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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, 25 April 2013


Would you like some good news for a change? We seem to be fed an unrelenting diet of bad news most days, so let me try and redress the balance.

Unemployment in this constituency is 1.7%, well below national average. That means that over 98 out of 100 people seeking work have found it. In twelve out of the past 14 months the number out of work in this area has come down, including young people. There are hundreds of new apprentices in Plymouth alone.

Immigration has come down by a third in the last three years and we are tightening up all the time. Asylum seekers are now processed much more quickly and those who are not genuine (the majority) rapidly returned.

The budget deficit – the amount we have to borrow each year just to pay our bills – is down by a third since 2010. It has been hard work reducing public spending without causing widespread pain, but we are making progress.

From April our reforms of our bloated welfare system have started, including the welfare cap of £500 per week. The reduction of the spare room subsidy (wrongly dubbed the bedroom tax) which was expected to create mass misery has so far only triggered one constituent approaching my office for help. The introduction of the universal credit which will ensure that work will always pay as opposed to remaining on benefits is imminent.

I liken these pieces of positive news to being on a car journey. We were going in the wrong direction. Now we have found a route map and are heading determinedly in the right direction, even though it will take a while (7 years!) to arrive. It takes longer to get there if you are still going the wrong way.

The good news does not stop there. There are now more doctors in the NHS than ever before. 24 million tax payers get an income tax cut this April. A further 2.2 million have been taken out of income tax altogether. Over 1 million new jobs in the private sector have been created since 2010. We have outstanding schools in our area. Almost all of our kids receive an excellent education. Devon County Council said no to an incinerator at Lee Mill. The new town at Sherford is about to be announced, providing much needed homes for our children. Britain is not in the euro-zone.

A balanced diet is good for us.

posted by Gary @ 14:16  



Thursday, 18 April 2013


In many ways the state of our roads is a metaphor for the state of our public finances. They have both been hit by exceptional weather (both real and financial) and will take a long time to bring them back to an acceptable level of condition.

I cannot ever remember our roads being this bad, at any stage of my life. I guess it is the perfect storm: very cold weather in 2011/12 followed by very wet weather throughout 2012. Tarmac gets frozen, contracts and cracks then come the warmer wet weather expands and breaks down leaving the heavy rain able to wash it away. This has left potholes everywhere and now Jan and I actually plan our routes to avoid the worst of them.

Hillcrest Drive in Plympton is the worst major thoroughfare I have yet come across and despite recent attempts to deal with the worst holes; it actually feels dangerous to drive. It reminds me of some of the foreign trips I have been on to developing countries where road conditions were always a factor in planning journey times. I am sure you will have your own favourites of places to avoid.

Strangely, Devon roads seem a lot better than Plymouth ones, which must say something about the wise way that Devon Council has run its affairs in recent years.

The estimates of what it will cost to put our roads back into proper shape are frightening and there is just not there kind of money around right now. So what is to be done?

I have urged ministers to use any scraps of unspent budgets at this year-end to make it available to local authorities to carry out urgent repair works. We have had some recent announcements which will go some way to helping, but it will still be a long slog. The search for more government crumbs must continue.

Second, I am urging highway authorities to stop wasting money on pretty pink tarmac strips etc and concentrate on spending every available penny on the core job: roads you can drive along.  Right now tackling the proliferation of major potholes which we all swerve to avoid is a more urgent priority than coloured tarmac at junctions.

In the end politics is about making choices and priorities. Government, whether national or local, is ultimately responsible for making sure our infrastructure is in place. If that means cutting out some of the frills, so be it.

posted by Gary @ 16:29  



Thursday, 11 April 2013


It was a defining moment – a phrase we often hear. Margaret Hilda Thatcher was a defining person. I know that many of my own colleagues came into politics because they were inspired by her. Many of our opponents came into politics because they were so opposed to her. They were defined by her. She defined her generation like no other politician before or since.

Although she has been failing for many years, I was genuinely sad to learn of her death on Monday. She displayed the qualities of leadership that are needed in tough times and it may well be that we are heading for a season when those granite-like qualities will be necessary again. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, goes the old saying. When we had our backs against the wall in 1940, we needed Winston Churchill. No one around at that time could have done what he did. In more gentle times when the mood was for rebuilding and a welfare state, Clement Atlee fitted the bill well. But in the 1970's once again in trouble, our nation reached out to a woman of unique strength and character. She did not just lead the nation, she saved it.

If I had a pound for every time a constituent said to me: if only we could have Maggie back in charge again, I could buy a Jaguar.

She was of course controversial. Her policies genuinely hurt people in order to make the necessary platform for future prosperity. Communities that depended on unprofitable state owned industries suffered greatly as we moved towards a market based enterprise economy. I remember Linda Gilroy telling me in 2001 that her campaign for re-election in Plymouth Sutton only really took off after Mrs Thatcher had come to Plymouth to speak, reminding many of her constituents of the pain of the sweeping societal changes she wrought. I accept all of that, but her achievements for the nation were extraordinary. The sick man of Europe became a world beater.
History will judge her very kindly.

She ran an amazing race. I suspect she might have looked back on her own life and wonder about certain aspects of it – maybe she wished she had spent more time with the children. I doubt if she ever truly forgave the Conservative party for dumping her in 1990. But it is given to few people to change the world. She did that.

May she rest in peace.

posted by Gary @ 09:12  



Friday, 5 April 2013


I paid £17,166 in tax and NIC last year. I don't mind admitting this, as my salary is a matter of public record. It is deducted at source and I am glad to make my contribution to society in this way, although some of the payments that come from our taxes are easier to support than others.

Roughly a fifth of my tax, or £3500, goes on the NHS – quite content about that. I recognise that the system is under strain and we many have to pump more in future years, but not unless we see genuine reform. You cannot keep on propping up a 60 year old model.

About 1%, or £170, goes on overseas aid, and having seen abject poverty in many developing countries I am content with that. I would willingly pay more on this; although I appreciate I am in a minority. We do not have abject poverty in this country. We do not have children dying of readily preventable diseases.

I am content with the £850 a year I contribute towards our defence forces, in fact I consider this should be increased. The world is heading into perilous territory and we must not be caught napping again.

About a third of my taxes goes on the welfare budget, so in my case, just under £6000 pa. Here I start to get a bit twitchy. I am happy to contribute towards the pensions of retired people, and to support those who are genuinely in need.

I am not so keen to support those who could work but who choose instead to lean on the rest of us. I was interested to learn recently that 870,000 people who had been on incapacity benefit last year have decided not to re-claim rather than face the stiffer medical tests we are introducing. What inference can we draw from that?

Nor am I willing to pay to bring up other people's children when still too many parents turn their backs on their own responsibilities.
The Child Support Agency has made some inroads into this, but there is more to be done to change the prevailing culture. If you have a child, you are responsible to raise him or her.

I would rather pay less tax and let Jan decide how to spend my hard-earned money.  It will be quite a few years yet before any prudent chancellor can make that announcement. In the meantime, our reforms will continue.

posted by Gary @ 12:47