28/04/2013 Sunday Politics South West


28/04/2013

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

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2303 seconds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One specialist company in Cornwall has suggested a private sector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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shambles. We do have to get something together before the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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to various houses and I have seen the devastation that floodwater

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

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carpets and things, it is the very personal irreplaceable possessions

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

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

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North Cornwall as well. The government is saying progress is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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situation. Isolated properties cannot expect their own flood

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

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and make their homes less vulnerable, yet insurers will not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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understanding that we cannot do everything and that some services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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fixing potholes. That budget bitterly divided the Conservatives

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

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

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

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and the woman leading the Conservatives does not share the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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freeze were thinking only of their election leaflets. The coalition

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

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

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

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further cuts rather than to put through a modest council tax

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

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councillor agrees. Both the Conservatives and the Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Independent councillors who have seen the figures plan to ask the

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

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and Liberal Democrat leaders fighting Thursday's election remain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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van delivering my crutches and another van with another man comes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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shambles we have seen from successive Conservative and Liberal

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Democrat and Independent led councils in Cornwall. Cornish people

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deserve better, they need a competent counsel, they need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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implemented things that are unnecessary, that they heaped onto

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

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

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local government finance settlement was unfair and if I were Eric

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

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

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

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

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

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

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have had an Independent candidate and is a question in Cornwall

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because there is so many Independents, you have a group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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saying Cornwall should have more money from central government. They

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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company is still not meeting at least some of that service

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

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

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recently there have been concerns raised about its performance and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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highlighted by whistleblowers about two years ago and investigated by

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

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filling shifts with appropriately qualified staff. The second was that

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

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

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whistleblowers were not given enough protection. The company said the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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why Serco had not faced any financial penalty for breaching its

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Audit report published last month found that staff were still fearful

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

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

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

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The prime responsibility for making sure that the service provided to

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the Cornish people is meeting the requirements is the primary care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:02:05.:02:12.

resources. The government comes under criticism for looking at

:02:12.:02:17.

making changes, all this happened under the original system,

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completely unaccountable, these Independent bodies that were looking

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

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

:02:30.:02:35.

Andrew Neil and Martyn Oates with the latest political news, interviews and debate, including deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg discussing the local elections.


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