28/04/2013 Sunday Politics North East and Cumbria


Andrew Neil and Richard Moss with the latest political news and interviews, including deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg discussing the local elections.

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In the North East and Cumbria: The towns and cities hardest hit by


cuts. And, we're on the campaign trail in South Shields as the by-


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2288 seconds


election campaign enters its final Hello and a warm welcome to your


local part of the show. With just four days to go until the county


council elections, the big hitters have been in the North. The Prime


Minister, David Cameron, met workers at the Pirelli tyre plant


in Carlisle on Friday as part of a rapid run through Cumbria. While


Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, was focussing on the contest in


Northumberland with a campaign visit to Berwick. But we're


concentrating on a different election this week - the contest to


be David Miliband's successor as MP for South Shields. With me in the


studio to discuss that - and the rest of the week's news - North-


East Euro MP Martin Callanan and the MP for Hartlepool, Iain Wright.


Let's start briefly with Hartlepool. It was named in new research this


week as the North East town that's been worst-hit by the cuts. Doesn't


this tell us what we already knew that basically Hartlepool was too


dependent on the public sector at the start of this process so it's


not surprising? I don't think it does say that. It shows and


demonstrates very vividly the failure of Government economic


policy at the moment. You can't have the public sector working in


isolation with the private sector, that's not how a modern economy


works and the whole of the North is feeling the effect of that, but


particularly Hartlepool. We are losing with a combination of


welfare cuts, cuts to local Government and other Government


contracts being lost, losing in the region of about �725 per person,


that's having a huge impact on the private sector and we are seeing


that with rising unemployment. list that includes Hartlepool also


high up in that list, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, it shows areas already


deprived are the ones being hit the worst by your policies. Well, it's


a consequence of the fact that those areas have high levels of


public sector dependency, high levels of welfare, etc, when we are


having to take painful decisions to get the national books in order


from a deficit that Labour left us with, obviously those areas will


suffer disproportionately. We need to get people off welfare, get them


into work, into the private sector so they're not dependent on public


sector handouts in the future. Thank you very much.


Now, there's a by-election in South Shields next week. But careful you


don't blink or you might miss the entire campaign. It's one of the


shortest ever - which means the nine candidates don't have much


time to grab the attention of South Tyneside's voters. I went to find


out how the race to succeed David Miliband is shaping up. Got a pen


and Heathrow Airport handy? Prepare to take note of the Labour by-


election victory recipe. Take a smattering of activists, a sprinkle


of Shadow Cabinet stardust, a very local candidate and mar inaid over


a short campaign. This could be seen as a contrast to campaigns for


Labour's previous MP, a man who arrived with no connection to the


town. Yet now in this by-election how local each candidate is really


seems to matter, even down to what they might have got up to with


their bucket and spade on the beaches. Here on her campaign


website is Labour's Emma Lewell- Buck enjoying fun on the beach. Is


she saying she would make a better MP than David Miliband because she


was born and bred in the area? at all. MPs bring different things


to the role and David was a different kind of MP to what I will


probably be. People in the area already know me, I am local, I was


born here and spent my life in Tyneside, people know I will be a


strong voice for them and will fight for them in Westminster if I


am successful. Almost every door I have knocked on people have been


excited to meet me. They're going to come out and vote. They're


fighting on the beaches here. Conservative Karen Allen, also born


and bred in South Shields is using the bucket and spade, to win people


over, too. Is knowing every grain of sand here that vital? It's


important that you understand who you are selecting, who you want to


be your MP. I wanted to reach out and a a personal level. On the back


of that leaflet my policies are there in black and white, the hard


facts of what I would like to do for this town. No, I found it


useful for people to connect with me and it is important where I am


from and I want to share that. those with more tenuous connections


can't resist playing the local card. Lib Dem Hugh Annand says his


relative ran the local paper, 125 years ago. He now lives in


Hertfordshire. He sees that as a positive. People in the town feel


they are neglected by politicians in London. I think coming in as an


outside Eric be that link -- as an outsider, I can be the link for the


political bubble in London and local people up here and represent


the entire constituency in that way without focusing on one particular


neighbourhood, for example. UKIP don't have much political history


in this town. Their candidate does live nearby, though. He has a


growing confidence he might be able to spoil that Labour recipe.


They've given these various parties a chance over the decades and none


have done what they said they were going to do. The people feel


neglected. They've become disillusioned with the main parties.


They're looking to UKIP for a fresh start. A party which has common


sense policies, which resonate with the average ordinary working man


and woman in the street. Given this is the shortest by-election


campaign for 70 years, it will be tough for anyone new to build much


momentum. That may turn out to be good news for Labour, but is it


good for democracy? And in addition to the parties


featured in our report, there's five other candidates fighting


Leaving aside the merits of the candidates we saw is it fair to


make voters make a decision in a campaign of less than - over a


fortnight? It's difficult, sometimes parties are dammed if do


you and dammed if you don't. My by- election in 2004 was 12 weeks long.


I remember it well! People complain it was too long. Given the piece


about the North being hardest hit by Government cuts it's right we


have a representative in South Shields fighting for South Shields


and to do that as quickly as possible. Other candidates say they


were doing the same. Having a quick by-election to ensure a


representative is there fighting is important. If aud postal vote, you


almost have to post it off almost as soon as the election is declared.


I have been to South Shields to campaign for Emma and have seen the


great work she's doing. She is a great local candidate. We haven't


got all the representatives here. It's important that South Shields


has a representative in parliament as quickly as possible. This is


fair game, this is tactics all parties will pursue, go for a short


campaign it makes it difficult for any opponent to get any headway?


That's why the Labour Party are doing it, of course. We know how


strong the Labour Party are in South Shields and south Tyneside.


You would do it in a Conservative area. We probably would, to be fair.


They want the campaign as quickly as possible. On the same day as


local elections in Northumberland and Durham and it prevents other


parties, we are all campaigning in those elections and prevents us


bringing activists from other parts of the regions to help, etc. So, I


suppose it's fair political tactics, we know what the Labour Party are


up to here. Is there scope for setting a minimum time for a by-


election campaign beyond a couple of weeks so so this doesn't happen


again. It's difficult to do that. To a certain extent I agree with


Ian, in some campaigns, certainly the one in Eastleigh in recent


weeks people were refusing to open the door, blocking letterboxes


because there was so much literature through them. You have


to get the balance right. People get sick of it sometimes and low


turnouts demonstrate that. The tradition is that the party who


holds the seat gets to choose when the by-election is within a


reasonable period of time and we know what the Labour Party are up


to here. All the candidates in South Shields have made a big play


of their local connections, either small or big. But if all


constitutes think that way, you don't get Tony Blairs or David


Milibands, it's short-sighted, isn't it? I don't think that is the


case. Candidates put themselves forward and think of different


strengths that they can provide for the electorate and I saw this


replacing Peter Mandelson in Hartlepool. People want different


things at different times. So to have a huge-hitter like David


Miliband was important. But equally, people want to see local, strong,


passionate campaigners from the area, as well. Will this result say


anything about either your fortunes or Labour's fortunes? I think it


will say something if the Labour Party lost, which would be a


political earthquake, hopefully will happen. Probably won't, though.


History is by-elections don't provide much information. They are


short, intense periods. People know they're not choosing a Government.


They use them often to send a message to the parties. Turnout is


very low. People don't really engage with them. They're great


sport for us politicians but I suspect don't give us a long-term


message. Will it say anything about the wide irpolitical situation?


will send a message to Government in the North - I am hoping we do


win, I think it will send a message that the policies are not working


for the north-east and they really need to think again and think about


an economic policy based upon jobs and growth. We will leave it there


and see what the result is on Thursday.


And if all that has whetted your appetite for the cut and thrust of


the by-election and you'd like to put some questions of your own,


there's a chance to do just that in South Shields tomorrow morning when


we'll be putting the main party candidates in the Look North "hot


seat". That's in South Shields near the marketplace from 11.00am.


I'll be there too to ensure fair play!


Now it's less than a month since people living in social housing had


to start paying for their spare rooms - what the Government calls


the under-occupancy charge and its critics described as the bedroom


tax. But it's already having an impact. Legal advice centres say


they're being deluged with new work. But tougher rules on Legal Aid mean


most people won't qualify for financial help to appeal against


the decision. Megan Paterson reports from Cumbria. Chris has


lived in this flat in Carlisle for 18 months. The Government says he


is underoccupying so his housing benefit has been cut and by the end


of this month he will owe his landlord money he will struggle to


pay back. This is the main bedroom. The flat has two bedrooms, one for


Chris and the other is a occasionally used if friends stay.


He has been told to let that room out if he is struggling with rent


and if he doesn't do that, he should move. But Chris is a


recovering alcoholic and he fears finding somewhere else to live


could unsettle his progress. It's difficult for me because with being


a recovering alcoholic I find that I have got myself settled in this


area and I feel like the upheaval of moving again could cause me to


relapse because it's a stressful thing to do moving house, if I was


forced to have a lodger I couldn't have somebody who was a drinker, so


there would be restrictions because if they were drinking in my flat it


could lead to me relapsing again. In theory, Chris could appeal his


underoccupiesancy case with the Department for Work and Pensions.


But he can't afford to do that. Last month, that appeal could have


been paid for with legal aid. But on the 1st April the Government


withdrew funding for all non- serious civil cases so that means


for people like Chris legal aid isn't an option any more. It's


important that we all understand... Charities specialising in social


welfare say the changes to legal aid mean the help they would have


once given to solve situations like Chris's are tkrasically limited --


drastically limited. Employment disappeared, debt advice


disappeared, welfare benefits advice disappeared. Housing was


reduced down to just the most acute cases of imminent homelessness. For


us that means that we used to be able to offer people indepth


specialist advice across that piece and look at their problem


holistically and help every aspect. Now to do a funded piece of


casework for a client we need to wait until they are facing an


imminent threat of homelessness. According to the minute is tree of


-- Ministry of Justice support is still available if people's lives


and homes are at risk. 1.7 billion a year will still be spent on legal


aid and a further �65 million has been budgeted to help charities


adapt to funding changes over the next two years.


The MOJ says charities can't afford budgetry constraints impacting


councils and Government departments. Still there's concern that under


the current reductions charities don't have money needed now help


deal with demand. Cumbria's already seen the closure of one CAB office


due to financial difficulties. think all of the welfare reforms


that the Government is trying to bring in needed, however, I think


they have dramatically miscalculated the impact of those


reforms on individuals and also on the agencies they're relying on to


support individuals through these changes. Unless something is done


soon to put additional resources in to the agencies who are helping put


the reforms through, it's likely the whole thing will collapse like


a pack of cards. It's a tsunami heading towards us and it's


terrifying. The verdict from the Citizens


Advice Bureau in Copeland. A tsunami, perfect storm really.


Biggest benefit changes in generations and doubts the advice


services that could provide help for these people and cuts to legal


aid to prevent people being able to appeal. First of all, you don't


need professional legal help, you don't need a solicitor to appeal


against these decisions. Tkoubg it yourself. -- you can do it yourself.


It's a straightforward process, why should the the taxpayer pay for


people to appeal when they could do it themselves. We have the most


generous legal aid system anywhere in Europe and the deficit that we


have requires some difficult decisions to be made and we have to


start getting those bills down a bit. We still are going to have the


most generous system even after these savings have been made. Going


on to the benefits changes themselves, we need to get this


into perspective. This charge has already applied to people that have


private landlords for many years and why should taxpayers pay for


something they can't afford themselves? �1.7 billion still


spent on legal aid. The bill was over �2 billion, it's fair enough


to save money? It's fair enough to save money and Government should


always look to see where they can make efficiencies, but this is


targeting the poorest and most vulnerable. Martin says tkoubg it


by yourself, actually some people who will have to appeal aren't in a


position to be defend themselves and the job of a good civilised


welfare state is to make sure that the legal system is not just the


preserve of the rich and elite. legal system is not the same as the


benefits system. This is not a court of law. This is just asking


the department for welfare to look again at a decision they've made.


It's a simple straightforward process. You don't have to get


professional legal help. Your Government is cutting every avenue,


whether it's Citizens Advice Bureau, whether it's debt advice, whether


it's the legal aid budget at a time when these biggest welfare changes


for a generation are taking place and they are being targeted at the


poorest and most vulnerable in our communities. We take the view that


you have to get fundamental welfare reform through that makes it


worthwhile for people to work and for taxpayers to continue paying


those bills. The Labour Party might believe they can continue spending


until it was going out of fashion but the raeplt is the -- reality is


the country was bankrupt. We have to make savings and it requires


difficult decisions. Would it have been sensible to spend money making


sure Citizens Advice Bureaus were geared up to get people - these are


your rights, you may not get a lawyer but tkoubg this. -- but


tkoubg this. -- but you can do this. Anybody facing homelessness is


still able to access professional help. They can still get that paid


for and legal aid. But we are saying in some cases people should


be prepared to fill in a simple form and appeal themselves, rather


than using these professional services. Aren't you on the wrong


side of the argument with the public? A lot of the public will


think I don't mind �350 million off this bill, when a lot is being


handed to lawyers? That's a fair point. But no one says that


actually when they're saying I would want to see savings in the


NHS because the pay is going on nurses. Most people class lawyers


as being different from nurses! Certainly I can understand that


argument, of course I can. But it's coming down to a fundamental plank


of Government policy which is let's cut support, let's cut help for the


most poorest and most vulnerable in our societies, whilst at the same


time giving a tax cut for millionaires that could have helped


pay... Briefly come back on that. What he said is not true. The tax


cut he talks about was less than the tax rate that applied under 13


years almost of Labour Party Government. What we are doing is


taking sensible structured approaches to welfare which says


that people should always be better off in work, rather than out of


work. Ian should support his constituents being in work rather


than being dependent on the welfare state. We have to leave it there


and debate about unemployment another day.


Now, if the local election campaign leaflets don't always make much


sense to you, spare a thought for people in Eden who had reason to


scratch their heads when a leaflet from the local Tories landed on


their doormat. Here's Megan with that - and some good news on the


jobs front - in our regular round- up of the week's news in 60 seconds.


The BAE systems factory in Newcastle has been acquired by the


Rhys group, 500 employees will be based at the former Armstrong works.


More good Newsround in Darlington where the -- more good news in


Darlington. Local MP praised the role played by


Darlington Council in keeping jobs in the town. These jobs were


important to the town. It's managed to stack up a very good business


case that persuaded the department to stay so I am very proud of that


council today. MPs have criticised a pay-off to the chief executive of


Cumbria Council. Carlisle MP John Stevenson raised the issue with the


Prime Minister. Would the Prime Minister agree this and similar


arrangements are difficult for the public to accept and are certainly


not good news for taxpayers' money? Finally, an election leaflet with a


difference. Householders were left puzzled when they received this


leaflet in Latin. Perhaps it was written by Michael


Gove! Now they may have fallen behind


UKIP in the publicity stakes, but the Greens believe they can make


some headlines of their own at this month's elections. And preferably


not in Latin. The party is contesting nearly 900 seats across


the country with significant numbers standing for election in


County Durham and Cumbria. So what can the Greens offer voters? With


me, from South Tyneside Greens, Shirley Ford. What's your realistic


target here? At the moment you don't have any councillors in any


of these councils as I understand, will it be a success just to poll


respectively or to win seats? are aiming to win seats,


particularly in Cumbria where we haveish aoufs -- issues like the


nuclear waste storage, in Yorkshire, in Durham, that's where we are


really realistically focusing. We will be delighted if we poll well


because these - a lot of these candidates, particularly County


Durham, are young, enthusiastic people who care about making a


difference and want to be elect and a couple have already been elected


as town councillors so we are on the way. I did look to see on the


the Green Party website to see if there was a manifesto, I have to be


honest, I struggled to find it. How are people supposed to vote if they


don't know what you stand for? it comes to local elections it is


very much our local parties that are putting their campaigns out


there. So County Durham have their own manifesto on their own website


which is a fantastic four-page document, they've really thought


through the policies they think will make a real difference to


boost the campaign. It's not just about manifestoes on websites,


though, it's going out there door- knocking, talking to people.


Campaigning. I will leave that to you. What is then the central plank


of how you tackle the biggest challenge for councils, which is


they are having to manage with less money? They are having to manage


with less money. But it is about what do you with with that money,


the priorities. What we are saying right across all of the County


elections is that the priorities that have been there for spending -


for investing in the wrong wrong kind of development on the green


belt, things like this, roads, these are the wrong priorities and


we need to be investing in jobs, local shops on high streets are -


bring in more jobs. How do you do that as councils? They can do a lot


to support markets and high streets as opposed to putting up money to


lure in developers for big out of town retail. Councils are spending


money. They're borrowing money. It's borrowing money for the wrong


priorities. Aren't they creating jobs with that? Very few. If you


look at the difference and it's not looking at the jobs they destroy in


high streets that we currently have. They're more job intensive. Thank


you very much. That's about it from us. Those


county council votes aren't being counted until Friday morning - so


stay tuned to your BBC local radio station and Look North for all


those results. There's full coverage throughout Friday on the


News Channel, too. And I'll be up all night on Thursday bringing you


the result of the South Shields by- election. I'll be tweeting regular


updates from the count, too. We're back same time, same place next


Andrew Neil and Richard Moss with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg discussing the local elections.

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