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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, 26 January 2012


One of the greatest challenges facing the Coalition government in this Parliament is to finally resolve how we are going to care for our growing number of elderly people over the coming decades. With life expectancy now in the mid- 80's and rising, with the news that one half of all babies born now will live to be 100, this challenge is only going to increase.

The demographic reality obviously places a huge extra burden, year on year, on our health service. If you go and sit in the entrance foyer of Derriford Hospital you will see for yourself the age profile of the vast majority of people coming in for treatment.  Any suggestion that there should be some age restriction on certain types of treatment is unacceptable in civil society, so the costs will rise each year mirroring the leap in life expectancy.

It also presents a challenge to the funding of residential care. Who should pay if you can no longer cope at home and have to go into a Care Home? The current system is that if you have capital above certain limits, you should pay yourself even if it means selling the family home. If your capital falls below the threshold, the state will pick up the tab. This system is unpopular at both ends: nobody likes the prospect of selling the home to pay the fees and many families find a way round it; and the costs to the exchequer continue to rocket.

All parties went into the last election with a range of proposals, none of which quite seemed to match the scale of the challenge. In 2010 the government set up an independent commission to look into this problem, the Dilnot Commission. This reported last July (read the full report at with a number of recommendations that the government is still pondering. Its primary suggestion is that each person would have to contribute up to a maximum of £35,000 towards the costs of residential care and after that the state would pay the rest. This figure could come from insurance, savings, house sale or whatever. It would in most cases prevent the family home having to be sold. The policy would cost the tax payer about £1.2 billion a year.

The government is still considering this but must make an announcement shortly if we are to legislate in the next session of Parliament. What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 00:00  



Thursday, 19 January 2012


Where do you stand on Scottish independence? About 35-40% of Scots support independence, although admittedly that is before the stark facts of economic life on their own have been spelt out to them. I gather 45% of we English want our Northern neighbours to go their own way.

It is not going to happen. We are going to spend two years talking about it, millions of pounds organising a referendum, but in the end I cannot believe the Scots would ever vote for independence. To do so would be to impoverish themselves by cutting off the hand that feeds them, cast themselves adrift in an unstable European Union where they would have to sign up for the euro and hand back to us all of the defence assets placed north of the border and all the economic benefits that flow from them. They might like to have a wee moan, but Mcturkeys do not vote for Christmas.

We can live with the fact that most Scots would automatically support the other team whoever England are playing at any sport, anytime, anywhere in the world. This is a tad irritating given all of the extra spending they receive from the UK government under the Barnett Formula and how over-represented they are at Westminster.  If Scotland were playing France, I would always support Scotland.

I can well remember in the battle of the dockyards back in the 1990's when we were locked in pitched battle with Rosyth Dockyard how nationalistic and aggressive the debate quickly became. We were Edward's marauders on our steel clad chargers come to crush the highlanders all over again.

If all this is true, why not let them go?

Because we are stronger together than apart in an uncertain world at a dangerous time. Because the Union has brought untold benefits to all of us over the centuries.  Because the vast majority of us, including the majority of Scots consider ourselves British and apart from friendly rivalry on sporting occasions recognise that we share a common heritage and future. Because the United Kingdom is strong enough to cope with passionate nationalism from its extremities, and even the odd chip on shoulder. Sometimes you have to pay a premium for the thing you really want: the United Kingdom.

So I will be working to support the Union however possible, and wish we were not having this pointless debate at this time. What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 09:27  



Thursday, 12 January 2012

I am often asked: what is the biggest need in my constituency. The answer has remained the same for most of my tenure: the lack of access to affordable housing for local people, affordable housing to rent and to buy. The definition of affordable is hard to pin down but I prefer a common sense approach: can local people (as opposed to people selling houses in London and moving down) afford it.

The term should not just be applied to properties offered at less than market value on one or other of the current discount or joint ownership schemes, but more widely. It includes but is not limited to social housing for rent. The local people who need more affordable housing are from all backgrounds including young professionals and key workers, our children and grandchildren.

Most people aspire to own their own homes which fosters a sense of independence and responsibility that should be encouraged. Household incomes In Devon are 15% below national average and yet house prices are well above. Hence the problem.

The proposed new town at Sherford will help meet some of this pent-up demand, but there is a recognition that most Devon villages need a light sprinkling of new housing to keep them alive.

A problem has recently been encountered that needs to be tackled. To buy a house you need a mortgage.  It has been drawn to my attention that in the new, rather attractive, Parish Green development at Lee Mill the banks are being unhelpful. In relation to affordable houses that are discounted for local people to buy, they are insisting upon a hefty deposit perhaps as much as 25% before lending the balance. On properties that are not discounted they will lend 90% plus.

As very few young people can afford a 25% deposit this is beginning to thwart the whole idea of local discount schemes.

I am seeking to make contact with the major lenders through their professional association to see what can be done. As banks caught a cold (and gave us flu) by irresponsible lending in the first place I can understand caution, but they seem to have lurched from one excess to another with little balance in between. My aim is to try and get this sorted before a much larger tranche of properties hits the market over the next 2 years.

If anyone has any helpful suggestions I would be pleased to hear from you.

posted by Gary @ 13:40  



Thursday, 5 January 2012

According to the recent blockbuster movie 2012 is the year the world comes to an end and only a handful survive to make a fresh start. I'm not going to go that far, but it is shaping up as a significant year.

Will it be the year that the euro unpicks itself with countries choosing to peel away rather than sign up to the suffocating financial integration that seems the only medicine that might cure the patient? Whatever the outcome the single currency roller-coaster looks set to continue to cast shadows over our own economy and we can expect a year of turbulence.

Will 2012 signal progress on the long steady climb out of budget deficits and towards a smaller public sector spend – one that we can afford? Or will it see us lurch back into recession with all the job losses and increased welfare payments that follow?

Will it be the year that the coalition government comes unstitched, over the euro, over Lords reforms, over poor local government results, over…well you get the picture. Probably not, as our top leaders seem very committed to making it work in the national interest, but expect more fireworks than last year, and I still believe that it will not run full term.

Whatever this year of turbulence shall bring, I have made one resolution: to dust off that famous old prayer and try and live by it. It goes something like: Grant me strength to change the things within my control; help me to accept the things I can't control and make me smart enough to spot the difference.

In truth, you and I can't decide the destiny of the euro, our economy or the coalition, although perhaps we can snipe away at the edges.

I can however control how well I do my job, whether or not I pursue excellence, what sort of father/husband/grandfather I will be, whether I will learn from my mistakes. In the midst of such uncertainty, it helps us to focus more on the things that we can influence rather than froth away about things over which we have no control.

2012 might also be the year that the new town at Sherford finally starts to rise from the drawing board and take life. We need these homes for our children to live in and to see the some progress in this long-running saga would be a great outcome to the year.

Happy New Year!

posted by Gary @ 09:39