30/09/2012 Sunday Politics West


Andrew Neil and David Garmston with the latest political news, and interviews with deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman and the Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb.

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In the West... Road the financial crisis in the town halls.


His Eric Pickles squeezing the life out of local councillors, as


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2114 seconds


spending is reduced? Joined us for This is the Sunday Politics in the


West. The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has been attending a


fundraising dinner in Bristol - well, it is dirty work, but someone


has to do it. He has also been meeting Tory councillors in North


Somerset who are feeling the squeeze - but do the smiles cover


up the real tensions? We're very happy together. He is happy with


the government, I'm happy with his council. So is it all sweetness and


light in the town halls? We will find out the real story a bit later.


But there is nothing touchy feely about our two guests this morning,


because their politics are miles apart. James Gray is a colourful


Conservative MP from Wiltshire. And Thangam Debbonaire is a gender


equality activist and a Labour candidate in Bristol. Thangam,


let's talk about equality. Has that warned not yet been won? A British


sure it hasn't. I want to be part of making sure that walk gets one


fairly. In terms of gender inequality, women are still likely


to earn about one third of what men earn for all sorts of reasons. We


still have a tiny minority of MPs in this country - always smaller


than the brander, for instance. So there is still a lot to do. --


smaller than Rwanda. We are all doing our best. We try to get women


into Parliament, but it is how you do that. It doesn't suit women


somehow. Having more women in their would change the atmosphere. It has


already changed things on childcare and working hours. If you are


representing Bristol, you don't want to go home at five o'clock. So


actually this is child-friendly, this region. If you happen to be in


Inverness or Cornwall, you can't get home to your kids at five.


it would be terrible if MPs didn't have children will never saw their


children. But what you're saying is that MPs would have their children


in London. It only works if the MPs live in London! It is easy to say,


but hard to do, that is my.. have appointed -- started yet. --


that is my point. Labour supporters from across the


west are off to Manchester this weekend for their annual knees up


at conference. They will need their leader Ed Miliband to be on


sparkling form if he is going to impress the country and increase


Labour's lead in the polls. But can he reach out to the west - as Tony


Blair did - and what does he stand for? I've been to meet him at his


office in Westminster. Givers and blue of where you stand, you closer


to Tony Blair or Tony Benn? I am Labour, that is what people need to


know. I think really be did a lot of the good things but I am about


moving on. -- I think New Labour did a lot of good things. My first


priority will be to get young people back to work. How you going


to do that? We are going to tax the bonuses of bankers and asked


companies to provide training. When I go round the country, people say


this is such a tragedy, young people are out of work for two or


three years. You have spent those bankers bonuses at -- a million


times over. No, I haven't. But we would have a youth employment task


force. They would work with local council leaders. It is a big


question, how do we get by young people back to work? This


government promised change, they promised things would get better,


but they got worse. Margaret Thatcher reached out to the West


Country and turned it into a sea of blue. Tony Blair turned it read.


How will you get people in Swindon and Gloucester, those people you


have to reach it you have any chance of going across the road


into Number Ten? We will be talking at a conference about how we can


cut energy bills for people, make a difference for people. But you


haven't got a magic bullet. There is no simple solution. Well, the


problem with this government is all we offer people is the long haul. I


say to people who voted Conservative at the last election,


some people gave Mr Cameron their trust, and I say to them, we have


had to 0.5 years and people are suffering more not less. -- We've


had 2.5 years. Isn't it true that there is not enough rich people to


pay the price? Middle and lower income earners also have to suffer.


The missing ingredient at the moment is economic growth. If you


end up with everybody on the dole claiming benefits and not paying


taxes, fewer benefits available, borrowing will rise. To borrow is


rising under this government. That is why we need to show a different


path to the future. If the Bristol mayor is elected, what do you think


the salary should be? I pay double the salaries in Bristol to people


in Bristol. I think Martin will be a fantastic met. He has shown that


he understands what people care about. I will be supporting them. -


- a fantastic mayor. Thangham and James were all ears


listening to that. Thangham - had you heard about this latest idea to


deal with youth unemployment? really liked his concern about


youth unemployment. That is something I hear all the time when


I talk to people. But I also liked what he said about who is paying


for the crisis. You said something about the lower and middle income


people paying the price. This government actually gave those rich


people are tax-break recently. Low- income people are wondering why


they are being punished. Had you read about this latest plan? Some


of that was mentioned in last year's speech. On Question Time


this week, Harriet Harman said bankers bonuses would be taxed to


fund cheaper housing. So how many times will they be taxed? There are


lots of different ways of spending a bank bonus. If you tax their


bonuses, that is an awful lot of money. Spending that Maxwell is


part of what aid is going to do. -- what Ed is going to do. James Gray,


youth unemployment must be a priority they any party. A you


ashamed that there over one million young people in a country out of


work? Of course we must do something about it. In my own


constituency, 823,000 are unemployed. This is a lost


generation. We must do something about this, but Labour ignore the


fact that they were in power for 18 years. We are where we are today


because of what they did. Mr Miliband is a nice man. Not one


single person watching today can imagine him becoming Prime Minister.


Ed Balls is much more worrying. He is a professional. Blaming the


Labour Party for the financial crisis is getting very tiring. You


have been in power of the two and a half years. People may have on that


under the Tories in the 1990s you were in deficit almost all of those


years. Saying that we are to blame for the entire financial crisis is


ridiculous. We did not cause the financial crisis in America.


right, we will talk more about the economy later. Eric Pickles has


been given some local councillors are hard recently. But off camera,


they claimed he squeezing the life but out of local government. Even


North Somerset, which is very conservative, is wondering how it


will manage. This is street-level politics...


And it doesn't look good. It's one of the most potholed roads in North


Somerset. Residents rail at the council. Obviously we are all


pretty appalled. It makes you feel undervalued as a member of


community. It makes you wonder why you pay your taxes. It's dangerous,


really dangerous. It's absolutely terrible. It has been like this


since we moved in. I thought they would do something about it, but


they haven't. Sorry, say the Conservative-run


council - but money's tight. In fact, they warn they may have to


chop tens of millions of pounds more, despite several years of


belt-tightening. More than most councils, they feel their been


doing what the government won and two. They say they had been


streamlining for years. They have just two offices that staff work


from - they used to the 18th. And yet the financial crisis continues.


-- there used to be 18. On Tuesday the council leader


showed off town hall improvements - an energy efficient building, lots


of staff hot-desking, and encouraging the public to access


services via computers. It will help save �700,000 a year. But that


won't be enough - by 2018 there may be only enough money to fund social


services. So he had this message for ministers. When we are already


one of most efficient councils in country, spending 61% on care


services, can you tell me how we are supposed to maintain roads and


collect rubbish without any funding whatsoever?


Two days later, he got to ask the top man - Secretary of State Eric


Pickles came to visit. There was plenty of smiling and


posing for pictures - after all, this was arranged by the


Conservatives. Then they went inside to talk - away from the


cameras. And afterwards there was this. We're very happy together. We


bonded, in the way. He is happy with the government, I am happy


with his council. Can you guarantee this council will get more money?


It's not my guarantee that you need to be concerned about, it is the


guarantee of a good, well run local council. That is why we're changing


the system. In your estimation, is it a well run council? It is a


wonderful Council. He is changing the system so councils may raise


more from business rates. But it was not the answer the council


leader have wanted. They clearly disagreed on camera -- off camera.


He has lost a sense of touch with the common people. You can say


something -- you can say anything to him. Of course, he is top.


more you Frank? Oh, yes. -- were you frank?


All was polite as the Secretary of State left. In North Somerset they


will now be working out what to cut next year. In Whitehall they'll be


deciding how much councils must cut in the years after that.


With me now is the former Lib Dem leader of Bristol City Council,


Barbara Janke, who joins us for the first time since she stood down


earlier this year. Well, North Somerset reckon the way things are


going they will have no money for anything apart from social services


in a few years' time. Do you have similar worries in Bristol? Well,


our budget is much bigger, being a city of half a million people. But


social services is by far and away the largest area or on the council


funding. Clearly, councils these days, the services they provide are


mainly for people who are more vulnerable, people who don't have


the same amount of income, the same advantages as many others. So those


people are being cut disproportionately. Now that you


are no longer in the top job, you can be honest. Do local council


leaders cry wolf, saying they have not got enough cash when actually


they know they are running fairly inefficient organisations? I pay


I'll always honest, and I will be honest now. Clearly there are some


savings that could be made. We have made savings of over �50 million in


the last few years. That was achieved by doing things


differently, by prioritising what were universal benefits for


vulnerable children - they and are targeted so we get less children


who are picked up, if you like, as needing extra support. So you can


make savings, but after two years at that level of cuts, it is


difficult to find savings that won't impact very seriously on the


city's more vulnerable people. council-tax be frozen again?


not in a position to know that. I'm not in the cabinet any more. But


that is another way money could be raised to pay for the services. I


think it will be the new mayor who will have that decision to make


when they are elected. James Gray, is it fair that local a authorities


are being kept with their budgets so tightly controlled by


Westminster? Well, I used to be a special adviser to the Prime


Minister. A local authority turned up and said it would be a disaster.


In Wiltshire, for example, we have cut �250 million from the Budget.


We have got rid of five rural district councils. We have frozen


council tax, services are as good as they are. We got rid of 250


managerial jobs. By doing this sort of thing, Wiltshire council have


saved an enormous amount. You spend a fortune hiring a chief executive


and you then got rid of them. was the Liberals. A so you can take


all the credit for the savings. quarter of the government's total


budget is spent on local councils. What do you think, Thangam? I think


what Eric Pickles has done is clever. He has managed to pass the


blame to the local authorities. It will be their fault if council tax


goes up. The amount of housing benefit has been changed but it is


local authority who as to deal with it. Not Somerset is very Tory, they


are the ones saying we don't have any more to cut. They didn't quite


say that. Eric and the leader were great mates by the end of your clip.


We are the mould -- the most centralised government. The


Treasury takes 80% of all finance and then reallocate assets. If you


want local councils to take decisions, if you want them to be


proactive, it would be much better to give them more powers over


finance. That way it is accountable, rather than the government dulling


our bits-and-pieces. -- doling out bits. Business rates are also not


differentiated. You don't benefit if you're doing well.


It is time now for our weekly political round up in 60 seconds.


He is one of the Tories most right- wing backbenchers, but Jacob Rees-


Mogg's hard exterior gave way to his softer side with a bit of love


for his coalition colleagues. -- one of the Tory's. I think the Nick


Clegg - I can hardly bring myself to say this - was rather noble game


going into coalition to the great disadvantage of his party.


But do his Lib Dem colleagues share his love? Our friends at the Daily


Politics went to their conference and asked some of our MPs who they


woud be happy to share power with next. I know, I'm not doing it on


camera! If you are facing the fight of your


life, then call on action man. Paddy Ashdown is heading up our new


election team. He is a hero in Somerset and for


Lib Dems everywhere - there is no doubt he will be leading some good


hand to hand combat at the next election.


James Gray, what do you think of Nick Clegg? I would like it to be a


Conservative government whip a Conservative majority. So I don't


like the coalition, I very much hope after the next election we


have a coalition -- a Conservative government. Barbara, were you proud


of them at the conference? Is a standing up enough for the party?


He is nothing short of heroic. The unfair treatment he receives from


just about everybody is quite beyond belief. I think he has been


a very strong leader and I don't think any of us are can argue


against that. I have led a rainbow cabinet of three parties. The issue


is policies - and what are we trying to achieve and what can we


achieve together? Some people would say you have been a cover for the


cuts. Well, I don't disagree with that. I think we had a very unfair


representation for the media. Thangam, would you go into


coalition with the Lib Dems? I pick it is interesting what James Gray


said. It is not surprising what a decent. We basically do have a


Conservative government. It is unfortunate that what we actually


have is tax-breaks for millionaires and harder bins for the hard-up


people. It is basically a Conservative government. Working


people are the ones paying the price. If the election isn't clear


cut next time round, would Labour do a deal with the Lib Dems? Well,


that is three years away and I will be fighting to win. But would you?


I'm not the leader of the Labour Party so it is not up to me. But I


will lead to be an effective Labour government. We shall have to see.


At the moment, the coalition continues. Nick Clegg did not have


a bad week, did he? I think he had a good week. I think we will see


people looking at long-term benefits. It is easy mid-term


government for Labour to say these things at the moment. Three ways is


a long way ahead. Thank you very much. That is all from us for now.


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