22/01/2012 Sunday Politics South West


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In the south-west, the plan to save our feeling high streets.


And of the small businessman who says ministers must do more to help


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1771 seconds


A warm welcome to the Sunday politics South West. Coming up...


David Cameron says a vote on a hunting ban will happen before the


election, but one hunt master says he thinks the Prime Minister should


wait for a Conservative majority. They will not discuss it again, but


this is the one chance. And I am joined by the Lib Dem MP


Stephen Gilbert and the Labour councillor for Torbay, Simon Cowell.


-- Darren Cowell. This week brought a disappointing


employment figures for the South West, and in Cornwall the number


out of work has risen sharply. Are you worried?


Absolutely, there is no doubt it is concerning. We need jobs to support


families. It is good news we are under the National average. We need


new initiatives to really play on our strengths, our natural


environment and beaches, to ensure that people are able to access


well-paid jobs. The figures are also particularly disappointing for


Torbay, Darren Cowell. How disappointed are you? A hugely


disappointed, not just for the area, but for the individuals


unemployment devastates. We have one in four households in Torbay


where we have no one in work at all. That is having a huge impact on


child poverty, where we have 22 % of children living in poverty. It


is a major concern for us all. Staying with the economy, MPs have


been debating Mary Portas's plan to save Britain's high streets. One


small businessman in tour key -- toured he says that ministers


should change regulations to help high streets compete with out-of-


town stores. Take a look around Paignton and you


can see that retail is struggling. A recent Government report into


high-speed performance found that a third of Britain's town centres


were degenerating were failing. Spending in town centres was going


down, while and of town shopping centres and online solid Corp.


Torbay's town centres are in that group. -- sock it caught up.


John Dougherty believes the High Street is hugely disadvantaged


because the business rate and parking provision are hugely skewed


in favour of out-of-town stores. If you take small amount of money


because of the nature of your business, your costs are the same


as the store next door that may be taking an enormous summit of money


because their business is slightly different. It does not relate at


all. -- an enormous amount of money. Land values and of town are much


cheaper and business rates are based on market values. At the end


of last year, Mary Portas compiled a report designed to help to a high


street back on to its feet. It is being discussed this week in the


Commons. It is understanding consumer needs, tapping into the


social needs of consumers, not just about retail. It is about creating


community driven places. People want to get together and meat. What


will enable them to do that? What is the high street of against? In


Torquay, there is there Willows, a large stores and lots of free


parking. It is an -- it is essential that in


the regeneration of our high streets space is given for car-


parking, either free or very reasonable or three for a certain


period of time. Something else highlighted in the


report is business improvement districts. Retailers pay a small


percentage extra on business rates but have a collector of a mood of


money to spend on enticing people into the high street. -- collector


Lee -- collectively have an a mega of money.


A we are encouraging more independent retailers back in two


towns. Rental values are falling at the moment, and most landlords are


always willing to do a deal with someone to keep the shop occupied.


We will not go back to a nation of small shopkeepers, but we will be


having that flavour in the town centres. That is where we are going.


Torbay is hoping a new relief road into the borough will help drive


growth. Local minister Grant Shapps will give his response to the


review in the spring. Darren Cowell, that is your account.


What could you make of the cafe owner saying he is at a competitive


disadvantage took out of-town supermarkets because his business


rates per square foot are more? I think it is the way in which


business rates are calculated. It is driven by the fact that you have


good shop frontage on a high street, compared to a large store out of


time. Yes, there is opportunity within the system currently for


businesses to apply for business rate relief, but if you do that you


are going to have good bridge that gap by cutting services in of an


areas. Stephen Gilbert, you are part of


the Government commission that has commissioned Mary Portas. Do you


think she can save a high-speed, or is this just a bit of celebrity


gloss? I think the Mary Portas review has


come up with two interesting ideas that I think can make a real


difference to some of our high streets. The first thing is that


people want high streets to be destinations. There has to be more


on offer than you can get online. People want somewhere they can come


and socialise, and I bank that is a bike using town centre managers to


put on events people want to come in for. The second is the issue of


car-parking. Businesses in the town centre tell me all the time they


think car-parking charges are too expensive. My thought is that we


can perhaps look again at summertime charges in look of a


reduction in the winter. -- to do with a reduction in the winter.


Surely the money has to come from somewhere, if it does not come from


car parking? We have just taken an extensive


review of car parking in Torbay, and it yields around �5 million,


which is significant to pay for some of the services people demand.


But you have got to offset back against the loss of trade in town


centres. One of the things the Government should group is a


temporary reduction in VAT, which would help stimulate the economy


and safeguard jobs. Do you agree, Steven?


I think it is about getting a balance. If you look at the balance


between winter charges, where we want to get more people in our town


centres, particularly in regions like the South West that do quite


well in the summer months, perhaps that balance can be struck in a


different place. Also, being imaginative about events being held


in town centres so that people want to make journeys away from laptops


into the Sant -- town centre. Last Sunday the Prime Minister


promised a free vote on the hunting ban before the next election. The


debate had been mentioned in the coalition agreement, but David


Cameron's renewed commitment has shocked some people who want to see


the ban overturned. They are worried a vote with the current set


of MPs would be lost and they want the premiers have to wait for a


Conservative majority. -- the Prime Minister at to wait for a


Conservative majority. The Cury Hunt in west Cornwall.


This hunt has been gathering for around 150 years, with traditions


passed down through generations. For the past seven years, things


have been very different. Instead of chasing a fox, the hounds follow


a specially laid trail. Now the hunters are sensing a possible


opportunity of a return to the old ways, sooner rather than later.


The coalition agreement mentions a free vote on repealing the 2,000 --


2004 hunting act. It is an issue that will come


forward, and the House of Commons will decide. My own view is that


the hunting ban does not work and is ineffective. Are you afraid you


will lose? It is a matter for the House of Commons, I want to bring


this forward. The Prime Minister is clear it will


be before the next election. problem has always been it was


taking criminal law into an area where it did not belong. It is for


the House of Commons to decide and the Government to act on that after


that. Will it happen in this Parliament? We have said it will


happen in this Parliament. David Cameron might be feeling more


confident, but those on the ground are not so sure. If we had a


majority Government, I think call with it, but with a coalition, it


possibly won't go through. The trouble is, you only have one shot


at it. They are not going to discuss it again. This is the one


chance. Could the Prime Minister have an eye on a new West Lothian


Commission, looking at the rate of all UK MPs to vote on purely


English matters? The 2004 Act only applies to England and Wales, with


the majority of Scotland's 59 MPs likely to be anti-hunting. If they


are taking out of the equation, -- taken out of the equation, the hope


of hundreds across the South West could be realised.


If the West Lothian question was resolved, but it will not be, by


the way, we would still have a majority of about half that vote,


about 30, in favour of keeping the hunting act. Even if that was the


case, we would still have a majority.


Back with the Cury Hunt, it is agreed David Cameron camera --


cannot look as if -- risk looking as if he has his priorities wrong


as the country faces recession. If joining us down we have the


director of the Countryside Alliance. Alison, you would like to


see the law overturned, but is there any part of you that agrees


with the hunt master who says that in the current climate this thought


is unwinnable. -- this vote is unwinnable? To we are delighted


that the Prime Minister has chosen to have a vote.


It is a coalition we are working with. We are optimistic the Prime


Minister will called the vote when he thinks it is right. We have


every opportunity of winning that thought -- that are thought and


we're working hard to make sure we He why do you think this lot needs


overcoming? It is actually quite a popular law and you have record


numbers supporting the hunts, at the moment. He it is but a popular


law within the countryside. We have a piece of legislation that


has been on the statute books for seven years and there have only


been five convictions for funds under this law. Every day our hunks


go out, they are trying hard to operate within the law, and people


within the countryside who support hunting want to see us revert back


to the way we were before. We will continue to press very hard for


that. We have promised the Countryside Alliance that we will


continue to campaign on their behalf.


Is there any chance this ban could be overturned?


I think people who support hunting have every right to support this as


a campaigning issue. I personally would never repealed a hunting act.


Frankly, when we are facing the kind of economic crisis we talked


about earlier, I think this is a distraction and I think Parliament


should be focusing on fixing the economy, bringing back growth, and


when we have overcome those severe difficulties then might be the


right time to look again at this position.


Alison is saying it could perhaps be winnable? Do you think that is


likely? I am sure Alison is right.


Personally I would never vote for repealing the hunting act, and I


would much rather talk about bringing jobs into Cornwall,


driving the economy forward. Darren Cowell, what is your cake?


Do you think that David Cameron has reached the point of it being blown


out of proportion now? You have to bear in mind there was


a lot of criticism levelled at the Labour Government because we did


not introduce legislation until late into our term. We wanted to


focus on the priorities facing the country. I believe if there was a


vote in the Commons now, the Act would be retained. I don't think


they would be a majority, and there are fortunately some forward-


thinking, modern Conservative MPs who would vote along with anti-hunt


MPs. What makes you think it is winnable,


Alison? It is a very close call. If the


Lead were confident it could be one, they would push for a vote man. I


agree that there are far more important things the Government


needs to do at the moment, and no one within hunting expects it to


happen imminently when the economy is in the mess it is in.


Why do you think David Cameron made those comments to Country File?


I think he was asked the question and give a straightforward, honest


answer to the question he was asked. Do you think there is any reason


for this tactical change? I think it is very easy to read a


conspiracy theory into these things. I think Alison is right, the Prime


Minister was asked a straightforward question and gave,


in his style, a straightforward answer. I don't think Parliament


will spend time on this now, and it is unlikely I would support


repealing the Act. There is more analysis on David


Cameron's recent comments on that Martin's blog.


Now it is time for our round-up of Cornish councillor Alex Foulkes was


in trouble for not paying his council tax. The Lib Dem group


leader defended his deputy, saying that councillors are not paid


enough. A councillor is page �12,000 per


year. It is not a lot, and if he is doing that job full-time, it is not


surprising they may find themselves in the situation where they have


financial difficulty. That is why councillors in Devon have a board -


- awarded themselves a pay rise of 23 %.


West Somerset has been named as one of two locations for badger culling


trials. The police say they are prepared for possible unrest.


People have a right to protest peacefully, but I hope they realise


the sole purpose of these trials is to establish whether we are right


or they are right. And the Sherryl Murray continued


her efforts to ban pet monkeys. I am putting this forward to the


House today in order to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak


That was our week in 60 seconds. Darren Cowell, let's look at the


issue of Councillors' pay. His �12,000 enough to live on? I know


that you have another job. I do have another job, and �12,000


is a very high allowance. As a backbench councillor, my allowance


is �7,500. As for any authority awarding a 23 % increase, normally


these things are put through an independent review panel. The


Stephen, have you any sympathy with this? I think no one will have any


sympathy with people not paying council tax. It is right that


people pay their council tax, particularly those who have a


public duty towards council tax payers. There is an issue about


people who want to come forward as councillors and making sure we get


the balance right between all the people who may be retired and those


who are working and on the younger side. I have to agree with Darren


that that sounds a pretty reasonable allowance to me.


Is there a case for having fewer, better paid councillors to attract


the best candidate, as you would in a private company?


My view when Cornwall came -- became an authority is to perhaps


have slightly better allowances for fewer councillors to attract good


quality people to do the job. We're talking about a potential with


billions of pounds worth of spending. We need to make sure it


is accountable, but we need quality councillors, too.


If you are effectively paying someone a full-time allowance,


there is no better focus for that individual and to ensure they are


serving their constituents, because they don't want to be made


redundant in four years' time. Now to the badger cull. We spoke to


a Labour MP that people who were protesting could get themselves in


the line of fire. Do you think there is enough provision in place


to make sure this does not happened?


This is a very emotive issue. It will play at over the next few


months as B C the first batch recalls taking place. -- as we see


the first batch of Kohl's taking place. -- badger culls.


I am very disappointed these are going ahead in the first place.


Previous evidence suggests there is no link. I am pretty confident that


the police and security arrangements will be rigid enough


to ensure public safety. Briefly, Sherryl Murray is getting


attention this week for her attempts to ban pet monkeys. Are


these issues worth raising? I think they are important, the our


animal welfare issues and the public cares deeply about how we


treat animals who cannot speak up for themselves. I have added my


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