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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
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2152 seconds
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