16/10/2011 The Politics Show West Midlands


Jon Sopel and Patrick Burns are here with the top political stories of the week.

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What does Liam Fox's departure In the Midlands, the planning a


people's causing problems for the Government. Is it a developer is a


free fall in our green and pleasant land? And who runs our country, we


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1486 seconds


Hello again from the Midlands, where we will be asking, who runs


the country, the judges or the politicians? First some concrete


proposals for the Midland's countryside. Opponents of the


Government's planning proposals belief our green spaces are at risk


from those desperate to get the economy moving again. On the other


hand, planning regulations are often described as bureaucratic.


James Morris is the representative for Lyme Regis. The newly-appointed


shadow housing minister and for the Liberal Democrats, the Shropshire


county councillor, have a kid. She is also a member of the Shropshire


hills board. After a week in which unemployment in our part of the


country was confirmed that almost 9%, with a relaxation of the


planning laws help the construction industry get us back to work? Our


environment correspondent has been to Warwickshire to investigate.


Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, built in the 15th century. Now,


famously, this is a National Trust property with a moat, to protect


those inside from attack. But these days, it is the National Trust that


is on the offensive. And amongst the cream teas and gentle


conversation, rebellion against the coalition Government's plans for


planning. How many signatures have you got? We have had over 3,000


signatures here alone and across the trust as a whole we know we are


pushing 150,000, already. We are really concerned about the national


planning policy framework, this draft that has come out. We are


worried about the presumption in favour of economic growth above


everything else. Making an enemy of the National Trust to spot some


debate at the Tory party conference. He will not be surprised to learn


that me and Mrs Pickles are partial to the odd scone and a warm


beverage in the National Trust tea Room. But the planning system needs


to be improved. There are businesses out there desperate to


expand, to hire thousands of people, but they are stuck in the mud of


our planning system. We will be opened to constructive ideas about


how to get this right, but to those who oppose everything we do, my


message is take your arguments down to the JobCentre, because we are


going to get Britain back to work. Britain is not building at the


moment. The Government points out that housebuilding alone is that


it's the lowest level since the 1920s. They argue that red tape is


stopping a development led a surge back to work. You cannot assume


that 3,000 ft of offices would take approximately 3,000 people,


therefore it is 3,000 jobs, simple as that. Half-an-hour down the road,


this development has been going through the planning process for


two and a half years. What is wrong with the process? It is far too


complicated, 1,200 pages of planning legislation originally


created in 1948 and added on to ever since. Interestingly, the 1948


of planning acts had a presumption in favour of development, it was


just after the war, when we required development. Therefore, it


does require massive overhaul. But it is to be applauded, there are


criticisms of it, but overall it has to be applauded.


Government's plans have not only alienated the National Trust, call


Conservative voters are unhappy. Even the Daily Telegraph is against


this move, mounting a campaign and saying the Conservative Party is


paying too much attention to developers who donate to party


funds. It is fair to say that I am a supporter of the Tory party and


therefore, personally, I do give a small amount of money to the Tory


party. No different to what any other individual would to


supporting a political party. the Government's plans are well on


and four councillors on the ground of any political flavour, there is


another problem. 46% of councils say they will have no core strategy


in place before the new proposals arrive. According to one


campaigning group, that will leave them vulnerable to poor quality


proposals. It worries me that so many things have not been given his


huge amount of thought, they appeared to be put together with


the idea to promote the economy, which is fine, no problem with that.


But the economy is a number of things, not just development.


prepared councils, alienated core voters and angry demands for action


on red tape, Baddesley Clinton has not seen a battle like it.


It certainly has not. So, is this a charter for the developers story


read back to the regeneration of the economy? There is more about


this on my blog. Let us begin with the shadow housing minister,


obviously the developer there in Warwick blames the red tape that


was heaped upon them by your government, principally, for


getting in the way or possibly 3,000 jobs, there. Nonsense, the


problem in terms of its economic growth is not the planning system,


it is the mismanagement of the economy. 1,200 pages in the


planning legislation, you can see the case for a delay there. What


happened was that for 60 years we had a planning system which has


sought to reconcile growth and development. We desperately need


that with a real say for local people and protection of the


natural environment. What has happened is a lobby, limbs to the


Conservative Party, have worked together with the Treasury to push


an agenda to build any place, any time. Let me give you an example,


we had a presumption in favour of brownfield development, they tour


that up in favour of building anywhere, am why? Because they have


said it is cheaper to build on greenfield land. I will come on to


that in a moment. However, first of all, the county councils have to


get their plans to get the one size fits all thing imposed on them by a


Government. Are you going to have your plan in order in time in


Shropshire? It is in place. Actually, we are ahead of the game.


Although I am in opposition, I must applaud the plan that is in place,


it has engaged parish councils, we do have evidence behind what people


want and mostly, it is about housing Lowes will people -- local


people across Shropshire. I think other councils will be terribly


vulnerable and really ought to have got their act together. It is not


just Jack that is worried about this link with the Conservative


Party. From my blog at a reply says localism up my for it, these plans


are biased towards developers. It is not a local agenda, it is just


big business. I think that is nonsense. We have got to focus on


what we are trying to solve with this policy. We have got very low


levels of housebuilding in this country, inherited from the


previous government, the lowest level since the 1920s. This policy


is about driving growth in a balanced way. It is a balanced


policy by giving local people more say about how they housing is


developed. We never heard plans, there will still be -- with the


neighbourhood plans, they will still be subject to planning rules.


When we have already got many of these plans which are evidence


based in place, a development is not just about the policy issue, it


is about quality and having enough money in the system to build the


houses. When people cannot get mortgages and when developers, and


also housing associations, are struggling to develop on the ground,


it is not going to happen. There are 97,000 planning permissions


already granted in the West Midlands, so what is the problem?


That is exactly right. There is enough land with planning


permission to build 300,000 homes already. The problem is that the


economy and the mortgage market, why have your government torn-up


the Bramfield first presumption? There is enough Bramfield had to


build 1.2 million homes. I am very confused about his position. He has


been arguing for the bringing back of policies that have came up with


incorrect numbers. Developers want the freedom to build on green field


because it is cheaper. We inherited from you the lowest level of house


building since the 1920s. That is a crisis, there are millions of


people who cannot get on the housing ladder, there are problems


with social housing that we need to tackle. I want to move on from that


very important point to a particularly difficult balance that


you have to strike in rural areas like Shropshire where, obviously,


you want to keep the local economy there the sustainable on one hand,


but in other areas you have outstanding beauty, how do we


achieve that balance of preserving the BT while allowing the Community


to develop? For several days we have had a policy of only allowing


small numbers of houses to be built at any one time in the villages. It


means that a villages remain vital, children are produced for schools,


although it is not quick enough, but the plan for the area of


outstanding natural beauty has worked. We do have to, 4, 6 houses


being built. How would you respond to the need for that balance?


for certain, but a real say for local people and protection of the


natural environment, and for the Government to stop pretending that


the problem of housing is planning, when it is not. This new framework


for talks very clearly about sustainable development, a balance


between economic development and preserving the environment. That is


still at the heart of the Government's planning policy.


So, who exactly is in charge here? The politicians or the lawyer's?


Only last month, Stoke-on-Trent City Council gave up on its plans


to cut services for deaf children because of threats of legal


challenges. Last year there was an epic encounter turf with a council


on the education department. Now, within the next few days, another


High Court judge will rule whether Gloucestershire County Council


broke the law by withdrawing funding from 10 local libraries.


That legal challenge follows a storm of protest over the council's


plans for the community to take them over, while the authority's


local leader needs to save millions of pounds. It is a recognition that


the authority is facing some really tough challenges. The second issue,


as I understand it, is that we have been given the green light to


continue talking to communities and those putting their business cases


forward. This series of legal challenges has left us wondering


who is really in charge, who is running the country, politicians or


lawyers? During the week I sat down with Phil Shiner, the senior


partner at the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers. They are


taking on Gloucestershire County Council. I asked him what he would


say to council leaders like Mark Hawthorne? Local authorities, like


all of us, have to obey the law. They have got clear legal duties,


whether it is under the libraries and museums act, or the Equality


Act. They have got a duty to consult with the public property --


public properly, before they cut services like libraries. Another


case came up in the summer in Stoke on Trent, where the council


identified the teaching of children with hearing difficulties in


schools as an area where budgets needed to be cut, but they backed


off even under the threat of a legal challenge, because they


thought it was too big of a brisker to contemplate. Is this a case of a


democratically elected council being dictated to by the lawyers?


The lawyers wouldn't see it like that. They would see it that a


group of parents, or members of the community, identified that there is


going to be a breach of the law and if that means that that particular


local authority backed off what would otherwise have been an


unlawful decision, that is what the law is there for. We know that


earlier this year a judicial review went against the way the Government


had decided to scrap the building of new schools in the future but


surely this is another example of a democratically elected government


introducing a policy and then the lawyers parking their tanks on the


Government's lawn. I we get this political posturing. The


politicians seem to want it both ways, they want to mouth off about


what a great democracy we live in and a fundamental commitment to the


rule of law, and do not lose sight of the fact that if we as a society


a lose that commitment, we are in big trouble. We know that your firm


is involved in the case of tuition fees in Scotland, which have caused


give it a significantly worse deal to students from England, compared


with anywhere else in the EU. I gather that that is a pre- cursor t


something on an even bigger scale? Yes, it is. We have a big case at


the High Court in London, where we are acting for two students who are


challenging the decision just before Christmas of 2010, to raise


the cap to �9,000. If we win, the Government will be told that the


decision to raise the cap to �9,000 breaches fundamental human rights


provisions and heard the poorer members of up our society who


clearly cannot be running up debts of �60,000 in order to go through


the high education system. Is it not a bit rich to throw the statute


book at democratically elected councils and the Government who


were trying to make the best of an extraordinary it bad job


economically. What we do is sometimes, to shore up arguments


that might arise under a human right so acts, or the newer


legislation, we go back to the common law, the foundations of the


rule of law. We are not reading statute books, we are unashamedly


mining, sometimes, the rich seam that that is the common law of the


UK. Thank you. There we are, our three posturing


politicians are still with us, ready to start mouthing off again.


James, you have got a real problem in your Government if there is a


successful text -- successful test case against the �9,000 cap. Phil


Shiner is obviously politically motivated in what he is doing.


denies that. Maybe what he should do is seek elected office and argue


in the Public Square for the pros and cons of a particular course of


action that the Government is taking. That is a fundamental


aspect of our democracy. That is the most important factor in this.


He might end up earning less money, but he would be held accountable by


the people and that is why, in our democracy, that is the most


important thing. In Stoke-on-Trent, those people concerned about


services for deaf children in schools, it turned out that the


court, rather than the ballot box, was more help to them. I have got a


very simple view, politicians make the law, they should not break the


law. If they are held to account by citizens taking them to the court,


and they are found to have acted unlawfully, then they should change


their approach. To give one example, here in Birmingham, earlier on this


year, Birmingham City Council sought to take away care from 4,100


people in substantial lead. Heartbreaking cases. I know many of


the people myself. I was involved in driving a High Court action


against that, which stop that happening. Wide? Because they


failed to act in their -- they failed to fulfil their


responsibilities under the Disabilities Act. You know the


strains on the government to balance the books, do you have some


sympathy? I have sympathy for anyone who is suffering from cuts,


always have. There is a balance, but I would say both for central


government and for local councils, you must always take the law into


consideration and do what you have to do, because otherwise,


politicians become above the law and we should be making and


upholding the law, not just breaking the law. Councils who are


taken to court are taken to court because they have not done the


right thing. The simple point for all of you in a nutshell is that in


an increasingly litigious environment, Parliament, councils,


have to be very much more careful than it has been in drafting


legislation. I think that is true. Clearly processes have to be gone


through but we need to keep a balance that we are talking about a


democratic society, where politicians are elected, to make


decisions which they are then held accountable for at elections. That


is a fundamental part of our democratic process. I think it is


right that the equalities Act protects the disabled, women, those


who suffer discrimination on the grounds of their race a or


ethnicity, I think we should be proud of that and not complain


about it. This is the point where I have to say that I am in charge


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