18/03/2012 Sunday Politics South West


18/03/2012

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

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1714 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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highest level of European grant funding worth hundreds of millions

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

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

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

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disappointing that Cornwall hasn't reached the level to reach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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deliver that assistants, and another note local economic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The legislation which will bring about a national benefits cap was

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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unlikely to make much difference. Labour have been proposing local

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

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

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

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local circumstances and specifically local housing costs,

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

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

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This could lead to people in welfare dependent part of the

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

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differences between the economy in Bristol and the economy in South

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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whether public sector workers will be paid different amounts depending

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

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government thinking. You are supporting this as a

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

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

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enormous region, and what is good in Gloucestershire it is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Conservatives, the coalition government, it would introduce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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unusable within five years, unless councils spend millions more on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the maintenance backlog. We have reached the stage where the

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

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

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

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long-term measures like preventive resurfacing -- resurfacing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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preventative maintenance programmes. Labour says it savage cuts to road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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that. Sometimes if the infrastructure is there, a good

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

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Plymouth programme sounds great. Because they are concentrating on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A coroner criticised the South West Water Authority for gambling with

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

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compensation. The government has a moral and political responsibility

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

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

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Former leader of Devon County Council has been fined for drink

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driving. Chris Dean Tennant resigned her Cabinet role but will

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

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helping them. The man in charge of parking in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Andrew Neil and Martyn Oates with the latest political news and debate.

Andrew Neil interviews John Cridland, Chairman of the CBI on what businesses want from Wednesdays Budget. Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman of the National Trust, and Stephen Hammond MP go head to head over the Government's plans to change planning laws affecting the countryside.


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