18/03/2012 Sunday Politics South West


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In the south-west, Cornwall is on course to get another seven years


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1714 seconds


of European funding, but is that Hello, I'm Lucie Fisher - coming up


on the Sunday Politics in the South West. The warning that a pothole


pandemic will mean 20 percent of our roads are unusable within five


years. And for the next 20 minutes, I'm


joined by the Labour peer Tony Berkeley, who's also Harbour


Commissioner for the Port of Fowey, and Conservative MEP for the South


West, Julie Girling. Welcome both of you to the programme. This week,


we've heard Cornwall is likely to get another seven years of the


highest level of European grant funding worth hundreds of millions


of pounds. Is this good news or bad news in the sense that it is


hundreds of millions of pounds, but it means that Cornwall is still a


failing economy? It is a curate's egg issue, it is based


disappointing that Cornwall hasn't reached the level to reach


transitional funding, which would have been a success, however, we


don't want to get too depressed, because we all know that the last


few years have been extremely difficult across the country, so it


is no surprise that Cornwall spite the moved off the trajectory and


didn't quite make it -- slightly moved off. I don't think it is a


sign of favour -- failure, I think it is an opportunity to see how we


deliver that assistants, and another note local economic


partnerships are looking at that close to, but we need to move


forward to the next stage. You live in Cornwall, has this come as a


surprise to you, as somebody who lives and works around the region?


Some people would be surprised that this level of funding, when you see


across the news that places like Portugal and Greece are in dire


trouble, to be put alongside the poorest parts, Bulgaria, Romania,


might be a surprise? In some ways it is surprising, but you're


looking at the figures, and the Commission take these figures very


seriously, we haven't quite reached the 75% of the bridge, which is the


criterion in Cornwall. -- 75% of the average. I go to Romania quite


often, actually come on business, and yes, there is a lot of poverty


there, but you can't balance them all, and in the same way. Even


though we have grown, we do need this money in Cornwall. Stay with


us for the rest of the programme, we will come back to you.


The legislation which will bring about a national benefits cap was


passed last week. Labour says if the government was serious about


making people better off in work than on welfare, it would have


introduced a local benefits cap. Ministers aren't ruling out some


form of localised welfare system in the future, but this week one of


the South West's Liberal Democrat MPs said the idea was "absolute


nonsense". Tamsin Melville reports. Volunteering for 16 hours a week at


a Camborne church dropping is a lifeline at a four rows. At 60


years old, she is a single mother and is struggling to find any paid


work that will make it worth her while to come off benefits. I have


been to the Jobcentres, and work is very hard to get. I have got an 18-


year-old son, he can't find a job. So woodworking not make financial


sense for you? No. Ministers are hoping their welfare shake-up will


help make work pay for people like crows in places like Camborne. But


there is an ongoing debate about how they should be achieved. As


part of the government's welfare reforms, there is now our national


benefit cap of a �26,000 a year. But it is the possibility of a


localised rate could still be on the agenda. Here is what the man at


the top had to say last week. don't regionalised benefits, that


is a debate to be had, and it may be something we need to look at.


The national cap will be felt most in London and the south-east, where


housing benefit levels are highest. In somewhere like Camborne, it is


unlikely to make much difference. Labour have been proposing local


benefits caps. The issue is that working should pay more than been


on benefits overrule. Within that, you have got to have some sort of


benefit cap also what we are saying is that cap should take account of


local circumstances and specifically local housing costs,


because they are the big variables across the country. But critics say


Labour's idea would have to mean regionalised in all of the benefits.


This could lead to people in welfare dependent part of the


south-west were like Torbay, getting less. There are big


differences between the economy in Bristol and the economy in South


Devon. Is this going to be linked to wages? Maybe that is a good


thing. Maybe that would put benefits up in South Devon. But the


government is not going to be putting up benefits, it is only


going to be looking at areas where they can cut benefits. Whether in


Torbay or Bristol, it is a no-no. Those in favour of ritualised and


welfare state it could shake up the system, where there is currently a


less incentive to get jobs in areas like Camborne. At the church, this


gets short shrift. It is a lovely idea in principle, and all these


ideas and grit in London to stop and then you going to the counties


and see the reality, where are the jobs we are going to put these


people into? There are no jobs out there. With the welfare reform but


only just passed into law, any further changes are unlikely to


happen in the near future, but with an announcement expected soon on


whether public sector workers will be paid different amounts depending


on where they live, some are worried about the direction of


government thinking. You are supporting this as a


proposition. Can you tell us why it? And supporting the concept of


regional differences. -- I am supporting. At the south-west is an


enormous region, and what is good in Gloucestershire it is


inappropriate for Cornwall. I think the better way to do it would be to


do it on the basis of a travel-to- work area. That is where people


live there can get work and at what rate call or cannot, rather than


having a great big area of the south-west, which is much too big


to even think of as one rate, for example. But you do think there


should be original cap, and make it clear there is a difference outside


London? Would you make of this idea? I understand the attraction,


but I think in practice, it would be very complicated. I think an


overall regional issue is crazy. The south-west is just a political


construct, not a place. If you were to look at it committee would have


to look at it by GDP, individual councillors, Torbay, parts of


Bristol, and Iraq even parts of the Cotswolds which got on extremely


low income levels -- there are even part of the Cotswolds. A if housing


is cheaper in the South West than in central London, you should make


sure the benefits reflect that? There is totally a huge difference


between central London and parts of the south-west, but not all a bit,


by any means. So you would have to be a very targeted. You would have


to make work pay, that is the issue? Are that is the popular idea


across the board, that people are better off working than on benefit.


Of course. The National Cup is the start of that. As Iain Duncan Smith


says that a maybe there is a debate to be had, but it will be something


to jump into straight away, may be a refinement of the system at a


later point, but at the moment, think we should stick with the


26,000 National. Liam Byrne said he couldn't run out the possibility


that a regional cabin tested and may end up meaning that in London,


when you look at the cap in place on benefits could go up, at the


cost of the regions. What would you make of that, would you still


support that? I would, because if London needs people on low paid


jobs to keep it going... �26,000 is a lot of benefit, which


is why there has been at Cap. at national cap, K collided at that


level, and the cost of housing and transport in London is so much


higher, there is a logic to saying it should go up in London to


reflect that, otherwise there is not much point in having a


variation. You mention that Iain Duncan Smith has been talking about


the fact that this could happen. Do you think it is likely that the


Conservatives, the coalition government, it would introduce


this? As I understand it it is not an idea that is anything more than


an idea at the moment. Of course, it is a possibility that can be


explored, because this is not an ill-thought through policy, it has


been on the table for a long time. But I don't think it is there in


the front row, waiting to be... have to stop you there.


There's a warning that one in five of the region's roads could be


unusable within five years, unless councils spend millions more on


pothole repair. The alarm's been raised by the industry that helps


resurface roads, but it is based on a survey of more than one hundred


highway engineers. We told John Henderson to hit the road.


Holes in the road, no laughing matter. They infuriate drivers and


residents. Two years ago, fed up people blocked a road in Tibberton


to get something done. What is it going to do to a child? In the last


few years, but Hulse had reached epidemic levels. Three bad winters


haven't helped. Snow, ice and rain have all done the roads in. What we


are battling in is an ageing network which is being starved of


funding, and it means that we have got bits of the highway that will,


from time to time, start to break up. Local authorities in the region


have been forced to respond, many have done so in the tried and


tested way. Just before we put the tarmac in, and that will give it a


longer life, hopefully, stops the water getting underneath. Last year,


1.7 million potholes were filled across England and Wales. In Devon,


it was 120,000 being repaired, the year before, it was 180,000.


Cornwall has plucked far fewer, but its budget last year was still


�600,000. Despite all the work, it seems there is still much to do. A


new report claims it will take English councils 11 years to clear


the maintenance backlog. We have reached the stage where the


highways engineers are telling us that one of five Ridge will fail


completely in the next few years. - - one in five roads. Filling


potholes is an expensive sticking- plaster. 20 times more costly than


long-term measures like preventive resurfacing -- resurfacing.


Operation upgrade its April �0.1 billion programme in a while,


halfway through its two-year cycle. Similar numbers have been going on


in Torbay and Exeter. Few would dispute a long-term fix is the best


solution, but it all comes down to one thing - money. It is all down


to investment or lack of it, over 15 to 20 years. We just simply


haven't been investing enough money in the road to keep pace and make


sure they are maintained properly to stop it needs long-term, planned,


preventative maintenance programmes. Labour says it savage cuts to road


budgets need to be reversed. The government argues it the last two


years it has given �300 million. Emergency funding for road repairs


across England and Wales. The pressures are still there. Only


this week, Devon's cabinet approved a �3 million cut to its highways


budget, with the warning that this and any further reductions will


severely affect the condition of the county's road network.


Potholes, the bane of some people's lives in the south-west. Car repair


bills going up. On your side, you say that one of the few things that


would improve the area you live in is pure pot holes. Would you stand


by that? Of course. Pot holes are a sign of failure. If roads are


properly maintained, enough money is spent, you don't get them. We


are talking about the county are was a cad a councillor for 10 years,


the backlog was millions. This issue has been with us for decades,


we never address it. We never have enough money to address it can we


are always ticking a Band Aid on. So does the government need to


address this's it does, it does mean more money. But we have to


make decisions. It is a great pace of localism. When councils do their


consultations on budgets, people want more money spent on roads, but


they want more spent on elderly care, we had an important report on


that. Sometimes if the infrastructure is there, a good


economy can be built on it. Absolutely, that is why the


Plymouth programme sounds great. Because they are concentrating on


the infrastructure. You are a cyclist, a keen cyclist, do you


come across but holds much, are they any issue? Coming up to hear


today, a lot of new servicing has gone on in Plymouth. -- surfacing.


Elsewhere, there are problems. Iraq, but the asphalt industry


would say this, wouldn't they? It is a question of localism what do


you spend the money on a. It is of be decided not to give more. One


answer is for people to drive a bit slow, then they wouldn't have the


car so much. Unless you are a cyclist. What about the tourists


coming to the region? Does it put tourists of? I am not sure any


region -- our region is any worse than anywhere else. If you go to


Brussels, where I live half the time, the holes in the road are


phenomenal. There is nothing like those. I am not saying that makes


ours good, but I don't think we want to be too self-critical about


it. We have to make those decisions locally. I am all for local


councils deciding... You have to make sure you have the money in the


first place. As you know, the government, in the very bad winter


the before last, �300 million extra was put into repairing the right.


It is not that they don't react. There is a massive not that need to


be put in. -- amount. Moving on to our regular round-up of the


A coroner criticised the South West Water Authority for gambling with


people's lives following the poisoning of 1988. The victims need


compensation. The government has a moral and political responsibility


to the people so badly affected. A Devon woman prepared to take her


fight to wear a cross to the European Court of Human Rights.


Former leader of Devon County Council has been fined for drink


driving. Chris Dean Tennant resigned her Cabinet role but will


carry -- stay on as counsellor. Community would be to carry on


helping them. The man in charge of parking in


Torbay was caught and a double yellow. He says he stuck to the


rules, which has made some people angry. For him to come along an


incident at -- Park insensitively is not playing the game. I will be


Let's look at this issue of Christians wanting to wear a cross


to work. A Devon woman taking her fight to wear a cross to the


European Court of Human Rights. What is your view on this? Should


people be allowed to wear across? think if they wanted, they should


be free to do that. But they also believe that when we get to


Parliament, the House of Lords and we shouldn't have bishops, we


should have separate religion, politics and government. A bit more


like they do in France, maybe. What is your view on this? In France,


they do have a secular state, but they also banned the wearing of


things, the hijab, in schools, which I don't agree with. I think


that within a region of discretion, you should be allowed to display


your religious beliefs in that way. You should be free to do so. Do you


think we need a Bill of Rights to clarify that? Attic eventually that


it what we are going to have. -- I think eventually. It needs to be


set out to people what their rights are, because everyone is currently


claiming human rights on everything. It has gone completely bonkers, we


need to get down to... All this week, there has been support for


her right to wear a cross, if they should lose the case in the


European Court, it could be a bit of a contentious one, because they


have said they might do something about it. It will be another layer


of doubt heaped on the right of the European Court to make these


judgments for us, and it will be more pressure on her pink a British


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