16/12/2012 Sunday Politics South West


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Mixed news for the region's jobseekers.


And the new twist in the tale of one town's campaign against a major


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Hello, coming upon the Sunday Politics in the South West...


Remember the row about whether one South Devon town really needed


another coffee shop? In new campaign group says it represents


the silent majority who actually wanted a Costa in Totnes.


And I'm joined by Lord Whitty and Sheryll Murray. Welcome, both of


you. Let's begin with the encouraging news for the region's


jobseekers. On Wednesday, the MoD announced that 300 jobs at


Devonport dockyard would be secured to refit HMS Ocean. An informant


figures show the first sign of a long-term fall in the number of


people claiming jobseeker's allowance across the region. One


analyst said this could be the beginning of private sector


recovery in the south-west. Sheryll Murray was keen to make sure the


Prime Minister noticed a good news. Will my Right Honourable Friend


join me in congratulating my two young entrepreneurs who have taken


the initiative to take -- start HGVs company -- start HGVs company


in my constituency? Does the Prime Minister agree this is just the


sort of business initiative we need to see?


Lord Whitty, is this evidence that the Government is in fact putting


things back on track? That is premature. I am glad to see there


are new enterprises being set up. I must say, that the view I get back


must say, that the view I get back from small businesses in the south-


west and elsewhere is that they are still having problems getting


credit from the banks and cuts in public expenditure are hitting them.


We are not yet in a position to say there is serious revival.


Unemployment 8% down year-on-year in the south-west? There is


something going on there. It is not clear if the figures are consistent.


We should wait and see before we start charging from the rooftops.


The Autumn Statement growth figures had to be reduced, and yet we have


got these unemployment figures which seemed to be screaming, yes,


the private sector is growing. How would you balance that? When you


look at it, a lot of people, like my constituents who have taken the


initiative, and realised the country could not go one way if a


public sector growing and being subsidised. People are taking the


initiative to start businesses and help themselves. The government's


message and the Conservative message is getting out there. If it


continues, then hopefully we will see the economy grow in the way


that we want. You mention public sector jobs. You have not seen


public sector cuts and a bike that is going to cost. -- and the bike.


Do you think growth in the private sector will offset future public-


sector cuts? I have met people in my constituency, one particular


lady in Gunnislake, who has left the public sector and started her


own business, because she recognises that we cannot maximise


credit cards to subsidise jobs, which we have seen over the last 12


months. People are realising may need to help themselves and are


taking the initiative. Is it enough to realise that we need to take the


initiative, do you see that happening on the ground? Certainly


people need to take initiative but the problem people have got is that


the private sector will not revise -- revive unless there is a growth


in demand in the economy. That demand a different economic


perspective from the government in relation to timing their cots and


so on. There is a problem with this being sustained. Hopefully, those


companies will get off the ground but unless there is a total


increase in demand and growth in the economy, that will not be


sustainable. If you work for one of the region's


councils you might well be worried about the prospect of joining the


dole queue. Local authority leaders are faced with tough decisions


about whether to cut staff to meet dramatic savings required by


government and some fear the next funding settlement, due in the


coming weeks, will put more pressure on their budgets.


It is a turbulent time in local government. It is two months since


Iraq over controversial privatisation proposals led to the


ousting of Alec Robertson. motion has been carried... West


Somerset council is teetering on the brink of becoming a skeleton


body commissioning services from other authorities. West Somerset


council does not have enough finance to fund what it is doing at


present. There have to be savings. Things are not likely to get easier


any time soon. Councils are biting -- battling with cuts from


Whitehall amounting to more than 30% and they are predicting another


20% in next spending round, from 2015. With the government making it


clear that a local authorities are going to have to make do with less,


councils across the south-west are grappling with how to keep their


heads above water. This week, councillors in Cornwall voted


through a much slimmed-down version of a partnership with BT and the


NHS. Things like IT systems and technology monitoring people's


health in their homes will stay but supporters of the original deal say


the compromise puts more jobs at risk. It is a smaller scheme and


the potential is not as great. What I believe it means is that those


services within the council are going to have to make significant


servings -- savings in the coming years and it will be a challenge.


Councillor Double says the council was to get new ways of working. The


man who now leads the council thinks days like this are too risky


in the current financial climate. There has been a survey of


authorities in England and they say that this year, 12% of authorities


will really struggle to balance their books and next year, 25% of


authorities will be in the same position. The government really


must come to the conclusion that there is a limit to what local


government can expect to do. Local Government Association echoes


this morning. This is the so called graph of doom illustrating a


funding gap by 2020. No more is this squeeze being felt more than


by England's smallest council facing budget cuts of 1.5 million


over three years. Crisis meetings have been held this week but the


government minister sent to help is not reaching for the chequebook.


they can get the right structure in place, it is not a matter of


financial handouts. That is not what West Somerset have been asking


for. They are looking for a sustainable solution.


possibility of a big hike in council tax in West Somerset is


still on the table. The rise is not been ruled out in Cornwall either


and the outlook is bleak. Councils are braced for the details of their


next financial settlement before Christmas and there is not much


We are joined by the vice chair of the Local Government Association.


Not much hope of festive cheer. We have a council that has run out of


money, a council having to privatise core services, what does


it mean? Councils are going to be under huge pressure. There has been


a 30% cut in councils' funding over the last few years. We have to look


at the most vulnerable people in society, children care, the elderly,


people with disabilities, so on all our services will get cut deeply


over the next three years. Something like at a 90% cut for


planning, transport, community wardens and safety, all of those


things will be cut to the bone and beyond. We did speak to the


Department for communities and local government. Given that cancer


has account for one quarter of government spending it is vital


they contribute. -- given that councils. The country cannot live


outside its means. You cannot keep borrowing and borrowing. Consuls


are probably the most efficient part of the government's service


and yet, we're having the biggest cuts. I do not think we government


understands how vital some of the services are that councils up and


down the country provide two really vulnerable people and the services


that people need every single day of the week. We're going to put bat


to one of our guests. Has the government gone too far west these


cuts and it is too much too fast? For 10 years before I got elected I


was a local councillor. I sat on Cornwall County Council and


Carriden District Council. Councils assumed they were going to get the


same increase your round year when they looked at their future


planning. -- year on year. They took that into account. We have got


to a stage when the country cannot afford to give councils this


increase in funding. At the end of the day, what the Government is


doing is giving local councillors the opportunity to control their


own budgets. The what we are hearing here, and from the Audit


Commission as well, they say that next year, 25% of councils will be


in the same boat as the two we have mentioned. One is facing bankruptcy


and the other has lost its leader over privatisation measures because


they believe these services should be protected. One of the things we


have had for 12 years his local councillors being told how to spend


their money and what to do. They have forgotten how to manage


budgets. What the government is now saying is, they know best how to


deliver local services on the ground, but they do have to manage


those budgets and stick to them. the past, local councils have had


too much money and it is time to cut back and tighten your belt?


nation clearly does have to tighten its belt and councils have to play


their part, absolutely, but the Government has targeted cancels


much more than central government departments and is allowing much


more waste in central government. Even central government says


councils are the most efficient part of the public service, so why


not let us do more? The real problem here is we have to look


after the most vulnerable people and the cuts have gone too deep.


The West Somerset cards or has a proposal to put up council tax by


49%, �50 per has sold. What we do say? -- �50 per household. But


government has taken decision- making power away from councils and


we are not allowed to think about things like that, because central


government makes decisions were cancelled. Lord Whitty, what do you


think? Is there fat to be cut and what about the increase proposal in


West Somerset? I agree with Gerald that councils ought to make their


own decisions in what ever budgets they have got. We are of one mind


on that. Behind that, the government have embarked on a


course of cutting public expenditure which we can argue


about the totality of, but in this context they have put aged him out


of the burden on the public authority up -- they have put a


huge amount of the burden on the public authorities. Local budgets


have been cut more than three times. That is not the right sense of


priorities. What ever there is at the macro level, that is wrong.


Cornwall and West Somerset are some of the poorest authorities in land.


-- in Milan. If they are having to make decisions which affect their


people it is because the Treasury have decided local authorities will


bear the brunt. With this rise in council tax, if West Somerset


council wanted to increase council tax for specific purposes, of


course they can do it. They just have to ask their council tax


payers by way of a referendum if they wanted. They can put it up for


specific purposes according to the Localism Act. They have to axe --


asked the tax payers if they wish them to do this. Will the same


applied to George Osborne? In October, Costa Coffee was


apparent -- forced to abandon plans to open up in Totnes after a


protest campaign. The move was held up as an example of big business


listening to the people but it has emerged not everyone in the town


was happily about it decision. -- happy about the decision. There are


questions about how democratic the campaign really was.


Totnes, one of the region's most flourishing market towns, famed for


its beauty and independent spirit, held up by government ministers as


a pioneer of localism. What Totnes does today the rest of the country


will do tomorrow. We are taking the spirit of Totnes around the country.


A few months ago, Totnes was deemed to be leading the way once again.


Campaigners in Totnes are claiming victory after they forced a


multinational coffee giant to scrap plans to set up a shop in the town.


It followed a protest petition. An MP got involved. Along with


representatives from the town, she met the company in October.


wanted cost up to visit Totnes and show them the impact this would


have and that we did not want a clone high street. One of the


reasons people were coming to Totnes was because there was a


different offer. Her intervention came after the local authority


approved plants backing the cafe. Six district councillors voted


against the plan, 17 voted in favour. Costa Coffee's last-minute


decision not to set up shop left some stunned and wishing they had


voiced support. Hindsight is a lovely thing. A lot of people


didn't really do anything because they thought it inevitable. They


got their planning permission, we thought it was going to happen. We


didn't think because it was such a small number of people protesting


that it would have any effect. Then suddenly, it did. In fact, the


campaign had collected over 5,000 signatures, but there have been


questions raised about how representative it was of the local


population. A counter group has been set up by Matt, which he says


has more than 400 supporters. of people I spoke to did not feel


they were represented had -- represented. A lot of people didn't


really mind and they did not feel represented. It was only be people


who had protested against it who had been covered in the media and


eight were perceived to represent the views of the majority. What has


happened in Totnes has been seen as a victory for people power but has


also led to questions about which people had the power and what it


all means for those not on the winning side.


It was unusual to see an MP getting so involved in a planning


application for a shock. If it was in your constituency, which you


have done the same thing? Bear in mind that I have been a local


councillor so I have been involved in the planning process. I know


that an MP does not have any power when it comes to planning decisions.


Westminster have in the past been very dominant, and that is why we


have changed the planning law so that local people and local


councillors take those decisions. That is wary -- where they should


be taken. But it was the pressure group with the most say, but 17


councillors had voted in favour of the application, against six.


I would have done under those circumstances is every


representation of that concern with regard to a planning application


into my office, I plus they wanted the local planning department.


you would not have got involved? Probably not in this instance.


you think she had a lot of sway? am not sure what sort of power a


member of parliament has and we have to remember that we all deal


with things in a different way. I personally would have made sure


that I had accounted for the silent minority in this instance, and I


think it is my position in my constituency as the Member of


Parliament to take a passive role as often as I can. What does this


tell us about localism, local pressure groups having so much


power? And yet another local groups saying, we did not want you to have


that say. At the end of the day it needs to be the decision of the


council. It is quite frequently that those who shout loudest are


not representative of the total number. At the end of the day the


council should take the decision. At least Costa Coffee pay their


taxes! When they came to my little town in Dorset, they actually


transformed. We now have more independent cafes. This is not all


one-way. Were you interested to see a Tory MP standing up against Free


Enterprise? It is an unusual take. There may have been some pressure


from the independent traders. I think this is a planning issue and


the council and other people should have taken the decision. You are


not worried that local pressure groups are getting too much power?


If they are not representative then they are. The council needs to make


that judgment. It is time for the round-up of the


political week. Train passengers were told fares


will rise above inflation next year. The First Great Western boss said


it was for ministers to explain why, not him. We think we provide value


for money. Coastguard cuts means important


local knowledge will be lost according to a report from the


Transport Select Committee. South West dairy farmers are


unhappy about the price they get for their milk were told they could


get money from the taxpayer. The government will help them negotiate


with processors and supermarkets. There is a much brighter future for


milk production than there has been for a very long time.


Oliver Colvile asked the Prime Minister why that city of Plymouth


had missed out on super-fast broadband. I am sure he will be


glad to know that Devon and Somerset has been allocated �33


million to deliver super-fast broadband.


Cornish nationalists were encouraged by census figures


showing the number of people who call themselves Cornish has more


than doubled. Do you call yourself Cornish?


I do. I do not speak Cornish, and neither did my grandmother or


mother. I recognise, as someone who travelled across the border into


Plymouth to work for a number of my early years, but there is an


economic benefit from our neighbours in Devon. Whilst I think


our heritage is very important, we have to be realistic with regard to


the economic situation but Cornwall finds itself in. I want to ask you


about the Coastguard issued, as someone with in the fishing


community. What is your reaction to the select committee report which


says that it is talking of low morale amongst Coastguard, a loss


of skilled workers and skilled knowledge with these cuts? I have


always maintained we must not lose their local knowledge. I was


heartened when I heard the Minister confirm that the new National


Centre would not close any local centres, on Nairn -- unless there


was absolute sureness that the National Centre could cope. I need


to see the evidence. The new national co-ordination Centre has


only just got up and running. The jury is out. Let's wait and see.


Brixham has not closed yet. We have not got long left. What is your


take on this? I think the government may be right that some


rationalisation is sensible. If you get rid of the local offices, you


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