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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.


Saturday, 25 April 2009


“Our own roads in Eastern Europe used to be like this,” said the Bulgarian visitor, “but they are much better now!” This devastating comment was reported to me this week by a constituent who knows a thing or two about driving. It is true; the state of our local roads is a matter of embarrassment. I am starting to get a steady trickle of complaints from residents for the first time in sixteen years. I also tend to have my own eyes open as I zip around the area and I have never seen so many potholes, jagged surfaces, cracks, bumps and dips as in the past few months.

It is not just a matter of our personal comfort. For some people, elderly and disabled the battering from uneven road surfaces can deliver real pain. I have heard from cyclists who are concerned about safety, as every hole becomes a potential death trap.

The winter has been a tough one, with frost and heavy rain, but nothing that should not have been expected. I have seen the consequences of the monsoon in India which destroys their road infrastructure every autumn and we have had nothing like that. The chaotic story seems the same all over Devon, whatever the local authority.

When you consider the vast amounts we are all paying in car tax and fuel duty, our road surfaces should be near perfect, despite the hammering they receive. Little wonder that several constituents have been muttering to me recently, asking what on earth all of our taxes are actually spent on!

Why is this happening? Are we in danger of taking our eye off the ball of delivering core services? Never mind the fancy multi coloured road schemes – just give us smooth surfaces. Never mind the cycle lanes that don’t go anywhere – just fill in the potholes. Never mind the expensive speed bumps, just put down some decent tarmac. Perhaps some governmental organisations are trying to do too much when all we need is for them to do the basic things well.

So what is to be done? I intend to write to Devon and Plymouth Councils next week pointing out the worst places and ask them to make the roads surfaces right. I need your assistance. Could you please let me have your favourite “hotspots” and I will add them to the list. You have 7 days to help me seek out and destroy unwanted potholes

posted by Gary @ 17:14  



Friday, 17 April 2009


Some people think cows are fearsome creatures, although they are largely docile. But I know from my farm upbringing that the sting is in the tail. A good clonk on the head from a heavy muck laden tail can knock you senseless.

I fear it may be the same in our economic recovery. There are early signs that by the end of the year the economy will have stopped contracting, even though that still means several months of pain and job losses to endure. At the G20 meeting there was much agreement among world leaders about the broad thrust of global policy. There are signs that the housing market is spluttering into life; estate agents report an increase in sales (although at reduced prices) and the “sold” signs around our streets bear testimony to that. The banks and building societies are starting to lend again, thankfully in a more prudent way than the past 10 years, meaning that buyers may have to lower their sights in terms of what they can afford. The crucial US economy shows some tiny flutters of encouragement. We should be able to look forward to a bumper year of tourism down here as many turn their back on the expensive euro-zone and holiday at home.

I hesitate to use the expression green shoots, but maybe there is a faint light at the end of the tunnel.

So where is the sting in the tail? I am worried about 2010 and beyond. The Bank of England has now released £75 billion into the economy that should not by rights be there, by the autumn interest rates will have been at a historic low for nearly a year, and government spending (and borrowing) is at an all time high. All of this extra money sloshing around the economy could well spark off inflationary pressures next year the like of which we have not seen since the seventies. It depends how quickly policy makers apply the fiscal brakes when the recession is over.

Past experience of the Bank of England suggest that they are likely to react at least three months too late. (I would certainly oppose any more printing of money if Parliament got a say on it, which it doesn’t.) And we have the small matter of a general election between now and June 2010 which would make it hard for any government to apply the necessary unpopular correction in time. Oh dear!

posted by Gary @ 11:54  



Monday, 6 April 2009


I can go no longer without addressing the thorny issue of MP’s allowances, a matter of great public concern. It is fine for the media and public to be sceptical about their Members of Parliament, but if that lack of respect falls below a certain level the bedrock of our democracy is threatened. We are approaching that tipping point now.

Something needs to change.

There are three kinds of allowances. The first is to run our offices, rent, computers, photocopiers and the like and to tackle the mountains of post, e-mails and phone calls that we get every day from those who have elected us and are looking for help or wish to express a view. This is about £20,000 a year and excites little controversy.

The second allowance is to pay the salaries of the hard working staff who deal with all of the above and generally provide the services that local people demand, as well as conduct research into various issues I am tackling at Westminster and material for speeches etc. This is about £100,000 per year and is essential to do the work. The controversial part of this allowance is we can employ a member of our family. In my case, I have employed Jan on a part time basis since the children left home to help with articles, research, media scrutiny and surgeries. If she did not work for me she would have to work for somebody else and so we would never see each other, so I am happy to defend this decision.

The real hot potato is the second home allowance, especially in relation to London members. This is about £24,000 per annum to defray the cost of staying away from home 3 or 4 nights a week. As it takes 4 hours door to door to get to Westminster from my constituency, a place to put my head in London is necessary, as it is for most of us. The rules permit us to buy or rent or stay in hotels. They also permit the purchase of furniture etc for that second home. As our salaries have been pegged in recent years, this allowance has crept up. It seems that some have abused it. This now needs to be addressed - urgently. But how?

I support the independent review now announced and we will just have to accept its findings whatever it says. What do you think should happen?

posted by Gary @ 11:35  



Thursday, 2 April 2009


Last Friday I went to inspect the obsolete New England Quarry on the other side of the road from Lee Mill which is one of the possible sites for the disposal of all of our rubbish for the next 20 years.

Let me start at the beginning. Commendably, 3 of our councils, Plymouth, Torbay and Devon have entered into an alliance to tackle the problem of where to dispose of all of our waste now that Chelson Meadow is full and anyway we are trying to move away from landfill. The partnership has gone out to the private sector to seek bids about how to solve this problem but has also designated four sites locally for possible waste disposal. These are on former MOD land at Ernesettle, the old Imerys site at Coypool, the New England Quarry already mentioned (owned by Viridor) and former MOD land at Wrangaton. I understand that either Ernesettle or Lee Mill are the most likely outcomes.

The preferred solution is almost certain to include a giant incinerator that will burn vast quantities of waste every day, releasing benign (so we are told) gases into the atmosphere through a seventy metre high chimney. The stuff that is left (clinkers) will either be sold or buried in a small landfill site alongside.

All of the possible locations have substantial problems. The waste from Torbay and south Devon will be transported to it every day, so more vehicle movements are involved. The environmental issues are significant. The incinerator will clearly be very visible and another blot on the local landscape, especially the chimney. The impact on surrounding land and rivers of the gases will have to be fully investigated. Perhaps worse, the numbers of lorries rumbling in and out of the site every day will create a nuisance to nearby neighbours. The Lee Mill option will involve 40 more lorries driving through the village which I think is unacceptable.

The process will take about 2 years to get through with much consultation along the way and the feelings of those affected will run high, understandably.

But our waste has got to go somewhere. Supermarkets have got to get better at reducing packaging and we have all got to get better at recycling. But even if we do, there will still be millions of tons of rubbish to be disposed of every year, so this project looks certain to become a reality. Another interesting challenge looms.

posted by Gary @ 09:29