23/09/2012 Sunday Politics North East and Cumbria


23/09/2012

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

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Nick Clegg. Also, can bus routes be saved from

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

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2005 seconds

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

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Sunday with all the latest political news and views from right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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lot to apologise for. Sue politicians apologise if they get

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

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

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

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

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

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was a cynical ploy. Nick Clegg may be in apologetic

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

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supporters in the North who have deserted his party since the

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general election. With the highest unemployment in

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

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

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Thatcher left off. Nick Clegg trumpeted the National Growth Fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Labour government introduced at form of local market pay in the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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important to remember that the projects themselves start before

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

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

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Private businesses need an assurance that the money is on its

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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various proposals where it is obvious that they would help with

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

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

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

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planning rules, preferential treatment for businesses in those

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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North East manufacturing industry is doing well compared to other

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

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

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

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

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delivering the jobs and expansion that we want. Properly targeted

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money to help things like infrastructure could help.

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

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completely different set of measures to spend money on

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infrastructure. It is making improvements in this county. There

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

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

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

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

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unemployment is rising and youth unemployment is rising and we are

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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timetables from the bus operators to councillors from the five local

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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for bus companies to reduce services where there are no

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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deliver value for money for taxpayers. Bus companies dismiss

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comparisons with London and most want a partnership agreement

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between them and the councils instead. The bus companies also

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

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Quality contracts are very expensive and they rely on

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passenger growth. The ratepayer will have to subsidise the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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see the bus companies taking this lightly. The Transport Select

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

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

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

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

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the system will deliver greater transparency about how the money is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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routes are being pulled overnight and it is very difficult for

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

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

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bus services are subsidised. Local authorities are deciding what

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routes there should be and subsidising the bus companies to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Effective partnership between local councils and bus companies would be

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

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

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

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gives a stronger voice to the taxpayers who are subsidising the

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

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

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

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

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

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constituency that need to stay connected with their local

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

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

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opportunity to rationalise the services. For a

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

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

:54:21.:54:25.

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

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

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

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

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Cumbria should be renationalise the according to the union that

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describes the franchising process as costly and shambolic. More than

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

:54:49.:54:54.

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

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facing a gruelling journey to give birth after the suspension of

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services at Berwick maternity unit. This announcement caused great

:55:03.:55:09.

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

:55:09.:55:14.

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

:55:14.:55:20.

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

:55:20.:55:25.

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

:55:25.:55:30.

government money for faster broadband. After a three-year

:55:30.:55:35.

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

:55:35.:55:44.

council in Durham. The maternity unit in Berwick,

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

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

:55:53.:55:57.

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

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

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

:56:07.:56:11.

achieved by giving midwives wrote opportunities to serve in busier

:56:11.:56:17.

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

:56:17.:56:27.
:56:27.:56:29.

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

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

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about medical expertise, that you have to concentrate some services

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

:56:43.:56:46.

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

:56:46.:56:51.

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

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

:56:56.:57:01.

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

:57:01.:57:06.

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

:57:06.:57:09.

midwives services and the importance start in life for a

:57:09.:57:13.

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

:57:13.:57:21.

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

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

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

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requires services to provided elsewhere, in a centre with more

:57:39.:57:45.

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

:57:45.:57:55.
:57:55.:57:58.

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

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

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

:58:05.:58:08.

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

:58:08.:58:11.

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

:58:11.:58:13.

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