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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 June 2010

Many people ask me about the new town of 4,500 houses at Sherford starting at the Plympton turning off the A38 and stretching down to the A379 at Stanborough Cross. What is happening, you say?
Plymouth council gave the planning go-ahead many months ago for the area within the city boundary. South Hams last year gave the thumbs up in principle and heavy negotiations started in earnest with the developer (Red Tree) on issues of major concern. For all of this time they have been arguing over the size of the contribution the developer must make to the infrastructure costs (roads, schools etc) (mega-millions), how many affordable houses must be built and which parts they have to do first.
Those negotiations have still not been completed; leading me to the conclusion that this new town may never rise from the earth. The difficulties that the recession injected into this project – plummeting house prices and difficulties of getting bank finance - have now been joined by new uncertainties. The crack down on public spending may threaten the £8 million funding that a government agency was going to pump in to make the affordable housing numbers stack up. The £90 million major road scheme bid to help solve the complex transport problems must also be considered at risk.
My encouragement to the South Hams Council has been: don't allow this development to be done on the cheap. Better if it is delayed by several years, or never happened at all, than happened badly. So I commend the officers and councillors for sticking to their guns and insisting on minimum standards. But the excessive delay now leads us into the realm of unintended consequences.
If Sherford does not come to pass, the council will fall well short of delivering the number of new houses it has pledged in its local development framework to build. If that happens there are a number of aggressive developers who have ear-marked other potential sites on the Plymouth fringe that might be suitable for new housing. It would not be a surprise in the next 12 months to see pre-emptive planning applications made for some of these sites, which could succeed on appeal, because the existing plan has not been met. This would condemn us to the future development of this area in a piece-meal, unstructured fashion, something we have been guilty of in the past. Tricky decisions for local councillors lay ahead.

posted by Gary @ 15:00  



Friday, 18 June 2010

Next Tuesday, at 12.30pm, the new chancellor, will stand at the despatch box and unveil his emergency budget. (Incidentally, the session in which I answer questions on behalf of the Electoral Commission is from 12.15am the same day, so for once I will be addressing a full House of Commons, most of whom will not be paying attention.)
The budget is necessary because, as we all know, we have a massive deficit – the amount each year the government has to borrow to pay its bills. This is now running at about £160 billion a year. If we do not tackle this urgently, then our credit status as a country will be down-graded and it will be more difficult and expensive to borrow money to pay the government's bills, so that interest rates would go spiralling up. This would choke of any economic recovery at birth and we would all be in deep doo-doos.
So we have no choice. The remedy is likely to be a combination of tax increases and public spending reductions which will take effect from April 2011. But it has to be done skilfully. If we cut too severely, then the recovery will again be put at risk.
The private sector has taken a lot of pain in the past 3 years since the banking crisis led to a full blown global recession. Many workers took a pay cut or a freeze, and for some this is still in place. I am afraid that in the next 3 years it will be the public sector feeling the pinch and it will mean job losses.
In Spain public sector salaries have all been cut, also in Greece, for similar reasons. In Britain we have seen a huge growth in public sector jobs in recent years and an absurd hike in top salaries. It was with horror that I discovered that the chap who runs Exeter University earns £290,000 a year. £25,000 a month – just imagine it. Why was this allowed to happen? We have to deal with all this overindulgence.
But because we have to prune public spending without blowing the recovery out of the water, the reduction in the deficit will have to be tapered over several years. If we get this right, we are in for several years of austerity in public finances. If we get this wrong, well don't even go there. Let's hope the new chancellor has had his Weetabix.

posted by Gary @ 09:39  



Thursday, 10 June 2010

"There may be trouble ahead"
What an amazing thing democracy is. We campaigned, you voted, and the earth moved. Out went Gordon Brown and in came…well Dave and Nick, the Coalition Government. I expected a hung Parliament, and perhaps a flirtatious dalliance between ourselves and the Lib-Dems for the sake of the children, but I did not anticipate this all singing all dancing no holds barred marriage. We even have a joint whips office for goodness sake!
But as I chat my way around the constituency, I can tell that many of you like the notion of coalition government. You like politicians working together. You see the advantage of centre right policies being tempered with a softer focus.  People who are not politically aligned are keener on it than party activists (on both sides) who worry, understandably, that they have sold their soul to the enemy. Time will tell what the medium term political ramifications are but they will certainly be significant.
It was a remarkable feat to cobble this partnership together in such a short time and with the exception of the recent resignation it seems to be holding up well.
As a consensus seeker I know I should be jubilant, but strangely I am not. I fret about what comes next. We have entered into this marriage of convenience knowing that when it ends we will back to our warring ways. That is the thing I find difficult to get my mind around. When I married Jan I expected it to last for life, which it will, not 3 or 5 years and then an almighty row. But for now, for the sake of the national interest we have no choice but to make it work and we will.
The coalition will be tested at key moments over the coming years. Once inevitable spending cuts for 2011 are announced and implemented, its popularity will plummet and tensions will increase. Next May Conservative and Lib Dem candidates all over the country will be contesting local council seats, hammer and tongs. Then the next day we will be working together again. Bizarre.
For myself, I was very grateful for the increased mandate to carry on as your voice in Westminster. Thank you to all. I will continue to speak out and campaign from the back benches on issues of concern both local and national. On top of that, I feel more independently minded than ever before!
"There may be trouble ahead…"

posted by Gary @ 19:42