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, 1 September 2011

I reckon Charles Dickens in David Copperfield had it right: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
This applies as much to governments as it does to individual households. We have had so many years of spending more than our income and borrowing the shortfall that the miserable day of reckoning has arrived. Which is why we sadly cannot keep Plymouth airport open through public subsidy.
I wish we could. I hate the thought of Plymouth without an airport. I still have fingers crossed that a private carrier might step forward even at this eleventh hour to try and make a fist of running commercial flights from Roborough airport. But it is becoming a forlorn hope.
I accept the recent decision by Plymouth Council to mothball the airport once Sutton Harbour ceases operations this autumn. The only alternative would be to subsidise the company to maintain flights, but this would cost millions every years and there is no pot of gold available to do so either at national or local level. There will still be aviation activity at the airport including the flying school and Flag Officer Sea Training.
Recent independent studies have demonstrated that the airport was of diminishing economic value to Plymouth and its hinterland. Once the ill-judged decision was taken many years ago to discontinue flying into Heathrow, many local businesses switched to the train rather than flight. Once Gatwick was dropped a further chunk of business fell away. Recent flight patterns had more to do with enabling early retirees to fly to Edinburgh to see their children than it did keeping the wheels of industry turning.
But this does not mean Plymouth does not have a flourishing future, because it does. The dockyard is buzzing, the naval base is secure, the university is flying and many of our manufacturing companies are bustling, thanks to the low exchange rate. Superfast broadband is on its way, the Life Centre will soon be open, and plans are well advanced to capitalise on our unique maritime assets in developing the far south west as the hub for the wave-power industry, which has massive potential.
We need to improve our connectivity with more three hour trains to London and the lobby for this is already under way.
No more living beyond our means. Mr Micawber would surely have approved.

posted by Gary @ 12:09