30/09/2012 Sunday Politics West


30/09/2012

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.

:01:37.:01:41.

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

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2114 seconds

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

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West. The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has been attending a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Conservative MP from Wiltshire. And Thangam Debbonaire is a gender

:37:47.:37:57.
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equality activist and a Labour candidate in Bristol. Thangam,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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that is my point. Labour supporters from across the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:40:32.:40:42.
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moving on. -- I think New Labour did a lot of good things. My first

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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government promised change, they promised things would get better,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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say to people who voted Conservative at the last election,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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- a fantastic mayor. Thangham and James were all ears

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

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deal with youth unemployment? really liked his concern about

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

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

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

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people paying the price. This government actually gave those rich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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single person watching today can imagine him becoming Prime Minister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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collect rubbish without any funding whatsoever?

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

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Pickles came to visit. There was plenty of smiling and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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people are being cut disproportionately. Now that you

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

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

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they know they are running fairly inefficient organisations? I pay

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

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

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the last few years. That was achieved by doing things

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differently, by prioritising what were universal benefits for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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are being kept with their budgets so tightly controlled by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:54:11.:54:21.
:54:21.:54:22.

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

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

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

:54:33.:54:43.
:54:43.:54:44.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:56:07.:56:10.

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

:56:10.:56:20.
:56:20.:56:23.

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

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

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going into coalition to the great disadvantage of his party.

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

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

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

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camera! If you are facing the fight of your

:56:52.:57:00.

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

:57:00.:57:03.

election team. He is a hero in Somerset and for

:57:03.:57:07.

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

:57:07.:57:15.

hand to hand combat at the next election.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:57:50.:58:00.
:58:00.:58:01.

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

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

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

:58:10.:58:17.

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

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

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representation for the media. Thangam, would you go into

:58:27.:58:31.

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

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

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Conservative government. It is unfortunate that what we actually

:58:45.:58:49.

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

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people. It is basically a Conservative government. Working

:58:55.:59:00.

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

:59:00.:59:05.

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

:59:05.:59:10.

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

:59:10.:59:16.

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

:59:16.:59:19.

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

:59:19.:59:24.

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

:59:24.:59:29.

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

:59:29.:59:33.

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

:59:33.:59:37.

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

:59:37.:59:41.

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

:59:41.:59:49.

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