28/04/2013 Sunday Politics South West


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to Thursday's elections. And MPs grill the bosses of Cornwall's


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Politics. Two years ago, the age of 's territory hit Cornwall and as the


Council prepares to go to the polls, the arguments are as fierce as


ever, will more be needed and who will pay for Cornwall's vital


services? I am joined by Sherryl Murray the Conservative MP for South


East Cornwall, Dan Rogerson, that the pro-Democrat MP for North


Cornwall and by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw. Just two months remain for


the government to negotiate a new deal with the insurance industry to


protect flood victims, if the present agreement is not replaced by


the end of June, people could be left with no insurance cover at all.


One specialist company in Cornwall has suggested a private sector


solution to protect insurers against the financial loss as they face.


think this can be done by setting up a centralised fund that all UK


property insurance Company 's pay into. Those companies who are


covering high flood risk would be able to draw from this pool when


claims happen. The important bit is that we feel this should be a mutual


fund and managed and invested for the benefit of the policyholders who


are paying in. Over time, the fund could become self-sufficient and we


may not even require the levy at all. You have had huge flooding


problems in your constituency, this is a big problem. It is a bit of a


shambles. We do have to get something together before the


current agreement runs out. Is that viable? We have to look at all


options. I know the Minister is working hard on this. We have got to


do something for those people. I have got people in my constituency


who were told they could not be insured unless they had been flood


free for ten years. They were in their attempt year and home was


flooded again. We have to do something, because I have been round


to various houses and I have seen the devastation that floodwater


wreaks on a home and it is not just the standard possessions like


carpets and things, it is the very personal irreplaceable possessions


like photographs and that sort of thing that cannot be replaced. I am


talking to the minister constantly about it. You know about this in


North Cornwall as well. The government is saying progress is


being made. It is positive that we have a contribution from industry


saying that they believe... You would expect us to say, from the


government side, will be talk about the pressures on public spending, if


we could have a solution that draws on funding from industry, that is


the solution. One of the other key questions is insurers taking note of


things that people have done in their own homes to improve the


situation. Isolated properties cannot expect their own flood


defence scheme, but they can do things like raise the plug socket


and make their homes less vulnerable, yet insurers will not


recognise that. There is a lot more the industry could do. Ben knows all


about flooding. When this agreement was brought in under the Labour


government, it was temporarily. government has had three years to


sort this out. I have warned about this. Almost every opportunity I


have had, I have urged them to get a move on. I am sure the department


ministers are doing their best, but unless the Treasury unlock some


money, there is no country on the world which relies solely on the


market for house insurance. Even the United States does not. Without some


government underwriting of the risk, the costs will all fall, even


under the scheme at you have outlined, because in the end it is


the consumer who will have to pay for that mutual funding. It is the


Chancellor who needs to sort this out. We were left with a massive


deficit. That is a general point. There was huge controversy in the


run-up to the first elections to Cornwall's Unitarian authorities in


2009. Four years on and with elections due next Thursday, in a


sense nothing much has changed, though now the rows are about


different things. The biggest is over how much money is needed to


provide the county's essential services. Posterity hit Cornwall in


December 2010. Councillors ignored this protest and voted to cut the


budget by 10% over four years. Some have lost their jobs, bus routes and


library services have been slimmed down, but many say the most painful


cuts are yet to come. Yellow macro we are reaching the point where the


great debate will have to take place. The general public are more


understanding that we cannot do everything and that some services


will have to be seriously looked at. In January, the Conservative leader


of the council told this programme Cornwall had reached a point were it


could not cope with any more cuts, so he had no choice but to put up


council tax. The risks that we have with our budget are quite off the


scale at the moment. Not all Conservatives agreed. Council tax


was frozen this year. No party won overall control of Cornwall last


time, it has been run by Tories and independence. With the Tory split on


council tax, Liberal Democrat support for a freeze was crucial.


Two years ago, they spent �750,000 per month and we said go back to


that level of two years ago which can easily be achieved and then you


can spend the money on things like making parking charges cheaper and


fixing potholes. That budget bitterly divided the Conservatives


and three of their Cabinet members left the party, one of them saying


the drive to save ratepayers approximately 45p per week had put


services at serious risk. Jim Currie is not standing for election in May


and the woman leading the Conservatives does not share the


concern of her former colleagues. think we did the right thing. You


cannot put yourself in a position where you turn down �5 million for


Cornwall and say they should pay instead. It is the right thing. We


may need to make adjustments later, but we have achieved the freeze and


we will sort the rest out. The 5 million was from government, our


reward for not increasing tax, but it is not worth as much and the man


who leads the smallest group on the council says those who voted for the


freeze were thinking only of their election leaflets. The coalition


government has actually cut our funding over four years by �546


million. We are struggling to fund public services and I think it was


disgusting that the main political groups on the council voted to make


further cuts rather than to put through a modest council tax


increase to try and stop some of the damage being done. This Labour


councillor agrees. Both the Conservatives and the Liberal


Democrats are vying with each other to blame each other for cuts but it


is their government doing it. They are almost trying to pretend that it


is not necessary to cut anything, but it is, it is going to have to


be. The decisions are going to have to be made. The UK Independence


Party favours low taxes and thinks there is probably more fat to be


cut, but even they are not sure whether councillors were right to


freeze tax this year. I cannot say they were right or wrong, because I


do not have as much information as they do. Conservative and


Independent councillors who have seen the figures plan to ask the


people of Cornwall to pay an extra 5% next year, but the Conservative


and Liberal Democrat leaders fighting Thursday's election remain


adamant they could and would avoid that. It is rather confusing, which


of these Tory factions do you agree with? There is only one Conservative


group that people can vote for, because those people who wanted to


put the council tax up or not standing as Conservatives. I have to


make it very clear that when you have overspent on a budget, by �4


million per year, and I have had people come to me saying why is one


van delivering my crutches and another van with another man comes


along and collect my used wheelchair? You can see where there


is money to be saved. You believe more can be cut? You will know that


a lot of people have said that the Liberal Democrats had their eyes on


next week, a good headline that would play well to the electorate


and did not think it through and now it is going to land the council with


a lot of financial problems? That is not true at all. There will be a lot


of people on low incomes being asked to pay more. She has outlined some


savings which she things could be made and that is after her party


have been controlling it for a number of years, they have not made


the savings. I think the Liberal Democrats would be looking at some


of those issues. It is not easy, but I think it is possible to do more.


want to come back to that, but I will bring in Ben Bradshaw. Your


constituency is a bit further away. But you take an interest. I defer to


Jude Robinson, the only Labour councillor there and I hope she is


joined by a lot more after the election. This is more of the same


shambles we have seen from successive Conservative and Liberal


Democrat and Independent led councils in Cornwall. Cornish people


deserve better, they need a competent counsel, they need


councillors who know what they are doing, who can make the cuts but who


are honest with people. You cannot keep council tax down and not make


any cuts. Is there more fat to be cut? The macro I do not know enough


about the details. I have enough on my hands dealing with my own


constituency. It is not honest to say to people that you can freeze


council tax, absorb the huge cuts in government funding and not cut any


service, that is dishonest. I think it is very simple and the message


should go back to them, yes it is, because if you stopped the Labour


implemented things that are unnecessary, that they heaped onto


local authorities, there is a lot of waste to be cut. Liberal Democrat


and Conservative MPs in areas like this are lining up to say that the


local government finance settlement was unfair and if I were Eric


Pickles, the next time you came to me saying you could not cope, I


would say you could afford to freed council tax and cannot be that bad.


We have looked at ways in which we can cut at the waist. So have we.


There is a wider issue. It is about funding for a role issues


generally. How bad is it?What more could we do if we had a fair share


of money. We are doing the best that we can. Another point is that you


have had an Independent candidate and is a question in Cornwall


because there is so many Independents, you have a group


leader, are they really Independent? You know what my position is, if you


vote for an Independent, what are you getting? I find it horrendous


that in this time of austerity, the simple answer is to allow a budget


to overspent. The portfolio holder is Independent. He did not manage


and keep control of the budget. I do not believe it is right when people


are finding it hard to have money to go and buy the same shopping every


way, it is not right to expect them to go and ask them to foot the bill


of that thing. I will come back to them. They made some representation


saying Cornwall should have more money from central government. They


voted for that. Labour MPs were saying they should be more money for


cities in the North of England! Yellow marker there is less money


for everyone. . Your point is correct, how can you complain to the


government and then not accepted that there needs to be cut if you


freeze the council tax. All I can say is here in Exeter, we have a


good Labour Council, one of the lowest council tax is in the


country, and the city council are managing to protect services in the


city and I think the people of Cornwall would like to see a council


doing that. The education budget is very clear under Labour, because of


the way they dealt with it, Cornwall is at the bottom of the league. At


the end of the day, the government now have to reverse that. They are


trying to do that, but unfortunately when you see the cities in the North


getting more per pupil than they are in Cornwall, when it is costing


more... You say all of this, but it is getting close to the next General


Election and none of this has been fixed. You will have to wait and


see. We are staying in Cornwall where the trouble provider of out of


hours GP services was summoned to Westminster to give an account of


its failings. Senior managers at Serco were unable to explain why two


of its former employees had fiddled figures and it became clear the


company is still not meeting at least some of that service


commitments. Serco gets �32 million for running the out of hours GP


service in Cornwall. It has had the contract for around seven years. But


recently there have been concerns raised about its performance and


some of these problems appear to be ongoing, according to these patients


in North Cornwall. You ring them up and they say they will get back to


you in two hours. They should have sent a doctor out straightaway. They


always send a doctor first. This week Serco and the commissioners who


hired them to provide the service came under fire from the Public


Accounts Committee. Everything is someone else's fault. It is never


the three of you. The group of MPs were looking into three key issues


highlighted by whistleblowers about two years ago and investigated by


the National Audit Office. The first was that Serco regularly had trouble


filling shifts with appropriately qualified staff. The second was that


some staff were altering performance data to give a better impression of


the company's services. And finally, there was concern that


whistleblowers were not given enough protection. The company said the


findings were out of date and it has gone far to implement changes. One


example is that it has increased the number of doctors fourfold since the


first critical report by the Care Quality Commission. But it emerged


during this week's hearing that the service is still facing challenges


and managers admitted it was only meeting ten out of 13 quality


standards. How many unfilled shifts in January? Unfilled shifts? In


terms of that, I can tell you the stats from last Saturday. I want to


know January, February and March. is important to recognise... Answer


the question! In terms of clinical, nonclinical, we have a range of


staff. Answer the question!Unfilled shifts, which was recently


highlighted in the media, is not an accurate way to measure care


delivery in and out of hours service. And MPs were baffled as to


why Serco had not faced any financial penalty for breaching its


contract. Does that not give a signal that the moment a company


wins a contract they do not deliver? They sorted out the issues. It was


not last year. There was repeated failure to comply, and ultimately


the contract could be terminated. On what basis did you take the decision


not to? It is about taking a proportionate approach. It is a


judgement call, not just for me, but for the board of the primary care


trust. This retired GP used to run Kernow Doc, the service that


preceded Serco before they lost the contract to them. He shares the


Select Committee's concerned that the only mechanism to Pina lies


Serco appears to be to terminate the contract. You have got to have


graduated response, depending on the severity of the bridge. If the


breach is very serious, then the contract should be terminated. If it


is a minor breach, perhaps a financial penalty, but it depends on


the level of the bridge. He think the problem lies with the regular


monitoring of the contract and he says the process needs to be more


transparent. I personally believe that the nature of the contract and


the terms of the contract should be in the public domain. People have a


right to know, patients have a right though, they pay for the service,


they want to be safe, they have a right to know what has been


negotiated on their behalf. Serco's problems in Cornwall first came to


light because members of staff decided to speak out. Serco says it


has good and robust whistleblowing processes in place, but a National


Audit report published last month found that staff were still fearful


raise concerns. There seems to be a fair amount of agreement in the


studio, there is a problem with accountability, this is a system the


coalition is running with but it was introduced by the Labour government.


The prime responsibility for making sure that the service provided to


the Cornish people is meeting the requirements is the primary care


trust and what worries me is that they do not appear to have picked


this problem up in the first place, it had to go to the Independent


regulator, and they still appear to be having a softly, softly


approach. I agree with Margaret Hodge and the other members of the


committee. They are asking why they have not been fined or had the


contract terminated if they are not delivering. They have the power to


do it, they hold the contract, it is their responsibility. What about the


point, you can terminate the contract, but there are no other


sanctions? There are financial penalties. If a company that is


contracted by the National Health Service, if they are not delivering,


then the Commissioner can issue a penalty or terminate the contract.


It is not doing nothing or termination, there are other things


that can be done. They can make sure that they are delivering. I think


that this goes back to the new GP contract, because GPs were given the


opportunity to opt out of providing art -- Michael out of our services


and when you had some of the older GPs, they still carried on to do it


but now they have retired, a lot of the newer GPs... What about the


management of the system? One of the main things was they could not


provide enough qualified staff and that is why, because of the new GP


contract is. Say we have more doctors, how does that add up?


are a big company, they do not want this, so they would add to the


resources. The government comes under criticism for looking at


making changes, all this happened under the original system,


completely unaccountable, these Independent bodies that were looking


at things. Now, we have boards who set the strategy and this is the


sort of thing they can call into question. You have the GPs as well


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