14/10/2012 Sunday Politics West


14/10/2012

Andrew Neil and David Garmston with the latest political news, including an interview with the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Schapps and a debate on the future of Scotland.


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In the west, The North Somerset MP Liam Fox hits out at the elite

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within his own party. Who can he mean? And has he still

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got his eye on the top Conservative job.

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2175 seconds

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Thank you, Andrew. Welcome to Sunday Politics in the West. Today:

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A doctor's prescription for making the Conservatives more attractive.

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Liam Fox tells us why David Cameron and the Westminster elite should

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listen to people like him. I have been putting him on the spot.

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Giving us an injection of political wit and experience are our guests

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today. They are the Lib Dem Don Foster, who has been given a

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ministerial job under Eric Pickles, and the Conservative from Wiltshire,

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Justin Tomlinson. Don, congratulations on becoming a

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minister. It is great fun. Incredibly hard work, and a huge

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steep learning curve. Within 24 hours of being appointed, I was

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leading a debate on the topic of building regulations. I had to stay

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up all night to learn about the issues. Within three days, I was

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giving evidence in front of the select committee, then within a

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week, stand at the Despatch Box and answer questions. You were our sort

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of a new boy. Do you aspire to ministerial office? He was a

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natural at the dispatch box. It is a wonderful opportunity. We are

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seeing more opportunities as backbench MPs to actually shape the

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direction of policy. It is an exciting time, hard work, and

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sometimes things take a long time. First, can the correlation between

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the Conservatives and Lib Dems last? Attentions are coming to the

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surface, and Liam Fox does not try to hide his disappointment that the

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liberals are watering down Tory policies -- tensions at coming to

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the surface. Two conferences, two weeks and 170 miles apart, but at

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times, the gap appeared much bigger. Playing to their audiences, Tories

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and Lib Dems are made jibes at each other. A lead the Conservatives be

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in no doubt, we will hold them to their promises on the environment.

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No other party make that commitment. Not Labour, not the Liberal

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Democrats, just us, the Conservatives. I will not allow us

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as a party to be bound hand and float to Tory spending plans across

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next Parliament. Sitting at, but speaking up a bit more these days

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his former defence secretary Liam Fox. He has just launched a new

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group, Conservative Voice, which aims to push the party further to

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the right. I think it is actually a very healthy that we are able to a

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spouse clear conservative viewpoint distinct from the coalition. Other

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partners growing apart? The Tories will do their damnedest to Gullit

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alone after the next election. The Lib Dems are wondering who they

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might get into bed with after 2015, although not all are happy to say.

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What was the question? Who is your preferred coalition partner?

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away. I am not saying. As a minister, you have to juggle many

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balls. A I could not possibly comment. Liam Fox doesn't just

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disapprove of Lib Dem policies. He is also critical of his own party's

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leadership, suggesting there out of touch and remote. He calls them a

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metropolitan elite. I asked him who he had in mind. Not just the Tory

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party, I was talking about politics in general. We spend a great deal

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of time and effort talking about House of Lords reform. That is an

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issue for the metropolitans, for the Westminster village. It is not

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an issue they talk about in Portishead or in my constituency,

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where people talk about employment and about prosperity, about

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pensions and their economic future. The implication is that you get it,

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but Mr Cameron doesn't. No, I think there is a tendency in Westminster

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to be very Westminster Oriented. I think it affect all the political

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parties. I think that is one of the things the party conference season

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does, it gets politicians out amongst activists and other parts

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of the country. I hope that at the end of the three weeks of

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conferences, we go back to Westminster with a better

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understanding about what the voters want to talk about rather than

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self-indulgent political discussions. Truth in the London

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elite -- do you think the Tory party should be run by somebody

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from a more rural area, like Somerset? I think what we simply

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need to do, as have the other parties, is to recognise them is a

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world outside London. I think we need to listen more widely. I would

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not say North Somerset was the one place you have to listen to! This

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is a shot at the Prime Minister. is not. It is a genuine attempt to

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say if the party want to get re- elected in 2015, it needs to be in

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tune with the voters. We have seen the Chancellor setting out his

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stall with the economy. I think it has been a very good week, from a

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party that knows what needs to be done and is not likely to change

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course. I think some people will say, actually, Liam Fox spends too

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much time with the party faithful, and you do not get ordinary people

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because you were in the thick of it there. It is an odd argument for

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someone who has spent their life working in the National Health

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Service and who grew up on a council estate! A people to worry

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about public services, they worry about the economy and what will

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happen to their taxes. I do not think they do worry about

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constitutional issues in the way politicians do. I am happy with my

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agenda and I think it is one people broadly agree with. Dr Fox, thank

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you very much. Just then, does he speak for you? He makes some very

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interesting points. You are reminded what the priorities are in

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the conference. We all have different priorities. Liam has to

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acknowledge we did not win the election outright. It is a

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coalition. We all have to compromise on some issues. By and

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large, we have been working very well with a were coalition partners.

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What about this talk of a metropolitan elite? I think if you

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ask any MP if they consider themselves to be in touch with the

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public, they would say that they are. When you represent a marginal

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seat, you are very conscious about the priorities of the people you

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represent. How popular with the agenda be -- how popular would the

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agenda be? I am economically on the bright, socially on the left. I am

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not a member of any pressure groups within the party. I am quite

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relaxed about individuals putting forward their ideas. But it is a

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meeting of mind and finding compromises. You share government

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benches with Liam Fox. He is towards the right of the party. Are

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you comfortable with that as a man towards the left of the Lib Dems?

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think we should listen to people in local communities, and that was

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interesting when he said that. Independent political parties need

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to develop their policies. Liberal Democrats are doing that, the

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Tories are doing that, Labour and others are doing it. I agree with

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that. Two political parties had to come together given a collection

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circumstances. I am comfortable working alongside our coalition

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colleagues on the agenda we have, which is be dominated do with the

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economic mess this country is in. He does not mean I have suddenly

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become a Tory! -- it does not mean. The proposal of an extra �10

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billion in cuts, what about that? There will be a lot of discussions

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on that. We have got a situation where our welfare packages are a

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third of government expenditure. It has ballooned in recent years, and

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we must address that. You have your endorsing Policies. If you look at

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the number of private sector jobs that are being created, it is quite

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phenomenal. If you look at the infrastructure developments, they

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ran lots of things. -- there are lots of things. If you look at what

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we are achieving in the creative economy, we are beginning to lead

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there. We know how difficult it is, and that is why we have to take

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tough decisions. We must crack on. The coalition are promising that

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council tax will be frozen again. That would leave local authorities

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very short of cash. This is how democracy looks in Gloucestershire.

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At its heart, the county council, then the six smaller district

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councils. 320 councillors, over 6,000 employees, at a cost to the

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taxpayer of over �463 million. But do we really need seven different

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councils? Would warm super council do the job? This man thinks he can

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make things simpler and is even prepared to sacrifice his job.

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would say closer integration and joint working are somewhere along

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the path to a unitary authority. If it can be shown that we can work

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together on various topics, then why not make a formal decision to

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join up completely, rather than maintain the overheads, separate

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staff, working on the same subject in seven local-authority is?

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his proposals have upset others, who say the current system ain't

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broken. You can spend a lot of time talking about rearranging does deck

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chairs. Actually, there are opportunities already where we can

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work close and better together, get rid of duplication, act as a single

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public sector team. How would it be if these seats were no longer

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warmed by county councils, -- county councillors, but by a new

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unitary councillors instead? think every council should look at

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it and see what savings might be made. If you can get rid of the

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tier of government, it has to be more efficient. That's the theory,

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but councillors from Gloucestershire only need to travel

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50 miles to see what happens when it is put into practice. In 2009,

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will share lost a whole tier of local government. Out when the

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borough and district councils, and the county council as well. It was

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replaced by a super unitary authority. Three years on, I have

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come to Chippenham, to find out whether people have noticed a

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difference. Three years ago, when she got rid of his district and

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borough councils and County Council, and replaced it with one authority.

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Have you noticed any difference? Yes. What's the difference? It is

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worse. North Wiltshire District Council represented the locality

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much better. The until authority has been appalling. I personally

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believe it has not been working. We had a few issues that came up last

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year that needed support from our councils, and it physically was not

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there to supporters and achieve what we wanted to achieve.

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haven't noticed any difference. I was vaguely aware, yes. As a

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taxpayer, it is meant to be better value for money. Have you seen a

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shaming your council tax? No. might not be a resounding vote of

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confidence, but members of the new unitary authority in Welsher say

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they are saving �80 million a year. 18 million reasons why councillors

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in Gloucestershire might even consider voting themselves out of

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the job. The timescale is probably such that if it -- the timescale is

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promise such that it would be beyond my time as leader, but I

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would be prepared to make myself redundant. Joining the debate is a

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Labour's Mark Dempsey, a councillor in Swindon. There is a unity

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authority of will chair and a unity authority of Wilshere. -- Wiltshire.

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And Swindon. You allow people to know how to get things to change. I

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think decisions about moving towards unity authorities have to

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be a decision made by the people. People are looking for leadership

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from their local government. In Swindon, the big demand is a plan

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for Gross, getting how young people back into work -- a plan for growth.

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Let's talk about tax been frozen. Families are finding times are hard

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at the moment. I voted for a council tax freeze twice. I think

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it gives people the help they need. Overall, when council tax and

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business rate at going down, what people really need is the hope we

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can build a better future for them, to bring new jobs and the economy

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and regenerate our town centres. Let's bring in our other guests.

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None of us want to pay more council tax, but what's a point in having

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men and women working in government if they can't decide the level?

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They will be able to decide. What has been said is if council tax is

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frozen, some of the money will be provided from that anyway. It is up

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to local councils to make the decision whether they want to take

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the money and have a freeze, or not take the money from central

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government but razored through council tax. It is very important.

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It is incredibly important for people on pensions. I remember my

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times on the council went council tax went up massively. Hard-pressed

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farmers will be very grateful for this. Yes, local authority will

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have to find a contribution. Were it is the reality? -- what is the

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reality? I think what people want is hope for now. That is the

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critical thing. They want value for money and they want to believe we

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will grow the economy. That is the leadership people want in local

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government. Can you deliver without large cuts? This is the challenge.

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This is where the cut and really biting. I knocked on the door in

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North Swindon last weekend. A young mother was on child benefit and

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that had been cut, her husband was facing redundancy and head bills

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were going up. She said openly, I voted Conservative last year, will

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not make the same mistake again. That is the problem people are

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having, because of the cuts the Government are making. I am afraid

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the legacy of the economy we inherited means we have to make

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difficult decisions to balance the economy. How long will that excuse

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wash for? We inherited a massive deficit. But you have been saying

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that for long time. We will have to demonstrate by the general election

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and we have made a difference. There is no hiding from that. In

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2015, people can make their judgment. Thank you so much for

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joining us. Now, let's take a race through this week's political

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stories in one minute. Time to say, hello hello hello to the new police

:57:55.:57:58.

and Crown Commissioners. But standing for office is hardly a

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steal. The Greens have pulled out, and in Avon and Somerset, UKIP's

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man withdrew, saying the party could not afford the �5,000 deposit.

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In Gloucestershire, the woman standing on the Save the badgers

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platform also threw in the towel. You need around �84,000 also to

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spend on materials for advertising, marketing and so on. And politics

:58:23.:58:26.

played its part in scuppering the biggest global defence deal. BAe

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and the parent company of Airbus, EADS, have called the whole thing

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off. The Green Party's new leader popped into the West Country this

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week as anti-nuclear protesters clashed with police at Hinckley

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Point in Somerset. At first it was all smiles on the Manchester

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conference stage. This week, back to campaigning in Bristol. Marvin

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Rees was joined on the street by the debt Miliband. -- stand on the

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street by Ed Miliband. Let's pick- up on the story about the police

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and Crown Commissioners. People are dropping at because they have to

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find five grand, to put your name down, then you have to canvass

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across a vast geographical area. It is not practical. I have sympathy.

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You do need lots of candidates, whether from political parties are

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independent. That �5,000 deposit I think is excessive. If you do well,

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you will get the money back. One reason you have a deposit is to

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stop... It would just be the main parties -- it would just be the

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main parties standing. The key thing about this is it is a real

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opportunity to have democratic accountability that we do not

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currently have in this way. OK. We will wait and see what happens.

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Before we go, we must end up best wishes to one of our local

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politicians who was a regular guest here. Anne Snelgrove, who was a

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Labour MP for South Swindon, has told us she is battling cancer

:00:26.:00:31.

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