03/03/2013 Sunday Politics South West


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


affect public services 5 farmers urge ministers to ends their


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


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


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


joined by the UKIP MEP William Dartmouth and Oliver Colvile,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


is a sensational result in a constituency in which we polled


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


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


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


Prime Minister David Cameron is a supporter of Turkey becoming a


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


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


Conservatives, to the Liberal Democrats and to Labour on their


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


You have had a go at the Conservatives, euro sceptic


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


were unexpectedly thrown out after an acrimonious meeting of the whole


council. Fierce disagreement continues as to whether this puts


vital public services at risk. Ben Woolvin reports. Cornwall


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


budgets have caused as much cross party concern. The Conservative


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


some Conservatives backed a Liberal Democrat alternative budget with


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


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


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


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


think about people and not themselves, were beside themselves.


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


reducing the council dependence on agency workers. But the


Conservative councillor in charge of adult says staff sickness means


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


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


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


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


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


the situation in Cornwall is so bad Alex Folks himself realised


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


uncomfortable, because perhaps he realised they were playing a game


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


services were a problem for Cornwall council. Badly criticised


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


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


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


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


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


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


under the Conservative and independent administration of using


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the stake which the Labour- controlled council in Plymouth have


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Labour-controlled council has put up the Council Tax.


Conservative leader says this is storing up trouble and there will


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


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


authorities. I think they should concentrating upon education and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Cornwall unitary council was put together they owed about �500


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


million in three years. And somewhere along the line the


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


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


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


way in which local government and local authorities unitary councils


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


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


Council Tax is paying for. course Conservatives hoped there


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


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


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


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


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


apparently on suicide watch after seeing their livelihoods devastated


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


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


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


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


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


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


devastation is having on the community. I have said publicly


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


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


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


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


Politics understands around five farmers are on suicide watch as


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


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


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


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


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


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


Somerset Levels. For months the Environment Agency has been pumping


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


flooding that we have seen recently from happening again. The


Environment Agency has now agreed that desilting or dredging will


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


right criteria to get funding. Campaigners say the current funding


formula focuses cash on schemes that bring benefits to bigger


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


million, but the Government estimates it will bring more than


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


that needs urgent forensic scrutiny by my honourable friend's


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


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


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


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


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


Oliver the you agree the Government should find this money.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


logical and Governments hardly ever do logical things fpts but perhaps


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


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


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


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


political week in 60 seconds. The Cornwall councillor who said


disabled children should be put down eventually resigned. While


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


summer in Somerset and Gloucestershire and the lavish


compensation given to Dorset MP Richard Drax's ancestors when


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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