30/09/2012 Sunday Politics South West


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In the South West. Is the Lib Dem's key education


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Hello and welcome to Sunday Politics in the South West. Coming


up. How rich should pensioners be before they give up their free bus


passes, free TV licences and winter fuel allowances? I am joined by her


Liberal-Democrat Peer Robin Teverson, hopefully not too over-


excited after the conference and by Luke Pollard to stood for Labour in


the safe Tory seat of South West Devon at the last election. I


spotted you their spying on them. You will see me at the Labour


conference this week. That is about to kick off in Manchester and I


caught up with Ed Miliband and he made this admission. We were too


late to the issue of housing. left the coalition with the lowest


building up of houses since the 1920s. House building has gone down


under this government. There is a huge debt with the recession, but


even before that it was low. recognise the need to build


affordable housing and give councils the right to build more


houses, but we did it too late. The question for the future in all


these things is how do we move on. So, the Europe leader admitted that


his government fiddled and postponed it until the 11th hour.


This is the biggest issue here. is. I think what he is doing is


grappling with the big issues that we have to face for the next


manifesto. We need more affordable homes. How will that happen?


need to make sure that measures about affordable housing are put in


place and what we have got is a government that is taking away the


restrictions on housing so developers do not have to build any


affordable housing in their developments. What will you do that


is new and different? We need to look at new ways of ownership, new


ways of unlocking public sector land that has not been built on.


They are a whole host of ideas that are been looked at by the Labour


Party, but what is certain is that if you take away the compulsion for


housebuilders to build affordable houses, they will not build


affordable houses, they will build a luxury flats. When you were in


opposition, he said the problem with Labour is that it muscled in


on councils and told them to build homes. Is that not what you are


doing now? It is still a big problem. There has not been much


progress over the last two years. I think what we have got to do...


There is a message this has to change. Housebuilding is down to


the levels of and 1923 -- in 1923. We have got to get that back in


balance and we have to get affordable homes. We are not saying


that all that affordable housing stocks, but it needs to be looked


at to make sure it doesn't get in the way of some construction.


you excepting it that it is not the case be if you leave it to local


councils, it will happen. You need a bigger man with a big stick to


make it happen. I do not entirely accept that. One of the problems


even on affordable housing is when people want to buy affordable


housing which is part of the scheme, you still cannot get mortgages


easily and some of the work that is being done on the financial side is


starting to take that barrier away. Do not go away.


Little makes a Lib Dem chest swell with pride as much as the pupil


premium. Extra funding for the poorest children is one of the few


things Nick Clegg says he would have died in a ditch for during at


the negotiations. One MP and now claims it is a cack-handed policy


which makes inequalities in school funding it worse. Lunchtime at


South Dartmoor Community College. Some of these children are getting


it free. But free school meals are not just about food these days.


Since the launch of the pupil premium, schools are given a large


dollop of money for each child on the school meals register. For some,


the way of dishing out the funding is proving hard to digest.


problem is that the money is being allocated in a cack-handed way and


is not getting to the places that need it most. Devon is among the


lowest funded education authorities in the country. Last year, it has


given �4,600 of funding per pupil and in London be received at twice


that amount, �9,300. The pupil premium is one of the flagship


policies of the Liberal Democrat designed to address inequalities in


education. In it is a huge amount of extra money. It is given


directly to schools to teach children for more disadvantaged


backgrounds and the teachers as well will be completely free to do


with that money would every they want, what they judge to be best


for the children. But Nick Harvey says it is based on a clumsy and


crude measure of income levels. There are many areas that we know


from all the other economic statistics are very poor areas were


perhaps rather surprisingly the free school make it -- meal claim


count is below average. He and the Speaker areas are then not getting


the pupil premium on the scale they were expecting and far from


narrowing the gap but there are between the poorer areas and


wealthier areas, it is increasing it because it is not working in the


way it was intended. Pupil premiums are worth �600 per student claiming


free school meals, next year it will go up to �900 and the funding


is set to double in 2014. The worry is that schoolchildren in the South


West are losing out because even though incomes here are amongst the


lowest in the country, only 10% of secondary pupils in Devon are


claiming free school meals compared to the national average of 15%. In


rural areas it is thought there may be more of the stigma attached to


claiming compared to towns and cities. It is a blunt tool. The


funding of follows youngsters who get free school meals and


unfortunately a lot of parents particularly in rural area do not


apply for those free school meals, they are either too proud to apply


for them and believe they should stand on their own two feet or are


they perhaps do not have the literacy skills to complete the


paperwork and feel intimidated by the whole system. The Department


for Education says the pupil premium is designed to help the


most disadvantaged pupils and says the scheme has recently been


extended to include students who have claimed free school meals at


any point in the last six years. If Nick Harvey is right, it is


extremely embarrassing, the great pupil premium, the flagship policy,


which is not really working in the rural South West? There are issues


around at the rural areas and it is important to us here. It basically,


the premium is the right thing and what it is trying to do is even up


people's life chances. Some other policies, like child care, are


really starting to come through but the problem is we do not have the


right indicator and as in Nick says free school meals at... Similar


places in terms of poverty, Sunderland, Tower Hamlets have a


much higher level of free school meals so what we need to do is


based this, perhaps we look at the way it is based statistically.


There is no indication that that will happen and it looks as though


this has been it scuppered. should not be a... There is a


fundamental problem here which has been going on for a long long time.


What we do have to change is the basis on which it is done. That


might take a while. It means we do at least have the right policy we


just need to make sure the way it is looked at it is refined. I


absolutely agree with him on that. A Nick Harvey also said that all


three parties were a keen on some kind of pupil premium. What do you


think? The devil is in the detail. All the main parties for wanting to


give more to schools. What you report did not say is about the


school at cuts that are taking place, the cuts in terms of


education and what the Government is doing is taking with one hand


and giving some with another and that does not balance out. Try to


keep it specifically to what this focuses, this premium and but it


would have achieved. I think you were nodding when Nick Clegg said


that schools can do what they like with it. The problem is head


teachers are not doing what they like with it. It is not focused on


the most vulnerable children. answer to that it would be to


Ofsted what is your job to do other than to check how this is being


done. The Government could ring- fence it though. You could do, but


there needs to be more accountability. One of the things I


welcome is that schools were now. After publicly state how they use


this money. I think head teachers know best how to use this money.


They perhaps need some help on it, but the last thing we want is the


big dictate coming down from the Department of Education at saying


how you use this money. It goes to the right places generally. What


schools need to do is to make sure that they use it in the right way


for the specific pupils from poorer families, not just on free school


meal children. How would Labour be focused on S? You need to look at


the basket of measures that define poverty and the Government have not


got it right when it comes to funding education here. It is also


looking at the other school budgets because this is a good... Places


like Devon and Cornwall are traditionally underfunded. It is a


bit like housing. You consulted on changing the system. He and


teachers need to know that they're getting a fair amount of money to


provide education for that community. At the moment with cuts


and the problems with the pupil premium we're not getting that.


Whether it is Labour other Tories or the Liberal Democrats, we still


have two and a half years of this coalition and we need to make sure


that the Government is getting it right for the children matter in


education now and that means looking again at the conditions


that about pupil premium and the reasons why families are not


claiming it. We need to get life chances sorted. That is the clear


thing. That central message and that is a Liberal Democrat message.


We will now go to the other end of the age range. Remember the row


when George Osborne came up with his plans to take a child benefit


away from higher earners? Last week in Nick Clegg floated a similar


idea to trim benefits for the elderly which would see some of


them lose the bus passes, winter through a -- winter fuel allowances


and free TV licences. It is the last day of the season at this


bowling club with these over- sixties are making the most of


their retirement. Nick Clegg bus Commons this week about some


benefits they get has got them talking in the clubhouse. If we


lose things like that, it of censure costs. Hopefully I will get


the �200. It cost me �800 to do one or oil tank. If you are paid


�40,000 by year, you should not be receiving the benefits. At the


moment, all over-sixties can get a winter fuel payment worth �200,


free prescriptions, eye tests and a bus pass. Over 75 so eligible for a


free TV licence. Add to this other means tested benefits and the


elderly are running up the bill for the taxpayer in excess of �100


billion per year. Nick Clegg says his party would be prepared to


examine cutting in the universal benefits for some older people.


think there are many millionaires in this country who in the future


will be much in the spirit that I am saying that people of


considerable wealth want to make a contribution will also say


voluntary early that maybe they should give up some of those


universal entitlements to help the people who are less lucky than them


to make ends meet. Campaigners are anxious. Universal benefits are


there to help all older people. If you try and tinker with them, we


are going to see lots of older people who have needs slip through


the net. This is a sensitive topic and although the Prime Minister has


ruled out a touching pensioners' benefits in this Parliament, the


coalition is now looking be on this. George Osborne has raised the


prospect of a further �10 billion worth of cuts to welfare spending


in the next parliament and a growing number of voices are saying


it is universal benefits for the elderly that is an obvious target.


One of Devon's comfortably of a pensioner's thinks the winter fuel


payment is particularly nonsensical. I remember picking up a very large


cheque from Strictly Come Dancing and in the same post finding the


Government had so kindly giving me a winter fuel allowance. That is a


nonsense. My view is that the winter fuel allowance should be


means tested, but simply so. Simply say higher-rate taxpayers should


not get the winter fuel allowance. Institute for Fiscal Studies says


it targeting only millionaire pensioners would not make a dent in


the deficit and Ann Widdecombe things that the Liberal Democrat


leader needs to rethink. He is right on the principal been that


the wealthy should not get handouts. He is right on that. Were he is


wrong is trying to define what he perceives as well which is the


usual liberal Democrat resentment towards anyone who has done well.


By get the bowling club there is a feeling that the wealthy could


force that some benefits but there is an acknowledgement that it could


be a tricky target. We are joined and now from our Westminster studio


by James Browne from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Welcome to the


programme. You have crunched some of the figures and what do you


think? If you were a to take things like the winter fuel payments and


free bus passes away from people with very high levels of wealth,


millionaires, that would not save much money. To introduce a whole


new system of means testing and would more than offset the savings


you would get from that. In order to save serious amounts of money


from a policy like this you would really need it to say give these


benefits to those pensioners who are on pension credit and that


would save around �1.4 billion per year. When Nick Clegg clarified his


position he said he would only be targeting the very rich, so that is


nonsense in your view? Well, you could introduce a system like that,


but I think you need to think more fundamentally about how we design a


system of support for older people and whether we need all these


separate little benefits on top of the state pension and pension


credits as a means tested top up which we have at the moment. I will


bring in the studio guests. Nick Clegg has apologised for the


student fee pledge something he said he had not thought through


properly, is this another thing he has not thought through properly?


We are discussing it at the moment. We're talking about after the next


general election and other things they might stand for. What is clear


across all the Liberal Democrats who have spoken on this is that


this is an area were work needs to be done. We are talking about a


prolonged period of squeezing most of the population and most by a


feeling that way, then surely people that are very well-off do


not need some of these benefits. you in favour of this? Or we


stalking about millionaires? would agree with some of my other


colleagues. Some who say it should be a lower level than that. You


would have to do it through the taxation system, you would have to


do it through an income based rather than an asset-based or else


it would get too expensive. It is one of those areas that politicians


do not like to confront because there are losers in this as well as


winners but I think it is an area where we need to move forward.


heard Ann Widdecombe say it was absurd for her to receive a huge


cheque for a television appearance and a winter fuel allowance. A bit


odd for Labour to defend that. would be nice if all its seven


pensioners were receiving such checks. The majority of pensioners


are suffering from squeezed incomes and higher energy bills. What we


need is a proper system that recognises the real costs of


growing old and really supports them and universal benefits is one


of those safety nets that guarantees everyone on it and if


you could create a system without the bureaucracy and means testing


which the proposals would mean it then if that were to win public


support that is something to look at. I do not think that can be


created. The universal benefits have already come under attack from


the government and we need to protect those benefits to make sure


that when people know they're getting the allowance they are


getting protection. Do you think Ann Widdecombe it should he get up


at the winter fuel allowance? chose not to send it back. It is a


choice about whether you cash that cheque. If the preferred system was


implemented, it would not go down terribly well with the people you


want to vote for you what it? think the word. My mother who is a


Conservative supporter always says it is ridiculous that I get my


winter fuel allowance but she is not even particularly well off. A


lot of people and know that the people had difficult times and they


think we have the wrong balance. We have to get it right and it is


difficult but sometimes politicians have to lead. That's is something


today. We also know that Lord Sugar does not have a bus pass. Time for


our round-up of the Week in 60 seconds. The campaign to save the


planet airport continued. City councillors pledged to safeguard


the site for a possible reopening. Nurses fighting regional pay tell


him the new boss of our biggest hospital to think again. People are


demoralised. They're talking to me about quitting. Cornwall Council


leader Alex Robertson runs and so more opposition to his plans to


privatise council services. This time it is from his own deputy.


Badger cull opponents raised more than 100,000 signatures. The Chief


Executive of the Isles of Scilly Council that defence is huge


overtime claim. A I was working 18 hour days. It is perfectly


reasonable that that is respected. Cornish campaigners say Prince


Charles should give his Duchy back to the people. The airport of


course, potentially incredibly valuable to Plymouth. Be it is an


since it closed under the last Conservative administration we have


seen in the city suffer. It is great to see the Labour council is


preserving and safeguarding land and what they're calling for his


people to write to David Cameron and say that this land protected,


help us rebuild our airport because we need Connectivity. We need that


Connectivity that an airport can bring and it is great to see the


council taking a lead on protecting that. Your background is in


business. It is important isn't it? Yes. A major city should have an


airport. There is a major problem when you cannot let the -- land a


major jet there. I wish the council all the best on resolving this.


Duchy of Cornwall handed back to the people? Excellence idea. That


would be really good but I would be careful about the who those people


might be. It is a strange organisation. You would like to see


it taken away from the heir to the throne's it is more less run by the


state and the Treasury anyway. The money will go to Cornwall them?


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