Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 19 February 2009


Last week was not our best week. First, the announcement that the brand new Marine Management Organisation – the body that is to watch over our maritime environment – is to go to Newcastle and not Plymouth was a bitter blow. It was not so much the 200 direct jobs it would have created, welcome though those might be; it was more that this agency would have given us focal point for the future of our city: combining our maritime heritage, our green credentials with the world class research facilities that we have in our back yard. Alas, the power of the north east lobby proved too strong and the second best bid (in my opinion) prevailed.

Next the defence minister came down to the naval base, to tell us precisely nothing. We were looking for answers to two questions. Now that the new aircraft carrier work has been delayed by two years and Devonport dockyard was supposed to pick up the slack that Rosyth (heavily involved in the carrier work) could not manage, what work will be found to replace that work in the short to medium term? We still do not know. Also, when will a decision be made about the base-porting of our frigates? We all sense that they will be moved to Portsmouth, but the MOD will not make a decision and the uncertainty rumbles on. The impact on the local economy of those servicemen and women and their families leaving us would be considerable. Positive news on either front would have lightened our gloom; it was not to be.

The trouble is, surrounded by all of this bad news and uncertainty, the natural reaction is to retrench - tighten our belts, spend as little as possible, look to pay off debt and survive. The shops in Drake Circus shopping mall are thirty per cent down since Christmas on this time last year. We are spending less. That may well be the right thing to do for ourselves and our families, but it is the worst thing to do for the economy! So we seem trapped in this vicious circle: with every piece of gloomy news, we cut another hole in our belts which means the economy contracts a little more.

So we look to external decisions to help us, to boost confidence. Judging by decisions this week, it looks like Plymouth and its surrounds will have to face these challenges alone.

posted by Gary @ 10:08