04/12/2011 The Politics Show South East


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Financial prosperity or environmental ruin? As plans for a


new airport in North Kent gather speed, we ask, is that the


political will to make it happen? Clause, the households facing a


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 2020 seconds


Hello, welcome. Coming up, food or fuel? The tough choices facing a


growing number of households in our region.


Sometimes, you feel hungry and you wonder what you are existing four.


After all of these years of working. The prospect of a Thames estuary


airport takes off. And, can brighten's cream Council


deliver on its election promises? It is official, we have just had


one of the warmest autumns on record. How long will the mild


weather last? Thousands of families will want it to last and right


through the winter, with fuel bills a big worry. For 140,000 households


here, officially in fuel poverty, but worry is a shop as a winter


frost. For them, heating costs will burn up at least one 10th of their


income. Some said they are forced to make a choice between keeping


warm and having enough to eat. With no real prospect of falling bills


in sight and the Government cutting the season will fuel allowances,


people here could be facing a heart and harsh winter. What is being


done to tackle the fuel poverty problem?


By day, this man does voluntary work in this cafe in East Sussex.


Helping provide hot meals for pensioners. By night, he goes home


to a house he cannot afford to heat. It is difficult. We have to wear


extra clothing, myself and my wife, we are both disabled, we are both


of retirement age, obviously, and we have to wear extra jumpers, even


indoors with the heating on. Every year, you have to turn it down more.


It is very difficult. My wife spent nearly a month in hospital in


January with pneumonia. Since that, she has constantly had colds and


she still has breathing problems. I suffer with asthma. It is


imperative that I keep warm. I have got to pay more just to exist. With


the bills being so high, the only other weight they can be reduced is


the amount of food that we have. Sometimes, you feel very hungry,


and you wonder why you are existing. After all of these years of working.


He is not alone in struggling. A household is in fuel poverty if it


spends more than 10% of its income on fuel to heat the home to a


reasonable level. Phil poverty is a rapidly increasing problem, with


gas and electricity prices going up and up. Over the last year, the


average household's annual energy bill has increased by �224, to


nearly �3,000. In the South East, 140,000 households are in fuel


poverty. Of those, the highest proportion is in rather, where over


80% of the population struggle to pay their energy bills. The MP for


the area is Craig Barker, also the minister in charge of fuel poverty.


The next worst his Thanet, 16.2%. Followed by Shepway, 15.7%. But


whilst the scale of the problem is growing, the government has decided


this year's allowance will be less than last year, down by �50, to


�200 for people over 60, and by �100, to �300, for the over 80s.


Some say this will result in higher healthcare costs. The reductions


are very short-sighted. Both of the amounts are going down, by a


reasonably substantial amount. The effect will be that people have a


choice, they either heat their homes or eat, or maybe not do both.


In the long run, it will have an effect on people's Health, because


there is a link between well-being and keeping warm in winter.


Eventually, they will be a bill picked up by the NHS. It is not


just pensioners two struggle. We met this woman, who has lived alone


since her husband died of cancer. She has also got the disease.


the heating, I am using a hot-water bottle. I cannot afford to put the


heating on. I have had four different types of chemotherapy and


two types of radiotherapy, but it keeps coming back. And not heating


your house properly does not help? No. I suffer with hot flushes and


everything, but even so, called his cold, it goes right through to your


bones. There are schemes designed to help insulate people's homes,


but there are also Kattegat, and they exclude lots of people, such


as Andy helping if the house has very little or no installation, or


a heating system that does not work. And less money is being made


available for it than in previous years. Some people say the least


the Government should do is reinstate the winter fuel allowance


to last year's level. They should think again, there are many ways


this could be funded. It is a modest cost. Those campaigns


representing all the people and the community at large, they should


press the Government to think again. This is something they could do a


U-turn on? We have got to demand they do. There are 6 million people


in England in fuel poverty, a large number of pensioners, and single


people. The government should be trying to protect and support them.


What advice would people give to the government? Lots of people need


your help. It is not just people my age. There are lots of youngsters


as well. I would urge them to think about this again. Bring it back to


what it was, because lots of people are suffering this year.


government has made several U-turns in the last 18 months. Many people


are arguing that if anything it is worth reversing, the decision to


reduce this allowance is it. What should the government refocusing


on? They have decided to invest billions in improving transport


infrastructure? --. But could a fraction of the money be given to


This situation is inescapably awful. What can you do about it? I agree,


that was a moving piece. When people talk about choosing between


fuel and food, it is enormously difficult. All the people will


attract sympathy. One area I would like to do something in is what we


are doing in terms of renewables. Every single energy company has to


put an extra amount on the bill, and it can easily be �100 a year


for a household, which goes to subsidising renewable energy and


building wind turbines and infrastructure, even though that


has to be backed up with gas supply as well. Why not start off with the


basics? The winter fuel allowance. For the last three years, it has


been higher than this Government have said it. You have reduced it


by �50 for the over-sixties and by �100 for the over 80s. In Medway,


13,000 households in fuel poverty. Nationally, Nick Watt of the


population. Why did you drop the allowance? It is not fair to say


that the coalition government have cut the winter fuel allowance in


that way. Last year, the outgoing Labour government brought in for


one year... They have had a higher winter fuel allowance for the last


three years. It might have gone at headlines, but it was for three


years it has been at the higher rate. You could have chosen to


stick with that. Those amounts were something that, even in the Labour


Party's spending pounds -- plans, they were going to do that.


Exchequer had a 200 million pound windfall as a result of the extra


VAT on higher gas and a letter to the bills. Nine reputable


organisations campaigned for the Chancellor to channel that back to


vulnerable people. He did not do that. He gave �250 million to big


business. That is the wrong priority at a time like this.


we need to do in order to help people struggling to pay the fuel


bills is the orientate our help. Instead of making two the energy


company's -- instead of making the energy companies more wealthy, it


should help people insulate their homes. That has a bigger impact in


terms of reducing bills and allowing people to heat their homes


and not have as bad problems as some of these people you saw in


your clip. But it will also reduce carbon emissions by much more than


many of these real projects. you had �200 million. The last


round of spending provides people with insulation and people with


energy efficient boilers. The last round was �1 billion. This is too


rigid and �10 billion. -- �210 billion. We do not have this money.


That means we are borrowing to 222 billion of around 222.2 billion. We


are borrowing 9% of whatever we earned. If it was to continue, the


markets would not lend the money they do to the British government


at 2%, and we would pay something like Italy, 7% a year. One idea,


you can means-test the winter fuel allowance. Why do you give it to


somebody like Helen Mirren, a well paid actress? She does not wanted.


If you means tested it, you could give more money to people that need


it, and you would not have to pay it to wealthy pensioners. I would


encourage Helen Mirren and others to put that money back into the pot


or to support charities who are helping people. But the government


will not means tested? You means- test child benefit. The order that


against it, the more it is done, the less incentive there is to save.


I had people coming in... You think pensioners have money to save?


you means test every benefit for pensioners, people have no


incentive to save and a do not put away money during their working


life. I would like to help bring down the fuel bills, help


pensioners to insulate their houses properly, and in terms of


supporting that, but also taking action on climate change to the


extent that there is an issue with admissions, -- emissions, the money


should be used, rather than subsidising renewable energy, by


putting it into home insulation, by helping people with energy


efficiency measures, so that pensioners such as some of those


are your clip are able to afford to heat their homes.


Controversial plans to build a new airport in Kent came a step closer


when the Chancellor said the Government was looking at all the


options to improve aviation capacity in the South East. Two


proposals for an estuary airport have been put forward, won by Boris


Johnson, one by Lord Foster, whose design would accommodate up to 150


million passengers a year. Those in favour say it would revitalise the


region's economy and bring much- needed jobs, while opponents argue


it would be expensive and an environmental disaster. I wonder


who you think is right. Let's listen to the arguments. We found


it very hard to uncover a political figure in Kent who is unequivocally


in favour of a massive new airport for North Kent. Argue that man?


definitely. All three political parties have joined up and started


to be against something to we have not even considered. The people


have not been asked what they think. The three leaders of the political


parties have decided that they are against this proposition. You may


oust the word rubbish. I am very good at lip-reading. You are not


still banging on about a third runway at Heathrow? The do not


listen to the Autumn Statement? had a U-turn on winter fuel


allowance and promising they would keep it, now we have a U-turn on


the promised they would not be an estuary airport. I never heard that


promise. It was made in the run-up to the general election. David


Cameron has been repeatedly questioned at PMQs. Let's be clear.


He was asked at PMQs last year whether there were any plans, and


he said there are no plans. That is not the same as a promise never to


build. The promises were made clearly. As soon as the coalition


said they would not have expansion at Heathrow or at Stansted or at


Gatwick, it meant that they then became a probe -- possibility of a


free-for-all to start bidding for other places, because everybody


knows that we have to meet the requirements of business, of us as


individuals who want to go on holiday, for leisure purposes, to


meet their aviation requirements. What is your idea? You know the


third runway is off the agenda. What is your idea? We have the


position at -- we had the position to have the third runway, but now,


I suggest that the leaders in Kent and Medway and Essex should look to


what the capacity is at the existing provision. Southend,


Manston, look at Gatwick, the new owners of Gatwick have said they


have spare capacity for something up to 200,000 passengers per year,


without a new runway. And in addition, you have the equation


that, after 2019, they could be an additional runway at Gatwick.


piecemeal expansion is his best idea. Maud Foster has a plan for a


massive airport and railway station. -- Maud Foster. It has a �50


billion price tag. Where is the money going to come from? I am sure


the government can raise the money. At the same time, we need


regeneration. A big project like this would give a local people jobs,


and after the airport has been built, we would have jobs forever.


It is a great idea. Boris Johnson is right in looking at all the


possibilities. I do not know why people are anti- Boris. He has a


brilliant idea, they have got to support this. Interestingly, my


experience is that public opinion has shifted. In 2003, the idea of


the airport was rejected, people were happy. I spoke to a woman this


week, a young mother, she does not want her community to be bulldozed,


but even she says she can see the economic arguments that her


children need to live in a country that has a vision for jobs and for


growth. Absolutely. The argument was knocked out in great detail


when there was the idea about this airport, and it still holds true.


It is wrong to say it has never been considered. It was considered


very thoroughly, along with 200 other sites, for meeting the


expansion. But we are in a different economic world now.


but the figures that are there in the Foster proposal talk about 150


million passengers per annum, 300,000 people arriving by train


every day. I saw figures like that and projections like that in all


the detailed work that was done for the proposal in 2003, and the


infrastructure will not be there. My record speaks for itself in


terms of getting investment and looking for jobs for the Medway


towns over the last 13-15 years. Actually, you would not have that


ability to be able to expand and meet those requirements, because


you would be gridlocked within the network, because the investment


would just not happen to the decree that would be required.


mentioned Boris Johnson. The politics of this is interesting.


The MP for Sheppey and Sittingbourne said to me this week


that the Chancellor is making positive noises about a new airport


in North Kent to boost Boris Johnson's mayoral re-election


campaign next year. It will never really happen. Why not? He will be


re-elected comfortably. Also, when the localisation of business rates


comes into force, all of the local councils will be want to have an


airport in their backyard. You wait and see. Essex will benefit from


this at the end of it, not Kent. do not even the tiniest bit excited


that the biggest infrastructure projects in this could be for


decades could happen here? -- biggest project in decades? We need


a system that is that the purpose, but this is �50 billion, estimated


today. If you speak to the aviation industry, this money is not going


to come for a hub airport of this size and this magnitude. I want to


see jobs in the Medway, but let's get them from other ways.


The Green party in Brighton published its annual budget this


week, the first ever set by a green local authority in the UK. They


have come under fire for its controversial decision to raise


council tax by 3.5% next year, instead of accepting a government


sponsored freeze. Their manifesto pledge was to protect the most


vulnerable, you have had a close look at their first budget, have


they done that? The devil is in the detail with the council budget. At


their press conference, they were keen to stress they have protected


services for the vulnerable, so we think about old people, children,


homeless people, people with HIV, they wanted to stress their


protected those people, but if we look at the headline numbers, they


have got to save �10 million from adult services over the next 10


years and �5 million from children services. They conceded there would


be some level of service reduction. But what they will also say it is,


look where we have made the savings. Highways, street sweeping, street


lighting. If you look at the percentage of the budget cut they


have made, tourism, 15% of the total budget has been reduced from


last year to next year. If we look at children's and adult services,


it is much smaller, 2.5 to 5%. They have gone for the more visible


services. They have chosen some ideological budgeting over what


might have been politically sensitive ones. Yes, we looked at


the council tax increase, they said, if they were being politically


sensible, they would invest that increase into all the things they


are cutting, the shriek sweeping, the street lighting, the visible


things that people get to see. Come election time, it will be


interesting to see if they are penalised. It will be interesting


to see if they have been naive. The Labour group claimed they could


have actually protected vulnerable people more by being more


imaginative. What do they mean? There is always a political storm


when a budget is published, but Labour and the Conservatives,


especially Labour, they have been scathing about their proposed


council tax increase. What they say is, this rise was not necessary,


they could have found his money from making difficult political


decisions and then something to which looks at intelligent


commissioning. This is local government speak for looking at a


service, looking at how it can be delivered more efficient, could it


be played its sector, followed receptor, community sector, and


handing out that service. The Labour Party say they are opposed


to privatisation and have been dragging their heels on this model,


which the council was going hell- for-leather for previously. They


have asked all the other political parties, interested groups, people


living in the area, to have their say, they are consulting on at the


moment. Yes, but I am intrigued about how much room for manoeuvre


there is. They want people to get in touch by the internet. But when


it comes down to balancing the books, will they be able to take


those things into account? Pick out one thing that smacks of a green


budget. Something that says it cannot have been any other party.


am going to look up parking. They will increase business parking


permits. 50% increase on business parking permits, up from �175 to


�400. The other parties say it is because they are anti-car. They say


they are bringing their prices in line with other authorities. Some


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