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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, 28 February 2013


I make no apology for returning to the state of the nation's economy and finances. I do not think that the recent downgrading of our credit rating will make much difference, but it is clear that our spending reductions have probably not been brutal enough and we will have to keep wielding the scalpel between now and the next general election in 2015 and whoever is elected thereafter, no matter what they may promise, will have little choice but to continue to bear down on spending.

There is a cruel balance in most things. We were spending too much and borrowing too much for years – many years. It is therefore going to take many years to dig ourselves out of the hole we so carelessly sunk beneath our feet.  It is going to be a long slog. Some people are calling it the lost decade.

But it will not be a lost decade if we use these difficult years to make cultural adjustments. We must prepare the next generation not to make the same mistakes. We must rekindle the concept of saving – yes saving up for things - which in my parents' days was commonplace, and something I am very bad at. This basically means that if you cannot afford it, you did not have it. Ah, but what if my neighbour, my workmate, has got it? Tough.

I read a book once called the Richest Man in Babylon. It told the tale of a person who as soon as he started earning set aside 10% of his first pay packet and saved it. He did that for the rest of his life.  He never touched it and as the years went by the interest on his accumulated capital became a significant income.

The writer made the point that the step from being a non-earning pupil or student to starting work for the first time is a once in a life time opportunity to save. After all, if you earn nothing the week before you start work, 90% of your pay the following week will still seem like a vast sum of money.

Maybe we should teach all of our children this principle. It might help them to cope with the prospect of a smaller welfare state.

Some of my grumpier constituents will be thinking to themselves – that's OK if anyone can find work. I remind you that unemployment in this constituency is 1.1%, nearly full employment.

posted by Gary @ 11:24  



Thursday, 21 February 2013


Spare a thought for the great British bobby. It must be one of the trickiest jobs in the world, sometimes downright dangerous. After three years of great turbulence, our police force locally is delivering a first class service.

There has been a spate of issues surrounding the police, especially at national level. The Metropolitan Police force has been embroiled in various scandals over recent years from institutionalised racism to phone hacking, to selling stories to the press. There has been more than a whiff of corruption in the air. Although this almost never impacted far-flung police forces like our own, nonetheless public confidence has suffered.

On top of negative publicity, there have been budgetary pressure since the coalition government decided to try to get public finances back on track and the police force have had to take their fair share of the pain, like any other government agency. In common with all other public sector workers, police officers have suffered substantial changes to their pension schemes as well as frozen pay for three years on the trot. Devon and Cornwall Police decided to push for a more radical re-organisation than many other forces and the uncertainty and pace of change was therefore greater down here than elsewhere. This plan was known as Blueprint and already parts of it are being unstitched.  Hmmm.

The independent Tomlinson report commissioned by the incoming Home Secretary in 2010 set out a whole series of changes that impact the way that police forces operate. Although many of us recognised the need to modernise working practices of the police, not least in rostering arrangements and the use of technology, it has been a difficult time to accommodate so much change at once.

The election of police and crime commissioners to provide greater accountability was perhaps the icing on the cake of uncertainty.

So it is a massive tribute to our hard working police officers that crime has been steadily falling in the past two years, while all this change has been thundering around them. In Devon and Cornwall crime has fallen overall by 5.5%in the past year.

At a meeting with the chief of police in the South Hams on Friday it was not hard to see why: a straight talking, no nonsense, practical police officer of the kind the public like to see.

There might be many reasons why crime is falling, but I am happy to give the credit to the police.

posted by Gary @ 09:38  



Thursday, 14 February 2013


(i) the appalling revelations contained in the recent Francis report on the lack of care and unnecessary deaths at Stafford Hospital, and
(ii) a number of recent constituency cases of concern

 I am undertaking an informal survey of healthcare locally and I invite your experiences, particularly of the past 6 to 12 months. You can drop me a line at Westminster or e-mail me on:

Let me set the background.  The NHS free at the point of need is absolutely fundamental to the British way of life and we need to maintain its excellence. We even celebrated it in the Olympic opening ceremony. Because we are all living longer and need medical support in our senior years, the NHS is creaking at the seams. The coalition government is fulfilling its pledge to invest more in health every year over and above inflation.

After much political huffing and puffing the new structures we have put in place are now up and running. Just to remind you: these give more commissioning power to GPs, reduce administration and increase decision making by doctors and open up the NHS to further competition (just like the excellent Peninsular Medical Centre in Derriford .) I see no reason why these new structures cannot deliver medical excellence, despite the pressures of an ageing and growing population. In any event, the last thing we need is any more radical changes, so let's make the most of the new framework.

Locally, we have now a new GP commissioning service led by the inspirational Dr Peter Rudge and a new team at Derriford led by the impressive and experienced Ann James. Relationships between the commissioners, the acute hospital and the Plymouth City Council (which is responsible for social care) have never been better. Plymouth Community Healthcare (mental health services and community health) are also performing well. We really should now be able to make the new NHS structures a model of excellence in our area.  

The new focus, following the almost unbelievable Francis report is about basic care: by nurses, by doctors, by the system in general.
We know all about the great skill of British doctors in treating patients. The spotlight now falls on the level of care we receive whilst in our hospitals. Basic things like being fed and watered, bodily functions attended to, let alone whether you are made to feel welcome.

 Are you satisfied? Are things improving? What more can be done?

posted by Gary @ 09:40  



Thursday, 7 February 2013


What's in a number? If you are a running your own business, or a householder juggling rising bills, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, quite a lot.

When I had a proper job I used to be a lawyer advising companies. I loved to visit clients and discuss business (still do). I acquired the habit of dropping specific questions casually into conversation: what is your turnover, break even figure, gross profit, net profit broken down annually and monthly and so on. I usually found that those entrepreneurs with a clear set of ballpark figures in their minds would succeed, while those who didn't, might not.

What are the ballpark figures that George Osborne goes to bed thinking about every night? Here are some of them. The UK GDP last year (that is all of our economic activity added together) was £1,525 billion. The government spent £691 billion, but sadly only brought in, in taxes and other income, £570 billion. This means that after nearly three years of austerity we still borrowed £121 billion just to pay our debts. This year we expect to still borrow £110 billion.

The total amount that the UK government owes is now £1,065 billion. Obviously as we are still borrowing every year that figure is going up. This year we will be paying £46 billion in interest on that debt. Yes, that's right £46 billion – in other words £5 million per hour just in interest payments alone.

You might think that it is perfectly acceptable for a government to borrow during a recession. But unhappily (and this is the unforgiveable thing) the then government was borrowing £57 billion in the year before the 2007/08 credit crunch – borrowing even in the years of plenty.

What do we spend our £691 billion on? £106 billion is spent on healthcare, £37 billion on defence (not enough!). We spend a massive £202 billion on welfare and this is the largest budget we just have to get under control. Of that £202 billion, a staggering £23 billion is spent on housing benefit. The government is trying to reduce these figures.

Our net contribution to the EU is £7 billion. We spent £9 billion last year on foreign aid. I know that many of you are upset that we spend too much on both of these items, but as you can see they are a modest percentage of the overall spend.

I wonder if George sleeps well at night.

posted by Gary @ 13:39