16/12/2012 Sunday Politics North East and Cumbria


Andrew Neil and Richard Moss with the latest political news, interviews and debate including transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

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In the North-East. How much longer well our councils be able to afford


displays of civic pride like Christmas lights and flowerbeds in


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2170 seconds


We start with the welcome news that unemployment is down again by


11,000 in the North East. It has also fallen in Cumbria. Before we


get too carried away, it is still the highest rate in the country and


public sector jobs are still going. Tom Blenkinsop, we may have the


highest rate in the country, but it is falling fast? It has fallen


faster him this region than other regions. But we also have to look


at the adjusted rates. There is still a severe problems with the


economy, particularly the regional economy. He did not is that the


figures for your own concerted -- constituency... Why is it proving


difficult, more difficult, to cut it in this region? It is an


indicator of the national economy. There are anomalies of the them


back the figures. I want to know how we get those statistics. Unpaid


work experience is being counted as employment. That is an issue that


we need to closely examine with the government. Fiona haul, the


headline figure is falling. trend is continuing to go down, it


is not a one off will stop it is the largest a drop in youth


unemployment since 2001 because at the coalition government policies


are tackling this. There is that the youth contract, the Work


programme and new jobs being created. We know that a lot of


public sectors are still to go. Lots of our councils are planning


redundancies. The trend is in the right direction and we have made a


good start. We will carry on putting programmes in place to make


sure that there are alternative opportunities for people who do


lose their jobs in the public sector. It is about creating more


jobs. It is difficult for many young people to get into work, so


it we have to make sure that those programmes continue. For the moment,


thank you. Our top story this week is the rise


in rail fares. Passengers are being warned of and above the rate of


inflation increased in real fears. We have got reaction to proposed


there rises from travellers on Tyneside. Passengers should pay


some of the cost. Real fears are fairly steep. They can be difficult


to pay for, but it depends on the balance of subsidy versus what the


clients pay. I commute four days a week into York and it would affect


we pretty badly. I think that there should be something in place an


order to keep that from happening. I think it is better for the


environment if more people use the trains. I think the users of the


service paying more than the general taxpayer makes sense.


whole way they have gone with privatisation does not work. Prices


have been increasing for so many years. You do not get as good a


service as you debt in the past. I think the rail travellers is taxed


enough and it should be a burden shared. Let's speak to Craig


Johnston of the RMT. He has been lobbying MPs in London this week.


Is it not the fairest way to ensure that the biggest contribution to


affairs comes from people who use the trains? We need to look at the


way the industry is structured and the costs of that. If you look in


real terms, the privatised rail industry is getting around three


times more than British Rail in real terms in terms of subsidy. The


taxpayers lose out. Passengers lose out. We end up with train fares in


Cumbria other North East of England that are prohibitive and drive


people back into the car. The money has to come from somewhere however?


The train operating companies are blaming the government. the


industry needs to be denationalised? But that will


divert resources away from what we need, which is an improved rail


service. You can do away with a rail franchises are they come up


for renewal. Let's look at another waste. The debacle around their


west-coast mainline has caused millions upon millions of pounds.


�100 million thrown down the drain. That is a total waste and that has


basically given you an indication of what rail privatisation has been


since it started. But passenger numbers are still rising so people


are still prepared to do this. People do not have alternatives.


They have to use the railway so they are being ripped off. To get


into London before 10 o'clock, it will cost you around three had a


�30. -- �330. The reality of it is, if you want the railway to work for


passengers and communities, they have to be affordable.


Privatisation has been a rip-off. The metro dispute, you what


cleaners to get three transport? Where is the cost in giving


cleaners who work on the metro system a free pass? These are


cleaners who on the minimum wage. This dispute was also about wages.


At a time when the Labour Party is saying we should be encouraging a


living wage, it was said... It has to be paid for, yes, but workers


are being treated... There will be more action on this? There will be


more action and it will continue until we get a fair and reasonable


deal. Nexus should give those cleaners a free pass. It would not


cost them a penny. Do you think it is acceptable to go back to the


increases that are threatened this year? We would like fares to go up


according to the rate of inflation. The Liberal Democrats have said


that this week. We have managed to get it down to a rate of inflation


plus 1%. What we are managing to do with that money is a massive


investment in a electrification. We all know that it actually will


create thousands of jobs in the North East in the long run. Ideally,


fears it would not be so high, but we are getting value out of it.


argument is that it could have been a lot worse. It was inflation plus


3%? Taking a ball was just said about electrification of the


railway, we have seen already that north of you, there is not


electrification happening. For a North East rail travellers,


particularly in my area, there is no improvement whatsoever in terms


of service. In terms of the fears, do you think that their visors are


acceptable and if not, what is the alternative? We have to go back to


the table and look at the policy and how fears are cockily to. What


is not acceptable is to waste all �100 million on the West Coast Main


Line. We have to look at the rail system and looking other


nationalised system where there is public ownership as a model.


that what you favour? No, but it should be used as the benchmark.


This is a living standards issue. Petrol and diesel is going up,


energy bills are going up, inflation for the average person is


going up it is a crunch issue for the economy. The argument is that


that we are going to get nothing for this extra money in the North


East? We are getting it because we are getting a lecture vacation


elsewhere. -- electrification. no improvement to suburban


services? We will keep pushing for that, but you do not get everything


straightaway. We are getting something out of this. Do you think


the franchise system deserves to continue? It has had problems, but


I do not think the answer is nationalisation. I do agree that it


is a public advantage that people use the trains. We would like to


see real fears rise in with inflation or less than inflation,


but that is not where we are in the current economic crisis.


Thank you. Christmas lights in our towns and cities apart of their


festive season. But for how much longer? Local councils are facing


tough budget decisions. In austerity Britain, is there a place


for demonstrations of civic pride? Middlesbrough's Albert Park. Neat


flowerbeds, attractive sculptures, for 146 years, the very epitome of


civic pride. This place was set up all those years ago by the town's


first MP Henry Bolckow. The idea was simple. A people's park. A free


facility where the townspeople could escape the area's many


industries. But today, just like then, grim reality was just around


the corner. This week, Middlesbrough Council are looking


at budget cuts of �14 million, 200 jobs to go as well. Flowers and


parks are all very nice, but in this age of austerity, can we


really afford civic pride? Middlesbrough Council does plan to


cut �125,000 from budgets which cover parks and flowerbeds. But


that will still leave several thousand pounds spent on things


that the council does not legally have to provide at all.


I think that we have got to listen to what the public say. They like


to see a nice pleasant area, a green area and the council to keep


it in good condition. The actual cost of providing the flowers in


Middlesbrough is �40,000 per year, but in addition to that, we do get


in �30,000 sponsorship from businesses. I think we have to try


and afford civic pride. But the way we deliver it has to be done


differently. 16 miles away, another council are still paying for a


service that it does not legally have to. This is Darlington Civic


Theatre, a couple of years ago it was threatened with closure. While


a nearby council Arts Centre has shut, this place has stayed open.


Two years ago, we were spending �450,000 supporting this building.


But with some accountancy moves and by driving management costs down,


at the moment, this facility cost us around �100,000 a year and we


are looking to bring those costs down further. These are not bolt-on


extras as far as the people of Darlington are concerned. If you


asked them what does their community mean, what is it about


Darlington they love, what adds value to lives? I think they would


say this theatre. But the optional extras these


councils will pay for also include making the local high street look


all Christmasy. Turning the centre of Newcastle into a winder


wonderland costs the council �140,000 a year. But with �90


million of savings to find, the council is looking to cut the cost


of Christmas. It will continue to pay for Christmas lights until 2013,


but after that, it will be up to commercial sponsors. That means, if


you are a company, your name can be up there. The council says even


Grey's Monument could carry to temporary sponsorship to pay for


Christmas lights. Private firms already pay �50,000 a year towards


additional decoration in Newcastle. At a time of austerity, should we


expect our councils to shell out for fairy lights? I think that the


council owes it to the people. They get plenty of money. I am sure


there's other areas they could take it from. It is a bit disappointing,


isn't it? In your view, it is the job of the council to pay for the


Christmas lights? Yes. They look after the city. If the alternative


is having everything sponsored by people, then yes. The council


should keep paying for it? I would like them to, yes. But the Labour


council's Christmas cuts have had backing from some of their fiercest


critics. The Lib Dems say they have made the right choices.


constituents talk to me about their concerns about library closures and


respite care centres. I know it is important to keep the Christmas


shoppers coming into town, but on this particular occasion, we could


be making savings in this particular area rather than the


money I would like to see put into my local library certainly. Whether


it is sparkling lights or pretty flowerbeds, for years, our councils


have paid for stuff that makes us feel better about where we live,


but for how much longer? Tom Blenkinsop, can you justify


spending on Christmas lights when you were having to cause libraries


and plate -- closed libraries and care homes? I can understand the


logic... The what about parks? Parks are a far more permanent


feature than Christmas lights. In my constituency, they have always


clubbed together and got local businesses involved to pay for the


Christmas lights. It depends on the local set up and the locality. But


I think Newcastle has had the right priorities in terms of local public


services for people. Why should we expect councils to pay for these


things? In the past, generous benefactors and local this as


people had put her hands in their pocket. Looking at corporate


sponsorship is a sensible move. But it is always about public and


private partnerships. You will always have some public input in


terms of the infrastructure. But between Christmas lights and saving


a library, I would prioritise the library. The Government has made no


allowance for this. Christmas lights can be a economically


important to many towns. This is about quality of life. There is a


role for traders, even in small communities. In fact, in local


communities, in small communities, it is the community that have done


it. I think it is reasonable to get sponsorship to do the Christmas


lights. I do think with parks and gardens, there is a different thing


to bear in mind in that everybody benefits from a public space. If


you allow a public space to become neglected, it is an invitation to


vandalism. But the choices are harsh. It could be a choice between


maintaining a park and closing a care home. Some councils have


managed not to close the libraries. There are difficult choices to make


and I think that the councils do what they can. Darlington Council


decided to keep his theatre for economic reasons as much as


anything else. But when it comes to public art, can you justify it?


That was seen as a public investment, to try to attract


visitors to the area. They are decisions made by the local


authority to try to do that. will they be able to do that in the


future? It is very hard for local authorities to balance those


budgets. They are not dictating the budgets. In many areas, local


authorities are simply the messengers. But different councils


approaching it in different ways? That is for the electorate to


decide. They will decide which party runs are the local authority.


We are facing such hairy cuts, -- such a heavy cuts... Public


services will be hit even harder. There is a risk that something like


the Angel of the North would not happen now. It got an Arts Council


grant. It was not done that project manager for the council.


council was a driver? It supported it. But they supported it because


it was not public money going in. The cuts are there because the


economy was in a mess. There are other things. The Baltic, the Sage,


the Millennium Bridge might never have happened. Councils have to


decide and they have difficult decisions. Some things you do, the


ad revenue and bring visitors in and that is important. Thank you


very much. The pressure on budgets and mean that many people are


trying to raise extra of money. They are doing it in a variety of


ways. Inside out has been investigating some of the ways they


are trying to bridge that funding gap and you can see that tomorrow.


It is our final programme before Christmas. You repay we could use


some best of music on our 60 seconds this week. But


unfortunately, we are not allowed The population of the North East


has grown by 2%. That is since 2001. 400 civil service jobs should stay


in Darlington. This is a critical decision for our time. Business


continuity, retention of skills and the local economy, I trust that the


department will decide to keep these jobs in Middlesborough.


new MP, and debate Donald, -- and the McDonald made a speech about


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