20/01/2013 Sunday Politics West


20/01/2013

Andrew Neil and David Garmston with political news, interviews and debate. Andrew Neil looks at David Cameron's future Europe plans with Dr Liam Fox and Douglas Alexander.


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In the West, a landlord who cannot sell his own pub. How the

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Government's new localism act gives the community the first chance to

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2293 seconds

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Thanks, Andrew. Welcome to the Sunday Politics here in a very cold

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west country. But it's not just the weather that's in the deep freeze -

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many people have had their pay frozen too. This man hasn't though,

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the new mayor of Bristol finally had his salary agreed this week. It

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raises the question, are local politicians underpaid for the

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privilege of looking after us? With me are two guests who join me for

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the usual BBC appearance fee on programmes like this - nothing at

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all. They are Stephen Williams, a Liberal Democrat MP in Bristol. And

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Justin Tomlinson MP, a Conservative from Swindon. They're in government

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together but on the issue of Europe they don't agree about anything.

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Stephen WIlliams says, and I quote, "the EU is the most successful

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multilateral organisation in history and to leave would be

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madness." that is quite a controversial view these days.

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I do not know, I think it is quite common sense. Since Britain joined

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the European Community it has been a great success for us and for

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Europe as well. When I got into politics we had the Warsaw Pact,

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the Iron Curtain, the prospect of war and now no one considers the

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possibility of Europeans fighting with each other. I would far rather

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go to conferences than be one of those and people who are younger

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with the prospect of going to war. The position we have with our

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European neighbours, the vast majority want to reconsider that,

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is that right? Absolutely. I think it would be the right thing to give

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people an opportunity to reconsider. I am naturally Eurosceptic. We have

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got to do what is best for this country. We must recognise

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fundamental change in the way that Europe works, the UK works and the

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world economy works. The owner of a village pub in Somerset claims he's

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lost thousands of pounds because he's not allowed to sell his own

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property. It's because the government introduced a new law,

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The Localism Act, which insists that local people should have the

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first option to buy community buildings. Danie Linsell reports.

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This is the kind of thing the Localism Act was hoping to save.

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The old hospital in Minehead closed down in 2011 but two years on, a

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group of residents have applied to give the building Community Asset

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status, to stop it from being grabbed by greedy developers.

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concern has always been that it will be turned into flats. The

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community really does not want that. It is a fantastic asset for the

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local community. It is right in the heart of the town here, it creates

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a perfect community pub. -- hub. They're hoping to turn it into a

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cultural centre for the town. And are asking for pledges of support

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and money from locals. Listing it as a community asset means they've

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now bought themselves some time to try and buy the building. It is a

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triumph for democracy of a bureaucracy. Well, people in

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Minehead might agree with local Government Secretary Eric Pickles,

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but they certainly don't a couple of miles down the road in

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Monksilver. The local pub has been shut ever since a community group

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tried to keep it open. The pub here in the village closed its doors

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last September and it was put up for sale. But local people were

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worried that they might lose it for good, so they decided to take Mr

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Pickles up on his offer, and nominate the pub as a Community

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Asset. The only problem is, the owner wasn't told. I had absolutely

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no idea this was happening. I had never heard of this legislation. I

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was dumbfounded. The more I found out about it I was absolutely

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appalled. In my view this is very bad legislation and I cannot

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understand why it has come about with a Conservative Government.

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Under the Localism Act, groups can nominate things like shops or pubs

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as Community Assets. If the local council approves it, the building

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cannot be sold on the open market, unless the community has had the

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chance to buy it first - and they've got six months to come up

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with the money. The Notley Arms had barely been on the market before it

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was approved as a Community Asset, giving locals first refusal and

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stopping any other sales in their tracks. The net result was that we

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had not one but two purchasers ringing and ringing to purchase. It

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would have been open, up and running, if it had not been for

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this ridiculous new legislation. And while the six months provides a

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welcome buffer zone for the group in Minehead, others are picking up

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the tab for this new legislation - forced to pay business rates on an

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empty property they're not allowed to sell. Despite challenging the

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Community Asset on his pub, West Somerset ruled against Mr Wilkins.

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But he's adamant. The confrontation with the council may now end up in

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the courts. So is the Localism Act not what people had hoped for?

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Joining us in the studio is Darren Jones, who's Labour's chosen

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candidate for the parliamentary seat of Bristol North West. And

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beside him, Professor Robin Hambleton, an expert in local

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government from the University of the West of England. A Conservative

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Government or conservative in coalition Government passes along

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that stops at six since selling his property, how does that work?

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a member of the Save the pub groups will I understand this issue very

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well. Often a community Cup is the last standing community facility.

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It is frustrating for the business but that six months allows the

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community to organise themselves, raise the profile for a sustainable

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Asset. Here you are telling an honest citizen who he can sell his

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property to. Six months is not an unreasonable amount of time. But he

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is still having to pay business rates and he has lost a buyer.

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know communities where this is the very last facility and once it is

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gone, it is gone forever. I think there were very good intentions. In

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this case there may have been poor administrations. It is not just a

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rural issue, it could be an urban issue as well. There was a similar

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situation in Bristol where the owners wanted to sell a pub that

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was more valuable for flats and houses. That is what it is designed

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to combat, to make sure a community as it is not sold for private use.

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I think the intentions are good but there are 200 on sections in the

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act. There is not significant devolution of power flowing from

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the legislation. We have had a creeping process of centralisation

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and the desire inadequate process of reversal. Did you notice it was

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all top-down from Government? said we were committed to localism.

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Let us be clear about this Act. It is an example of the Government

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saying one thing and doing another. That is a bit rich coming from

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Labour. When hospital managers had a question and answer session under

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Labour the had to ring the Health Secretary. Ed Miliband is talking

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about a one-nation Labour and what that means for the future of our

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country. We need to work together to find sensible solutions and make

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these things work for local people. His localism ever going to work?

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The Government says it wants more houses but most people have found a

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fundamental clash between what is happening on their own doorstep and

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the bigger picture. We are out of line in the UK. We have centralised

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power in the way that other countries have not. We need a

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significant reversal. It is helpful that Michael Heseltine in his

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report, no stone unturned, was looking for ideas for economic

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growth. He proposed transfer in �12 billion of spending from Whitehall

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to the local level. That would really be localism but we have not

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heard too much response to his ideas. M Bristol City v New near

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now has more control over his budgets. -- in Bristol City v New

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Mayor now has more control over his budgets. We are committed to

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localism and have made a very good start but there is still a long way

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to go. Eric Pickles over wrote the views of local councils when it

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comes to housing. I was told us a councillor we had to find �36,000

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within 10 years which was staggering. We now say that local

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communities can set their own numbers and if they can agree on

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that they can afford it. What you have to do if you are going to

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decentralise is allowed those sorts of things to go on. Councils would

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be financially rewarded if they went out to build houses and could

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then spend that money however they wanted. In Bristol the mayor has a

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little bit more leeway but this is about centralisation of power and

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decentralisation of responsibility. The Government are saying go and

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talk to a local commissioning group, but it is the Government to have

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centralisation of power. I think parties have failed to realise the

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way power has become centralised. It is a really radical shift. In

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Sweden 80% of citizens only pay taxes to local Government. Here it

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is nothing like that. Thank you very much indeed for coming in. The

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new mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, is promising to give away

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�12,000 of his salary, that's �1,000 a month. It follows the

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decision by the council to pay him �65,000 a year, about the same as

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an MP. The trouble is, many people expect politicians and councillors

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to work on our behalf for next to nothing. Here's Paul Barltrop.

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Bristol's new mayor is adamant, he's not in it for the money.

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would say I am going to read the chamber until a decision is made.

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He stepped out as councillors made him the West's second highest paid

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local politician, earning �65,000. With a salary like that there will

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probably never be a shortage of people wanting to be mayor but

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council chambers are often dominated by older people. The most

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recent census found the South West had England's oldest councilors.

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Nearly a quarter were over 70. Most are retired. Only 16% have full-

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time jobs. Allowances vary enormously. At the upper end are

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big unitary authorities. Wiltshire and Bristol pay councillors just

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over �11,000. At the bottom end are small district councils. Cotswold

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pays 4,000. While in West Somerset, it's just �2,700. So it's unusual

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to find someone like Simon Killane. The Wiltshire councillor has both a

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demanding job and young children. It is extremely difficult for me to

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do what I do with the council. The system has really no place for

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those people, middle to low income with children and nine to five jobs.

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To get to numerous daytime meetings he uses up annual leave. He admits

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his career loses out, as do his wife and kids. It has an effect on

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your family because when you are passionate and you push and push

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you have a situation where you have no time to spend with your family.

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I was home for five minutes last night, just time to grab a shirt

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and get out again like I came in. The challenges of being a

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councillor were investigated by a committee of MPs. To attract

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younger people they suggested changes that could push up pay

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levels. Out canvassing is another atypical councillor. It is very

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difficult for councillors to take a boat on raising their own pay and

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conditions. There are alternatives. Joe Harris is just 19. Things like

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career and kids lie in the future. He doesn't complain about

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Cotswold's lowly allowance or the variable workload. It is a big

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commitment and you are told about that when you get elected. They say

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you can put as much into it as you want. I to cooked in a good amount,

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three days in the amount of hours by comparison. I think that pays

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off. In November Joe Harris helped tackle the floods in Cirencester.

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He and many others are busy this weekend dealing with the cold snap.

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There are times, say councillors, when their money really doesn't

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matter. Money going to the victims of the cups, what does this amount

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of money say about our politicians? -- cuts. I do not think the money

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is the problem, it is the timings of the council meetings. The guy in

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the video of news that Wiltshire council with the daytime meetings

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is having to use up all his holiday town to attend these meetings, I

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think that is where the have to have a look. If you peer a big

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salary would you get a better calibre of person? Most places do

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not have executive responsibility for running the city. What really

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matters is what time the meetings are held. If you want people who

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are a cross section of population you have to make sure it is a time

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when people can attend who are of working age. I simply could not

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continue taking time off from work when I was in that position. Let us

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be sensible about it. If we want people going to meetings and

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attending to their duties, working with local people during the

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working day, they have to be remunerated for it. People go to

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work to pay for things and if we need them to do stuff we need to

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renew many them sensibly otherwise you end up with a large percentage

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of retired people who have the time to do it. Have you got something

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against the over 70s? Absolutely not, the maker tremendous community

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-- a tremendous contribution to but to get other people with a

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different understanding. I think it is about the relevance of the

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meetings, the time of the meetings. If you can make the council

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meetings talk about matters that matter at to a cross section, money

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is so relevant. Some wanted an increase of �20,000. In true

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coalition spirit neither of us participated in that and I think

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sensibly so. Isn't it because you are worth it? I find it a rewarding

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:59:20.:59:25.

job anyway. Thank you for joining us. It's time now to take a look at

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the political stories of the week in our 60 second roundup. Bristol

:59:30.:59:33.

councillors got a big cheer from football fans on Wednesday as they

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approved plans which should mean Rovers getting a new stadium. But

:59:38.:59:41.

the news that Sainsbury's will build on their old site hasn't been

:59:41.:59:45.

so well received by nearby traders. But there was all-round

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condemnation of an online comment by South West MEP Graham Watson.

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His tweet: Al-Qaeda 1, David Cameron 0, was called sick and

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offensive by party leader Nick Clegg. He quickly apologised and

:59:55.:00:01.

deleted the tweet. Calmer conditions for Stroud MP Neil

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Carmichael who's just been to the Antarctic. Days later he talked in

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Parliament about the visit as he led a debate on his private members

:00:09.:00:12.

bill to boost protection for the continent. And a former health

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minister is proposing that owners of hospitals like Winterborne View

:00:14.:00:19.

should be liable for prosecution where things go wrong. Paul Burstow

:00:19.:00:29.
:00:29.:00:34.

has introduced a bill. This new law would act as a deterrent forcing

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week providers to pull their socks up. That was a rather cold week

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that has gone by and let's pick up on one of those stories. The MP to

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:00:59.:01:00.

tweeted about Alcan leader one, David Cameron 0. How daft is that?

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I was coming back from London on the train when I saw it on my eye

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pad and I hope it was not Graham. He realised it was a big mistake

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:01:24.:01:24.

and what realised -- what he did when he realised was to apologise.

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Treating is the equivalent of broadcasting and that is the

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:01:39.:01:40.

equivalent of seeing it on this programme. It was daft and he

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apologised. I am surprised politicians allow other people to

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post on their behalf on their accounts. Twitter can be helpful

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but it can also cause other problems. I do the do It

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considering the mind feels that are dear? I held out for ages hoping it

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would go away. It is interesting to see what other politicians are up-

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to- and any opportunity to keep in touch you welcome. You have not to

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get too obsessed with social media and forget to go out and talk to

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people. OK, that is where we have to leave it. That is it from us in

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the West for it this week now we can return to London and Andrew

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Neil. You can e-mail us if you have anything to comment on. You can

:02:41.:02:51.
:02:51.:03:02.

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