03/03/2013 Sunday Politics South West


03/03/2013

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$:/STARTFEED. In the sweths will the decision to freeze Council Tax

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affect public services 5 farmers urge ministers to ends their

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2186 seconds

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Hello, I'm Martyn Oates, coming up on the Sunday Politics in the South

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West... Desperate farmers say the government must act now to stop

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floods destroying their livelihoods. And for the next 20 minutes, I'm

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joined by the UKIP MEP William Dartmouth and Oliver Colvile,

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Conservative MP for Plymouth and Sutton and Devonport. Now wam is

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smiling more than usual, -- William is smiling more than usual, because

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UKIP beat the Tories into second place in Eastleigh. The Tories had

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hoped they would take the seat from the Liberal Democrats after the

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resignation of Chris Huhne. You want to take this forwards. Have

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you got the organisation to build on this? I don't think that is the

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point. This is a sensational... Organisation has been an issue.

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is a sensational result in a constituency in which we polled

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over 28%. And the key issue was unlimited imtkpraigs and permanent

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settlement from the EU. -- immigration. And people are

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concerned by the rules that permit this. To make matters worse, the

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Prime Minister David Cameron is a supporter of Turkey becoming a

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member of the EU, which would compound all of these problems and

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make all of this much worse. This is a massive wake up call to the

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Conservatives, to the Liberal Democrats and to Labour on their

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policies on the EU and what they're doing in the rest of the country.

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You have had a go at the Conservatives, euro sceptic

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Conservatives are saying this divides the right-wing vote and in

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this case in the Liberal Democrats in a general election it would let

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Labour in? I mentioned Labour and the Liberal Democrats as well. It

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should be a concern for Labour, the Labour Party and Ed Miliband want

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to deny the British people a referendum on the EU and as a

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result in a seat where they will aboved 20% at an ideal time they

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pold less than 10%. -- pold less than 10%. It is a make up call for

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all the establishment parties. must be worried, if this result was

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projected on your seat, you won't go back as an MP. Well, we have to

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calm down. This is an area, which has happened, I think, because

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people who are Conservative-minded have got frustrated that we are

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part of a coalition. They're more Conservative than you. Isn't that

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worrying? One thing that igs clear, if people want a referendum on

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Europe the only way to do it after the general election is by

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returning a Conservative Government. As you say, both Labour and the

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Liberal Democrats are against it and we are the only party which is

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actually, who will have a real chabs of - chance of forming a

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Government who would do it. What about the argument from your MPs

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who say you need to do a deal with UKIP to unite the right-wing vote

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to get back in as that Government. I think that we are, David Cameron

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has made it clear we are going renegotiate our position with the

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EU and then offer that as a referendum to the country and that

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is the right way to approach it and you know, I don't think UKIP has

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got very much further. Their aim was always to have a referendum. We

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have said we will do that. So we should get on with it. And we must

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get on with the programme. The season for setting council tax has

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drawn to a dramatic conclusion. A freeze in Devon and up by nearly 2%

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in Plymouth. In Cornwall, though, the leadership's plans for a rise

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were unexpectedly thrown out after an acrimonious meeting of the whole

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council. Fierce disagreement continues as to whether this puts

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vital public services at risk. Ben Woolvin reports. Cornwall

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councillors are up for election in May. This week they voted for a

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budget which might make some eye- catching campaign leaflets. More

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money to repair potholes. Cheaper car parking. Extra cash to tackle

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anti-social behaviour. And Council Tax has been frozen for another

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year. So you, dear, hard-pressed voter, won't have to pay more. But

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that last bit is controversial. take money from adult care and

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children to give it so you can have 20 p less parking is ludicrous. It

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is shameful and it is madness. Council Tax freeze means the adult

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care budget is being cut by �850,000. Children's services by

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�700,000. The Chief Executive said 130 staff could lose their jobs.

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Council cabinet members warn some services will be cut. Others may be

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closed. Those people on the front facing services like libraries,

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one-stop shops, the telephone centre, will all be restricted in

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some way. People will have to realise that by taking these

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figures out of specially social care, it will impact on the

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delivery of services. Few council pupblgts have caused as much --

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budgets have caused as much cross party concern. The Conservative

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party had planned a Council Tax rise. But in a last minute twist,

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some Conservatives backed a Liberal Democrat alternative budget with

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the Council Tax freeze. Five months we have been preparing this budget

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and then they come up with this on the back of a fag packet sort of

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budget. It is worse. It is an insult to a fag packet. Members,

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across party, what I call the good, sound, honourable members, who

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think about people and not themselves, were beside themselves.

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The Liberal Democrats say they have come up with big efficiencies,

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reducing the council dependence on agency workers. But the

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Conservative councillor in charge of adult says staff sickness means

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it won't be that simple. You may say agency staff, why have you got

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them? The trouble with thing like social care, you need to have

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somebody there to do the job day in, day out. Sometimes seven days a

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week and sometimes 4 hours a day. The Liberal Democrat councillor who

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proposed the tax freeze said such talk is scaremongering. Other says

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the situation in Cornwall is so bad Alex Folks himself realised

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concerned when he realised his plan was going through. He was looking

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uncomfortable, because perhaps he realised they were playing a game

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which they didn't mean to win. Alex is with us now. Hopefully

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feeling comfort kpwrabl us with in the studio. Is this a budget which

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is ill thought out and an insult to a fag packet? No we have been

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working on our amendment for about three months. We think it is

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properly worked out and will make savings and deliver a huge range of

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extra services that the people in Cornwall tell us they wants. If you

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look at the areas it is favouring, reducing car parking charges,

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mending potholes and the areas it is taking from, adult and

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children's services, that does look like a strange set of prior pis. --

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priorities. Well not a single adult care package or child care package

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will need to be cut. We have said the council is relying too much on

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consultants, some of whom are getting over �1,000 a day and on

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agency staff which cost double the amount that a contract staff member

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would cost. What we are saying is we shouldn't be relying on agency

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staff. We shouldn't rely on agency staff to do the day-to-day work of

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the authority. Let's take a social worker emploipd as an agency staff

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member costing �36,000 a year to the council. Move them on to

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contract and when they get the same pay and they get better benefit and

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cost the council �22,000 a year. The same staff, the same service

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and massive savings. So the flexible of agency staff that the

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cabinet talks about, that is nonsense? They do offer flexibility.

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But there is no flexibility if you need the same people day in day out.

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The flexibility comes in emergencies, at the margins. It is

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sensible to have that flexibility. But there is no sense in having

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expensive stpaf for every day work. -- staff. That is where we can make

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the huge savings. It is worth remembering that children's

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services were a problem for Cornwall council. Badly criticised

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by Ofsted and one criticism was there was too staff. This is a

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sensitive area? Yes that is we can't afford to do without the work

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that is being done. This isn't a budget that can be implemented

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overnight. But it will take a year or so to implement. That is why

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there is a contingency fund there to make sure that we don't lose out

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as we implement it. But we have seen this culture that has grown up

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under the Conservative and independent administration of using

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agency staff and costing this council too much. This is the

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council that spent �50,000 trying to bring the word cup to Plymouth

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and wastes money left, right and centre. We are saying let eat's get

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rid of that spending and freeze the Council Tax and invest in services

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and to repair the holes in road and it is �1.2 million to fix the holes.

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That wis the Government money as well. No, this a extra. This is all

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new money that we are getting, because yes, yes the Government is

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giving us the Council Tax bribe to freeze it. We have managed to

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freeze it any way. That gives us money to put into fixing the holes

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in the road, bringing down parking charges and finding money to tackle

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anti-social behaviour and using the money that we are getting as fines

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from our waste contractor to put into Cornwall's string clean. These

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are things that matter and whip sull port jobs. Oliver, should the

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issue of Council Tax be such an article of faith? Saving people

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whatever it is 42 parks week, against the other issues. Certainly

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the stake which the Labour- controlled council in Plymouth have

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made to do, who decided to increase the Council Tax. I'm a Conservative.

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I believe in low tax. I think we should, they should have delivered

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that and given that the Government have said they will stands beside

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them as far as giving them money to make sure they didn't have tonds up

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doing it. Labour decided they were going to put it up. We should do

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everything we can especially hen people are finding it hard to live

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and make ends meet. We should make sure their Council Tax remains down.

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These are the people who will be hit won't only be the poorest, but

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they will be the elderly and I think it is atrocious that the

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Labour-controlled council has put up the Council Tax.

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Conservative leader says this is storing up trouble and there will

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be serious cuts in the future. There is an argue thament we need

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to go back to Government and say we expect too much of local

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authorities. I think they should concentrating upon education and

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looking after the elderly, but also that we are going to be emptying

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the dustbins and sorting out the potholes. We need to concentrate on

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the fundamentals. All the things that your Conservative-led council

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has failed to do for the last three and a half years. They couldn't

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emthe the bins, they don't fill the potholes. People are desperate for

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a change. William, the Conservative Government, the coalition, say it

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is keen on localism and yet it has told councils -- councils they

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should freeze Council Tax. Would you have a separate body telling

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councils what to do with their powers? There has been a move to

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centralisation and it is probably not a good thing. I have a specific

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point and a general point. I looked up the accounts and when the

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Cornwall unitary council was put together they owed about �500

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million. Their debt is now �6 28 million. It has bloonds up by �28

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million in three years. And somewhere along the line the

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Council Tax payers have to take care of that debt. I applaud the

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concept of there being value for money in expenditure of a Cornwall

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County Council. This a more general point if I may, which is that the

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way in which local government and local authorities unitary councils

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is funded is very far from transparent and in the long-term it

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should be simplified so people at least understand what it is their

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Council Tax is paying for. course Conservatives hoped there

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would be a better deal for places like the rural South West. Twov

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remember why we are in this position. We inherited an appalling

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state as far as the public finances is concerned. We have got to get

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that right. And Labour is like a dog which ba, and Labour put up

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taxes. -- which bark. Thank you. Farmers on the Somerset Levels are

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apparently on suicide watch after seeing their livelihoods devastated

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by months of severe flooding. They say the only solution is for the

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government to stump up �3 million to dredge two local rivers which

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are causing the problem. Jenny Kumah reports. It's month since

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Barry's been able to move the bales on this land. Half the farm's been

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under water and it's only just beginning to recover. He's been in

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farming for decades, but he's worried about the impact the recent

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devastation is having on the community. I have said publicly

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that I feel that lives are at risk. I spoke to Owen Patterson at a

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meeting in Tiverton three weeks ago and he said there that lives are a

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priority. But they were looking at flooding causing loss of life. I

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would say that anxiety and stress is another possibility. The Sunday

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Politics understands around five farmers are on suicide watch as

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they struggle with the impact of the floods. Well it's just stress

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all the way. You know, not knowing from one day to the next whether

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the actual water is going to creep up to their farms and whether they

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will have to move their animals out. To the fact that they haven't got

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any income. The floods reached their peak in November, during one

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of the country's wettest ever years. Two big rivers flow through the

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Somerset Levels. For months the Environment Agency has been pumping

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water into them. The rivers just couldn't cope. We have got 250

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acres here that has been under water for over two months. It's

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killed off all the grass. We are going to have to reseed. James

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farms around a thousand acres and says the cost of flooding is

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running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. How do you cope?

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have just got to keep going and say, we have been saying it all year, it

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can't keep raining. We had to move out of the house because of the

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flooding. It flooded my parents' house as well. We are trying to

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sort all of that out. For years people have been saying that you

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need to clear the silt clogging up the rivers if you want to stop

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flooding that we have seen recently from happening again. The

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Environment Agency has now agreed that desilting or dredging will

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help. But the scheme would cost �3 million and it doesn't meet the

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right criteria to get funding. Campaigners say the current funding

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formula focuses cash on schemes that bring benefits to bigger

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population areas. So Exeter's flood defence scheme will cost �26

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million, but the Government estimates it will bring more than

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�200 million in benefits to the local economy. Such funding

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criteria means rural areas tend to lose out, because fewer people live

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there. There's been a large amount spent within the area on a managed

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salt marsh retreat, something upwards of �18 million. If a small

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portion of that had been spent on dredging the rivers, we probably

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wouldn't be stood here today talking about the problems, because

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the problems wouldn't have been as great. This week a local MP called

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on the Government to find the cash, but there was no instant answer.

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Rivers have a nasty habit of silting up. That's why you dredge

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them. But the Environment Agency no longer dredges rivers in my

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constituency. Because they say they can't afford it. There is something

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that needs urgent forensic scrutiny by my honourable friend's

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department. I have to make sure every penny we spend on flood

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defences and protection is spent as professionally, with as much value

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for money, because it is not my money, it is our constituents'

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money. All interested party now to have to wait until April when they

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:57:20.:57:23.

will see if the level can be declared a special case for funding.

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Oliver the you agree the Government should find this money.

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understand Richard Benyon has ruled that out. But it is a big issue.

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You just have to look at the impact it had on the transport system here.

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But sticking to the farmers they have a specific problem. But there

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are other people affected by this. We need to Mike sure that we do as

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much as we do to pick sure -- make sure that we do as much as we can

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to make sure there are safeguards put in place. It is very important.

:57:56.:58:03.

Plays like Exeter have got money, should the farmers get money?

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would endorse the gentleman in the film who advocated that the money

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that is being spent on creating artificial flooding in the area,

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because of an EU directive, should be... Should be allocated towards

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dredging these two rivers. One of which is the river Tone. That is

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logical and Governments hardly ever do logical things fpts but perhaps

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Oliver can can use his good offices with the coalition for once to do

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something logical. I may raise the whole issue to do with this on

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Friday. I ended up going to a meeting where �167 million is what

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it has cost in the local economies. Now our regular round-up of the

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political week in 60 seconds. The Cornwall councillor who said

:59:03.:59:08.

disabled children should be put down eventually resigned. While

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claiming several of his colleagues urged him not to. All the

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councillors that's rung me - and there must be a good you know at

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least half a dozen - has asked me not to resign, to stick in there,

:59:19.:59:24.

because they know what I am. They know what I'm like and they find it

:59:25.:59:34.
:59:35.:59:35.

strange that I've made this remark. The Government is asked to protect

:59:35.:59:40.

direct rail services between Torbay and London. This is certainly an

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issue that can be considered when any future franchise bid is being

:59:43.:59:49.

prepared. And it's confirmed pilot badger cull will go ahead this

:59:49.:59:51.

summer in Somerset and Gloucestershire and the lavish

:59:51.:59:53.

compensation given to Dorset MP Richard Drax's ancestors when

:59:53.:00:03.
:00:03.:00:10.

Parliament freed the slaves they owned in Barbados. Oliver, some

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people may say you're lobbying to get better services between

:00:15.:00:19.

Plymouth and London on the train is like will mean Torbay is worse

:00:19.:00:23.

offer? Well, I think it is important that Plymouth does have a

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fast service. And we have more three hour train vournys and get

:00:28.:00:32.

trains here before 9 in the morning. That is important. Because we are

:00:32.:00:35.

if economic motor for what happens in the rest of the area. So I think

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it is very important that happens. But I know the minister is coming

:00:40.:00:43.

to the South West and we will have the opportunity to talk to the

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Secretary of State himself. William? There is over �10 billion

:00:49.:00:55.

Andrew Neil and Martyn Oates with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including business secretary Vince Cable and former Conservative cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell.


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