17/02/2013 Sunday Politics North East and Cumbria


Andrew Neil and Richard Moss with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including Conservative Chairman Grant Shapps and Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan.

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Welcome to the Sunday Politics. The gloves are off, it's all guns


blazing as the parties fight it out In the north-east and Cumbria, a


rethink on Newcastle's cuts. We talk to the council leader. And are


disabled people being treated fairly by the Government's will for


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2156 seconds


First up: there's been many local council cuts - and many protests.


But nothing has made headlines quite like Newcastle Council's


decision to axe 100 per cent of its arts budget - along with ten of its


public libraries. But after a ferocious spat with leading lights


in the arts world and some unwelcome national publicity, comes


a re-think. The leader of the council, Nick Forbes, joins me now.


You have now found �600,000 to go into a fund to help the arts groups.


Was this a massive No -- massive miscalculation? There has been an


intervention from Harriet Harman. It is quickly -- pretty humiliating,


isn't it? A no one questions the value of the arts and culture. The


question is about how to fund them when the arts are competing for


funding with things like rubbish collection and social cool for the


elderly. What we have come up with is an innovative and creative way


of funding the arts from switching from revenue subsidy to Capital


Investment model by setting up an investment fund for culture and the


arts in Newcastle. Nothing to do with that, was it, Harriet Harman,


telling you to get your act together? I spoke to run a week


before their Nisbet to tell them what we were doing. She was


absolutely delighted with it. This is work that has been in progress


for a very long period of time. We have been discussing this with arts


organisations and the Arts Council since last December. There seems to


be a pattern with this Budget. Some libraries and swimming pools of,


closing, some not, but you seem to have no choice to cut these, and


now it seems there is a choice. What are we to believe? The reason


why we have had a three-month consultation is to allow people to


think of alternatives. We have not said that we are going to pass on


the cuts down the line. We have said this is what will happen if we


do not do something different. And communities have responded


magnificently over the last three months. Where we had, for example...


There is not any extra money. What people have come up with his


creative solutions and ways of doing things like delivering


libraries in partnership. One for every respite care centres for


disabled children? The threat to close them caused families


immeasurable stress. A Labour MP in the city has said that you could


have stopped families having that stress. During the consultation


process similar units have closed in North Tyneside and in Hexham.


We're not think it is appropriate to abandon families at a time when


there is no other alternative. it that you have to put those


families through this? The families have come up with good ideas about


how we could extend the building and market the service is better


and get better use out of the existing capacity. What we're doing


is committing to exploring all the alternatives. That is the


responsible thing to do at a time when we are facing unprecedented


cuts. You make embarrassing cost to the Government, dramatic cuts, then


you think again. The sky has not fallen in. Newcastle still faces


�100 million worth of cuts. We have had an honest, opulent conversation


about what those cuts mean in practice and how the City can work


together to mitigate against the worst excesses of them. These cuts


are still damaging in many ways, and there are further cuts down the


line which the Government says it is going to announce in future


years, and that fills me with fear for the future of our public


services. This is exactly what Eric Pickles and the Government one, big


cuts from government making council leaders having to get all the blame.


They have to make difficult decisions. I wish that there had


not been as political grandstanding going on before the decisions are


taken. It sounds to me as if to save a number of services which the


City would clearly like to save, the council is at long last looking


at alternative ways of funding them. That is the very thing that has to


be done when you have economic pressures of the kind that we


currently have. That is not good enough. It is �100 million. He says


that there are still huge amounts of cuts that have been passed on by


the Government. It is exactly what the Government wants, to pass the


blame along the line, to pass the buck. We all know that this country


has had a very tough time. We know that the last government left us


with a massive debt, and that applies to Labour-run authorities


as well as others that they might have got to cut their cloth


according to what is there. But, grandstanding like has been going


on in Newcastle, taking it to the brink and worrying people


unnecessarily, when other ideas could have been brought forward


sooner is, in my view, unacceptable. This is damaging to the region. We


have had talk about other councils "not doing a Newcastle". It is not


a great advert for the north-east. I have great sympathy with local


authority leaders over the cuts they have to make. They have got to


find �174 million worth of cuts over four years. That is a slash to


the bone of services and will clean air. Things are very difficult that


local authorities are having to do. I have got a lot of sympathy for


the decisions being made, because they are very difficult. The cuts


that we are facing in the North East are far worse than some of the


local authorities down south. I would say to him that some of the


cups and the South of England, Tory councils, not as bad as the ones


we're being asked to make in the north-east. There are lots of


council cuts and savings going on. Does it surprise you that the


biggest fuss was about cuts to the arts, and not cuts that affect


vulnerable people? Local authorities are having to make


unbelievably difficult decisions. You try to make cuts that or save


money in the short term. Lots of places round the country are


cutting leisure centres, because that is seen as an easy way to save


money. You wake up again social care or respite homes or old


people's homes, those are things that you absolutely cannot cut


without causing massive difficulties. It is a tough time


right now. I do not end the anyone having to make those decisions. --


envy anyone. Disability Living Allowance has long been the most


common benefit paid to disabled people - both in and out of work.


But that's about to change - and the North East and Cumbria will be


one of the first parts of the UK to be affected. Our correspondent Mark


Denten reports. There are just over 3 million people in the north-east


and Cumbria. Among the crowds, there are six in with a 60,000 of


us with disabilities. In a time of squeezed budgets, how do retarget


many of those who need it most? Karen is an occupational therapist


to became disabled through a back injury. Since then, work has become


even more crucial. Without work I think I would not function. There


are lots of disabled people who want to work. They would probably


do anything just to be given that opportunity. Caroline faces extra


costs getting around. The Disability Living Allowance helps,


but a shake-up is coming. Disability Living Allowance


claimants get up to �526 a month, but in the last year, the benefit


cost that in �13.5 billion. Ministers say that that money could


be targeted better solar system called personal independence


payments is coming in. That will mean new assessments to decide what


people get. That worries Karen. She is partially sighted, and she lives


in Newcastle. When the weather is fine, she's out and about. She will


be reassessed to see if she qualifies for the new benefit, as


she has an unchanging condition. She does not understand why. It is


not like having a bad back. If you have a bad back, you can have


treatment and you can get better. Therefore, these are the people who


should be targeted to get off Disability Living Allowance. Not


people who have got an ongoing condition. Disabled people in this


region will be among the first in the country to be affected by these


changes, because by April, under a pilot scheme, new claimants will


have to apply for that new benefit, personal independence payments, but


eventually, all Disability Living Allowance claimants will be


reassessed to see whether they qualify for the new benefit. Round


here, that means thousands of people. Diane is not convinced


those people will be fairly assessed. GS Employment Support


Allowance and Disability living Allowance. After being diagnosed


with breast cancer she had more bad news. I received a letter stating


that I was fit for work along with my p 45. A how did you feel about


that? The devastated and shocked. They cannot get that right, how can


we expect them to get the Sea Benefit right? Diane is appealing


against the assessment carried out by the private company, at odds.


They say they works Whitley to Gately is given to them by the


Government. Opposition MPs are concerned about the disability


benefit changes. It is being driven solely by getting the finances


stunned. But we also have to look after people properly. This benefit


has been around for 20 years. But the % of people who have caught it


do not have any corroborating medical evidence. Fear of targeting


or blunt instrument? The Government begins phasing in the new system in


just seven weeks. Everyone is in favour of people with genuine


disabilities in getting the benefits they deserve, but only


sure assessing people, there might be people who just do not need or


deserve it. We have to again cut money from the welfare budget, but


many concerns from disabled people are around the testing process. A


lot of people have conditions that will not change and only ever get


worse, and there is an argument about whether you have to be


assessing all of those people. The new criteria for personal


independence payment is much stricter. The Government said


400,000 people will not make the transition from Disability Living


Allowance to personal independence penis. And we're not going to know


the real effect for another couple of years. A but you want more


disabled people being given the opportunity to work and not rely on


benefits. The Government always says it wants support to go to the


people with the most need, and I have no difficulty with that, but


the difficulty is with people who need that little extra bit of help


and support. Disability living allowance gets disabled people rice


to live in society, because it costs more to be disabled, to get


to work, to have extra heating, or extra support at home to carry out


daily tasks. The danger with slashing those benefits is, that we


just push costs further down the line and we have people who need


temporary residential care, much more help, and I would like to have


seen a cumulative impact assessment, which did not happen, but we will


find out in the next two years. this is short-sighted, if you're


looking just to cut the welfare bill, have disabled people put into


stress, losing benefits and ending up in crisis, so be it?


Disability Living Allowance has been in place for 20 years. All the


major parties agree that the kids to be reformed and reviewed,


particularly with the changes in attitudes. Do you need to reassess


people like Karen, who has a sight problem that is not going to


change? I understand that. It is a sensitive area. But, the people who


are currently on Disability Living Allowance, the vast majority of


them are not going to be assessed or have changed or at least two


years. While we see what happens with the new personal independence


payment, which is concentrating on helping people live independent


lives, concentrating on those in greatest need of help. What will


happen is, this will come in in 2014, the Government are going to


review his progress before we do anything brother with those who are


currently on Disability Living Do you think the Government is


having to clear up the mess that you left? When we left the benefits


bill had gone down by �7.5 billion. With Disability Living Allowance,


the Government is saying that it is going to a regime that is going to


save us, 500,000 people not been able to migrate on to that. They


have decided to make cuts, so the assessments have got to match that


cut. I think they might have got it the wrong way round. The people who


are going to suffer are those who are the most adorable. But the


welfare bill is huge. -- the most vulnerable. Every single change,


you will pause. Nobody is saying that there should not be some kind


of assessment regime for Disability Living Allowance, but do the


assessments and fit the budget accordingly. You do not make a cup


of �2 billion, and say to 500,000 people, they are not going to be


able to have the personal independence payment. Tanni Grey-


Thompson, have you got evidence that the Government is picking on


people, on David disabled? It is not as simple as that. The system


has to be simplified, it has to be better, it has to save money. I do


not think they have got the assessment process correct. 40% of


appeals are successful. We need to do more to get the assessment right.


Although one in six of the population has a disability, only a


handful of our MPs are disabled. And it seems despite the success of


the likes of Jack Ashley and David Blunkett, their political


representation hasn't really improved substantially in recent


years. The same appears to be true in our town halls. So what would it


take to persuade more disabled people to put themselves up for


election? Lynne Jefferies is a well-known face around York. She


has campaigned on disability issues for 20 years. Labour offered her


the chance to stand for the city council two years ago. After some


thought, she said yes. I thought that if I was a councillor, that


might make a difference, been part of the party machine rather than


something outside. But last year, she quit the Labour group. She felt


she was not being allowed to speak up on the issues she cares about.


There was an attitude that disabled people are people that you do


things for. And that is what councillors generally miss,


people's experience of being a disabled person is so valuable. In


terms of policy making. She remains on the council as an independent.


But she's one of only a smattering of disabled councillors in the


north. Steve Wilkinson is that kind of person you can imagine entering


politics. A campaigner on disabled access, but as for running for


office, he is not interested. of a first-past-the-post system.


You're either going to hear the concerns of the Lib Dems or UKIP,


or you will become independent and if I did, I would not be elected. I


would not be able to represent the people that I did. Some believe


that change is possible. I think that the person has got to be there,


got to be supported, and in certain areas of their home life, but over


the years, things will change, and we will get a much better mix.


Those who have made it into politics believe attitudes to


disabled people amongst parties will be harder to overcome than any


physical barriers. What's of the barriers start because councillors


do not engage properly with disabled people and unless we tried


to do that we will not get people wanting to be councillors, to be


honest. Tanni Grey-Thompson, you got into politics in any unusual


way, but what do you think stops more disabled people getting into


politics? A number of things. Often they do not know how to go about it.


I am a crossbencher. I am in a privileged position to be able to


see my mind and nobody can tell me off, for that. I was not elected.


When we had a debate about how the Lords would be reformed, the only


way I would be able to stand for election is as an independent and


that is almost impossible to do. But many of the public are switched


off by politics in general because it seems to be quite antagonistic.


And most people want to be more collaborative, I think. It would


you accept that political parties sure some of the blame? -- share.


They share some of the blame but should also share some of the


credit. Since I became an end p 35 years ago things have changed


dramatically in terms of the attitudes displayed towards


encouraging people with disability to get into public office. I have


seen a dramatic change in that is all for the good, but we have got


lots more to do. I think there are some good, positive sides to this,


and a major party should do everything possible to encourage


people to join us. What about all disabled shortlists, like you are


all-women shortlists? It is something to consider. You want to


see as many people from as many canes of backgrounds to be involved


in politics, not just party politics. Do you think the party


system is feeling? I think we have got to think on both sides of the


House of Commons were you have got David Blunkett and Ann Begg on the


Labour side, and you have others on the Conservative side making a


great contribution to parliamentary life. Now it's Sunday lunchtime and


I don't know about you but I just fancy one of those delicious beef


ready meals I keep hearing all about on the news. But first let's


tuck into the feast that is the week of politics in 60 seconds.


Full of quality ingredients and not North Cumbria University NHS Trust


and Carlisle is to investigate high mortality rates fall in the


investigation at Stafford hospital. With concerns over horsemeat, when


Newcastle MP asks what is in beefburgers? She says that poorer


families worry most. Is he saying that in some of Fry's a beefburger,


they have to research the entire supply chain rather than relying on


the Government and the Secretary of State? Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson


could be investigated in a row of a Petacci assembly plant. The


Conservative MP says he did not declare �5,700 in donations before


speaking about the project. Ian livery once the Football


Association to give a more to the non-League game. And the Prime


Minister praised Cumbria at a special event in the Commons. David


Cameron said that Cumbria brought back happy memories of swimming in


Ullswater. I bet he was freezing. Let's talk about this complaint


that has been picked in. -- put in. About accepting money from Petacci?


We had a anniversary dinner in November and Petacci agreed to be


one of the sponsors. That edition was accepted in accordance with


parliamentary rules. The parliamentary authorities were


advised, every step of the way and it is fully transparent. What has


happened is the Conservative headquarters have heard about it


and tried to create some mischief. The complaint is that you asked


questions in the Commons. I have made one speech. On 30th January,


on Europe, in which I mentioned Petacci, and before I made the


speech by spoke to the parliamentary authorities about,


should I make a declaration, and I was advised not to. And that's


about it from us. We're off for our half-term break next week but we'll


be back on March 3 - when the MPs for Hexham and Easington will be


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