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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.


Thursday, 24 September 2009


I have long been baffled about why I get such a regular trickle of complaints about the bus service in Plymstock and virtually none about the service in Plympton. They are similar suburbs with similar needs housing similar types of residents. The difference of course is that Plymouth Citybus operates services in Plympton and First Group in Plymstock. First Group is apparently the largest transport provider in the world, so why can’t they keep my constituents more satisfied?

This could all change with news that Citybus is intending to run 6 new services into Plymstock from late October, sparking newspaper coverage of a new bus war, the like of which we have not seen for years. I hope there is no bus war, but I warmly welcome this initiative, and have been urging Citybus to send buses into this neglected suburb for some time.

I understand that part of the new service will replace the old 5 and 6 routes that were so popular. I have a very simple challenge to all of you who have contacted me in recent months about the poor state of public transport east of the Plym, once these new routes are in place: use it or lose it. If this bold new initiative succeeds there is no reason why it cannot become a long term arrangement. This is good news for those who rely on the bus and is also timely because it will not be long before the contract for the new high quality public transport link connecting the soon to be built new town at Sherford to the rest of the city will be out to tender. I think it helpful that Citybus will by then be running services along the A379 that might connect into the new high speed route should they win the bid.

So I wish Citybus well with its new venture. It is a successful and well-run company that makes a profit by looking after its customers and makes the most of its local knowledge and support. Although it is owned by the local council it has been running its own affairs for many years and rightly so. I have never understood why a local authority should own a bus company, rather than focussing on the delivery of essential services. If a new buyer for this business is found, there is no reason to suppose that its focus on customer satisfaction would change.

posted by Gary @ 19:39  



Friday, 18 September 2009


In the past week I have had much meaningful dialogue with local young people. I have spent time with Laura Baker, of Hele School, Plympton, one of only 30 young people to have been chosen to take part in the Prime Minister’s Global Fellowship scheme to spend 6 weeks in China to learn more about business in that country and relationships between our two nations. I have sat around the table with engaging sixth-formers from Ridgeway School, Plympton to discuss a new blog we are planning to launch that will tackle issues relevant to young people; to kick off cyber-discussions on thorny issues that they will choose. And I have spoken to, listened to and answered penetrating questions on a whole range of issues from a group of 261 highly focussed sixth-formers at Ivybridge Community College

These interactions were at best inspirational for me and never less than stimulating and encouraging.

We sometimes get gloomy about the behaviour of the coming generation. It is true that some of the language, dress sense and attitudes are different from those of yesteryear. However, I can well remember my own parents being baffled about clothes that I wore (I remember one particularly striking pair of purple trousers) my Rod Stewart hair cut and my desire to “hang around town.” Every generation will seek to distance itself from the one immediately preceding it – it is part of growing up.

Being a teenager today is different from any other generation. They are bombarded from all sides by so much information, opportunity and temptation from the pulsating 24/7 wall to wall media and communications revolution that has overtaken us. The ready presence of drugs, alcohol and online perils stalk them in a way that previous generations have not known. I take my hat off to any parent steering teenagers through today’s maelstrom.

My experiences of this past week have been a timely reminder that that despite all of the hazards of modern life, those who are coming through our education system today still share timeless values and aspirations that will, for the most part, steer them into lives of individual reward and help our society to remain strong. Most young people want to make the most of themselves, seize opportunities to travel and learn, meet the right person one day and have their own family.

There is much wrong with 21st century Britain, but spending time with local youngsters gives me hope.

posted by Gary @ 09:03  



Friday, 11 September 2009


Maybe because there were two councils involved; perhaps because of last minute delays or because August was rapidly approaching, the decision on the new town at Sherford has not received as much publicity as it deserves. It has now got the go-ahead, although in a completely different format to that previously understood. It is 99.9% certain that the bulldozers will arrive on site within the next few months and certainly by March 2010. It is going to happen. Even though the developers and the planners remained locked in negotiations about the amount of cash to be pumped into the community (s.106 agreement), it is time to accept that this is going to happen; and soon.

Probably at the end of the construction in, say 7 years time, it will all look very much like the plans with which we have become too familiar. But the phasing of the project is poles apart to that which we had been promised. We were told that the town centre, the school and the road changes would be put in place first. That has all been swept away by harsh economic reality.

Now, starting next spring, 700 houses will be built in phase one at the Elburton end, of which only a small proportion will be “affordable”. Phase two, 18 months or so later, will see some of the infrastructure works begin to take shape and more houses to the north and the town centre begin to form. Then we will see some of the much needed facilities for the community including a sports hall and swimming pool. Somewhere along the way a school will appear, although what kind of school is yet to be thrashed out.

All the way through this process, my main concern has been the impact on existing communities, especially our already hard pressed transport systems. There will be improvements to Deep Lane, Stanborough Cross and the A379 into town, although the precise details and phasing of these works remains undecided.

With the future development of Langage as a giant business park, the possible incinerator near Lee Mill, and this new town, the east of the Plym is going to change beyond recognition over the next two decades. With river to the west, sea to the south and moor to the north, the only way Plymouth could grow was eastwards. After many years of talking, the gruesome reality of major change is about to hit us.

posted by Gary @ 11:04  



Thursday, 3 September 2009


It is tough in a recession, when jobs are harder to come by, to tackle the thorny issue of worklessness, but tackle it we must. The news that one in six households in the UK has nobody in work should cause us all concern. The BBC illustrated this story with a Lego-like graphic of suburbia with every sixth house highlighted in red. It is not like that of course. Although there are pockets of worklessness everywhere, this is particularly a scourge of metropolitan Britain, with many inner city estates with very few people in work.

Even in the boom years there are too many people who have never had a job. Some have no intention of working and are probably the second or third generation of households where the concept of getting up in the morning, putting on a decent shirt and going off to work is as alien as flying to Mars. This group of people, a stubborn minority living in our midst, have sometimes been described as the Underclass, an unflattering term but accurate. Needless to say, crime, benefit fraud, drugs and anti-social order are not strangers to these doors. The sad thing is that such a lifestyle is not in their own interests because few of them flourish. Meaningful work is a necessary ingredient for a successful life.

Successive governments have tinkered endlessly with the benefit system and we still can’t seem to get this right. Those who are minded to play the system (characterised by the Boswell family in the hit TV drama Bread) will always find ways of fiddling. The real problem is that the measures necessary to tackle this problem would be so draconian that they might never be politically acceptable.

For example, to argue that those who have no intention of working should get no benefits at all runs smack bang into legitimate concerns about the dependants of such people; why should they suffer? Similarly, to argue that teenage girls getting pregnant should never get a council house, to remove the existing perverse incentive, raises issues about child welfare. You see the difficulty.

This stultifying welfare dependency has other consequences. Because so many Brits have no intention of working, we are attracting hard working immigrants to do the necessary work, which brings with it another set of long term challenges.

So the prize for cracking this tough nut would be very high indeed.  Can it be done, there’s the question?

posted by Gary @ 09:52