16/12/2012 Sunday Politics West


16/12/2012

Andrew Neil and David Garmston with the latest political news, interviews and debate including transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.


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In the west: It may be Christmas, but scrooge is alive and well.

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Local councils want to close your public toilets to save a few

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2150 seconds

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pennies. But what other services Thank you Andrew. Welcome to our

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final Sunday Politics of 2012 in the West. There is not a comfort

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break for us because today toilets are on our agenda. Councils want to

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pull the plug on public toilets to save a few pennies. Should these

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public services really be sacrificed in the name of

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austerity? Joining us with their knees firmly

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together are took West Country MPs who share the same executive

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bathrooms. They are dom foster the Liberal Democrat and the

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Conservative Neil Carmichael. Welcome. You might be colleagues,

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but the latest spat between the Lib Dems and Conservatives, this time

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over drug policy, the Prime Minister says thing should stay as

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they are and Nick Clegg is open to change. He is right? I think the

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Prime Minister is absolutely right to make sure that we give careful

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consideration to drugs. It needs to be on the agenda, certainly, but we

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have to think in a different way. I am a great believer in

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rehabilitation. So you think it should be different? I don't think

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it is necessary at this stage because there is a clear policy on

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drugs. Don Foster? He posed the question as if you are surprised

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that two different political parties in a coalition differ on

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certain areas of policy. Liberal Democrats have argued for a very

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long time that our current drugs policy doesn't work. We have argued

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that they should be a royal commission to look at a new way

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forward and taking experiences that have been successful in other

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countries. Nick Clegg is reflecting what the Liberal Democrats have

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always said. The two parties will argue and eventually come with a

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united solution. Your view them should be to decriminalise some

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drugs? There is hardly any point to say you want a Royal Commission and

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then predetermine the outcome. I do have a view and I have expressed it

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on your programme before. I actually think that when they

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raised the classification of cannabis and then took it down and

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then back up again, it was crazy. It was not based on research

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evidence that said that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol.

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should find out this week how tough the next year will be for the West

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councils. The government is due to announce funding. What is certain

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is there will be used more cuts to come. Red tape has been slashed so

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now a prisoner of services which councils are not obliged to provide.

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One major casualty of public toilets.

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For decades they have been providing relief, but things are

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now getting much less convenient for the public. Bath and North East

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Somerset Council wants to wash its hands of the dozen after consulting

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local communities. Public facilities like these have been

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around for years and it is a shame to see them go. It is very useful

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for the young and old alike to have conveniences. I think it is unfair

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and unnecessary to get rid of it. can't remember the last time I used

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a public toilet. But the others are doing likewise. Somerset is

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shutting for him wince at -- in winter. North Somerset has already

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closed seven. Nationally it is estimated that 50% have closed in

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the last 10 years. This is one of the public toilets

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that Bath North East Somerset want to stop funding. They want to do so

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because there is no legal obligation on councils to provide

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them. They are asking town and parish councils if they want to

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take them over, but that is a financial burden not many want to

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bed. This toilet closed earlier this year after the parish council

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took the bill for taking it over. Handing it over to the local town

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or parish council does not save public money. If the district

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council isn't paying money, we are. It all comes out of our pockets.

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The council decided that we couldn't afford it. Locals are

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campaigning to get it reopened. people in the village have signed

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the petition. They say it has harmed business on the high street

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that is already facing decline. are losing business by the fact the

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toilets are not open. It is a facility we need. They are cutting

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costs for the sake of cutting costs. Unfortunately we are a small

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village and we can't afford to keep it open. They will present their

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petition to the district council, but the man grappling with next

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year's budget may not be swayed. His coppers have already been

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dented by the recent floods. We are being squeezed budget twice, there

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are no two ways about it. It is a time of brutal choices. It is a

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discretionary activity. I am asking residents which they would prefer

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and I think they would come back to us and say to keep the sandbags and

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close the toilets. The big money decision about what governments

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will give councils originates in Downing Street. In your street, the

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buck and the box may well stop here. We think it is on Wednesday that

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councils will be told how much money they will receive so the

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trouble could hit the fan this week. Joining the debate is the Mayor of

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Bristol. And a Labour councillor in Gloucester. Let's talk about

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toilets first. Kate, why can't councils do something as simple and

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basic as providing a public toilet? It comes down to money and the

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problem is that local councils have had the earliest and deepest cuts

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of any part of the public sector. Therefore, services they do not

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have to provide, however much local residents may want to provide them,

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they bear the brunt. But it is basic, isn't it? Isn't that what

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councils are therefore? It is and I'm sure residents and councillors

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want to provide those services, but when so many cuts are coming down

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from government, we really can't afford to do it. It is not an issue,

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I guess at the top of your agenda, but it is important, isn't it?

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is very important and I have had to consider everything. We are having

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to cut 25% of our net budget. That is huge and we have to look at

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everything that isn't statutory. I'm desperately trying to save

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public toilets, but I was then the next year thinking of clever ways

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of doing things. In south Bristol we have a map of cafes and bars

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that are prepared to allow the public to use their toilets. That

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gives a better service in many ways. I would like to see whether some

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public toilets can be used as little businesses, may be having a

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flower shop in conjunction and the person who takes it takes

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responsibility for it. I think we have to get clever about it rather

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than assume that councils supply everything. Don Foster, you are a

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Lib Dem where they want to close at least 12 toilets. They are also

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working with pubs and restaurants and others to see if they can allow

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the public to use those. George is absolutely right, we are going to

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have to find smarter ways of doing things. In some cases, public lose

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heart I'll run by volunteers. We also know we have many councils

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beginning to think about working collaboratively. Why is every

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council separately collecting in their rates many? Why do they have

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a joint collection? There are lots of really interesting innovative

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ways of doing things to reduce costs and often to improve the

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quality of service. Your department will announce how much money the

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councils get next year from central government. That is a crucial

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figure, isn't it? What are you expecting To here? I am partly

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going to be saying, and I certainly won't tell you on this programme

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because it will be announced when the figures are available. You

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can't have an exclusive. Councils spend collectively �114 billion per

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year, one quarter of total expenditure. It is a time where we

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are having to make cuts so it is right some proper that local

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councils take a share. You can give us a sting. Councils themselves

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already know, roughly speaking, what they will be getting. What

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they heard in the Autumn Statement was good news. They heard that

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every other department is having A1 per Saint cut, but we are not

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applying it to local councils. We also heard that in the following

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year, there is a 2% cut across all government departments and that

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will include a local government. How strict do you want the

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announcement to be? I think it is important we understand that the

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deficit has to be reduced. It is important that we get control of

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public expenditure and local government is part of that. One

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uttered every �4 is spent on local government. The other driver here

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is localism has. We need to start respecting that. What choice do

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they have if they is Kurt? Gloucestershire we are successful

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at maintaining libraries and are not closing in the toilets and that

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is because we have a reserve. bring someone in a at the sharp end.

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Your council has made 3.9 million in savings. There isn't room for

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much more. We have a community toilette scheme in Gloucester and

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there is hardly any public toilet provision. Otherwise the services

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that people rely on, we are seeing increasing demand. We spent more on

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homelessness in the last six months than in the previous year. There is

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no recognition of that in the grants we get from government.

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George, again, you have a �36 million black hole? A �36 million

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hole in the Budget. Had he made any decisions yet? I have made

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decisions, some of which will be announced on the 20th, in terms of

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provisional decisions because they go out to consultation in January.

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There isn't a lot of room for movement. I have to live within our

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means. We are taking the brunt of government cuts that local

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authorities are taking the brunt. Could you give us any idea of what

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you might be saying? George has already said he will put council

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tax up. I have said that and the maximum I can put it up, which is

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still a virtual freeze because it is under 2%. In terms of cut --

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cuts, where will you hit? They will be across the border. There are

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certain essential services that I cannot cut and I want to make sure

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we protect the most vulnerable. And you will see that I will protect

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the most vulnerable. It is also important to keep council tax low

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because that is something vulnerable people are affected by.

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I want to see that we to protect the mayors from rubble. We have to

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move on because this is the season of goodwill to all men and despite

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the doom and gloom, there are some real stories of community spirit

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saving local services that have lost government funding. There

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isforce group in our Christmas story now.

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Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin. Deck the halls with

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bowls of Harley. Our first Christmas tale is of our libraries.

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In Christmases past they enjoyed Council funding, but many have

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faced serious cuts. That did not spell the end, many have been saved.

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Here in Brockworth, the community stepped in. Father Christmas's sack

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stuffed with help from volunteers and local donations. We can do it

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differently. We have a very good business model in terms of

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volunteer support. You can't do it on fresh air, we still have to pay

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the gas and electric bill. We can do it cost-effectively, but not for

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free, that is the message to politicians.

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Our second tale today is of a good old heart warming meal and time to

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meet friends. Even in this time of austerity, much of the adult care

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budget has been saved from cuts, but sunk -- funding for some lunch

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clubs has been axed, like this one in Bristol. It lost its grand, but

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with the help of Janet, Christmas present is still a happy one. David

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Cameron's big society in action. are having it here as a church

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project. Without people giving us Our final tale is of our young

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people and Christmases of the future. The budgets for youth

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centres have been slashed by as much as three-quarters in some

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areas, but most youth clubs have been saved by volunteers. Hand-made

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Christmas cards and messages to loved ones will be kept for years

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to come. Until 18 months ago it was funded by the county council. They

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ceased all funding so it was a matter of either shutting up all

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carrying on as best we could. has been a happy Christmas all

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round. Thank you Santa and his community helpers. My ary Christmas

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Everyone! Neil Carmichael is chatting away. He never stopped.

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Let's talk about Santa and the big society. Is it working or is it a

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question of David Cameron foisting of other people's jobs on to the

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voluntary sector. In my constituency we have some great

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successes. I am dominating it for an award because it is doing so

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well as a community because of the big society. Tomorrow I am going to

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the opening of the Berkeley Library which is another successful element

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of big society. We don't have any libraries closed in Gloucestershire.

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Kate, I can't think of a major library or youth club that has

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close despite the cuts. Volunteers have come in and saved them. Have

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you been crying wolf over the effects of cuts? Not at all. There

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was a successful campaign against the county council. The scheme

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where the closure of some libraries was challenged successfully. The

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library in my ward was to close unless volunteers could run it.

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they stepped up? That decision has been changed and the library is

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still open. It has an uncertain future, but the problem is,

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volunteer libraries may have a place, but you have to have the

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capacity hummed community to do it. You need the support and a lot of

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that is down to funding. George, this is an area you are interested

:54:56.:55:06.
:55:06.:55:07.

in, getting volunteers him. There is a difference between volunteers

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and the voluntary sector. The voluntary sector has a lot of paid

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people in it and I think has the answer to a lot of these issues.

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The voluntary sector is often better geared than local government

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in providing services. I come for freeing up the tendering services -

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- processes to allow the voluntary sector to step him more often.

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is just what we are doing, George. The changes we have made enable us

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the opportunity for people in the community, including voluntary

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organisations, to come forward and say we can run the service better.

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You have to pay us, but we will give a better service. The stuff we

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have done on local budgets were local communities come together and

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look at how money is spent in their area and see if they come workout

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efficient ways of using it. They are finding they can and they can

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save money. For free? No, this is the community. The people who are

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benefiting from services coming together and saying they want a

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bigger say in how money is spent. People who used to do those jobs

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are going into debt. A lot of services are contracted out, but we

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always contract them to the same big organisations. George is

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talking about opening this up and letting other people come with

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innovative ways. Not necessarily win the volunteers, but to run

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their services in innovative ways. Are the government on to something?

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Not necessarily, but we have always had a big voluntary sector in

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Gloucestershire. I think they is an important role for that, but when

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it comes down to it, you need certainty that services will be

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provided and that is where local government has a role to play.

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Those services are being provided. Vital services have to be provided

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by professionals. Absolutely, but huge areas are going very well.

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Education is a key factor. That has nearly all been centralise by the

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Academy programme. Yes, but the money is coming. But it is not

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local government, it is centralised. We can't get into that we have run

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out of time, unfortunately. Thank you both for coming in. He says it

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will be exciting times ahead, I wonder what he knows that we don't.

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Let's take our final look at the highlights of the week in our 62nd

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run down. No new year check throw these rail

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passengers. Rail fare increases in 2013. Unions handed out Christmas

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cards bearing a message that ticket prices are rising three times

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faster than wages. First Great Western said that travelling by

:58:13.:58:18.

train is still cheaper than driving. An emergency fund has been set up

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in world share to help dozens facing Christmas without savings.

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60 people invested money in the Christmas club at their local pub,

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but he and the money went missing. This is the stuff you read about in

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the paper, you don't expect it in a small community. The things MPs do

:58:39.:58:44.

to their constituents - Charlotte Lesley faced her fear of confined

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spaces to see a cave campaigners want protected. No one told me how

:58:49.:58:52.

small it was and I am pleased they didn't because I might have

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chickened out. It was unbelievable that a mayor.

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That Was the Week That Was. I want to talk about the Christmas Club

:59:04.:59:11.

story that has a lot of reaction. Why do people pay into these clubs?

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It is a way of saving a little bit every week. He used to have all

:59:16.:59:20.

sorts of organisations that it that more formally. The message is

:59:20.:59:27.

simple, only go to a reputable organisation. Their pack went bust

:59:27.:59:33.

and people lost their money there. I know you don't want more

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regulation about everything, but is there an argument for more consumer

:59:37.:59:43.

protection? You could not have consumer protection for a situation

:59:43.:59:48.

like this, it is to it informal. Not everybody acts in a dishonest

:59:48.:59:54.

way, that is one thing to remember. Best wishes for Christmas and the

:59:54.:59:59.

new year. Thank you very much indeed. That is all we have time

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for this week. Thanks again to our guests for joining us on our last

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programme of 2012. Don't go away because Sunday Politics continues

:00:09.:00:14.

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