


community, to get to the doctor. It is unrealistic to put that burden


on people at the moment. The quality contract provides a good


opportunity to rationalise the services. For a


What an amazing summer it was with the Jubilee and the London Olympics.


-- what an amazing summer. But I guess you may have been left


feeling a little flat once it all finished. But do not worry because


there is something to cheer us all up to as the nights draw in. 60


Seconds is back and so is our very own champion sprinter, Mark Denten.


On your marks, get set, go. The West Coast rail line through


Cumbria should be renationalise the according to the union that


describes the franchising process as costly and shambolic. More than


1,200 residents in Sedgefield have signed a petition opposing cuts to


the opening hours of their library. Mothers to be in Northumberland are


facing a gruelling journey to give birth after the suspension of


services at Berwick maternity unit. This announcement caused great


distress to much-respected midwives locally. It caused fury in the


local community where we have had a large rally, and habitation, with


names being added to it minute by minute. In Newcastle, City Deal to


speed up regeneration was approved, followed swiftly by �6 million of


government money for faster broadband. After a three-year


campaign, county councillors voted down a plan to set up a brand new


council in Durham. The maternity unit in Berwick,


there have been protests and you had the debate in the House of


Commons. What happens next because the maternity unit remains closed?


There is a review taking place and it needs to come up with plans to


enable the majority of mothers to have their babies in Berwick. They


will have the back-up and the safety that they need. That can be


achieved by giving midwives wrote opportunities to serve in busier


units. There will always be some birds that have to take place at a


bigger centre because there are risks involved. -- births. Do we


not have to accept in a world where money is short, and where this is


about medical expertise, that you have to concentrate some services


in bigger hospitals? Yes, and we have seen that occur with the


children's heart unit recently, where they were rationalising those


services, but what is deeply worrying is where it is an


economically driven change, where the cuts are purely driven by money.


Before the election, David Cameron promised 3,000 brand-new midwives


and none of those have been delivered. It is worrying that


midwives services and the importance start in life for a


newborn baby could be undermined or they could be put in danger by


these cuts. No MP it ever wants to support the reduction in services,


but does some of this not go back to the previous government? It is a


difficult issue. Sometimes MPs are not clear enough. Where safety


requires services to provided elsewhere, in a centre with more


back-up, but you cannot carry that to the extreme, childbirth and out


with 50 miles. -- childbirth outwith a 50 mile region.


And that is about it from us. Do join us again next week at our new


regular time of 11 o'clock when MPs for Hartlepool and Stockton will be


among my guests. We will also be hearing from Labour leader Ed


Miliband in the second of our party leader interviews. There is more


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