HONORARY PRESIDENT JOINS BBC RADIO DEVON DEBATE
Hugh Janes, Plymouth Lib Dems Honorary President, took part in the BBC Radio Devon political debate on 10 January 2023. In the studio were presenter David 'Fitz' Fitzgerald, and Councillors Tudor Evans (Leader of the Labour group), Rebecca Smith (Cons), Ian Poyser (Greens) and Nick Kelly (Ind).
The successful track record of Liberal Democrats who run councils was Hugh's first point, where we have an excellent reputation for budget responsibility, care provision and delivery of services.
He gave the example of Portsmouth where Lib Dems are building an extra 1000 council houses, have given £100 to pensioners on credit to help with the rising cost of living, and installed over 10,000 solar panels on offices, car parks and schools to help control energy bills in an environmentally sustained way.
"What has become clear is that the Conservatives have no idea of how to run a country. Any pretence they may have had to be the 'Party of Fiscal Responsibility' is long over."
This is sadly being reflected in Plymouth. With an out of control budget and a leader who was reprimanded by the Council's own Head of Legal Services for breaches of conduct.
Liberal Democrats have proved they can run councils well in other places and would like to show we can deliver for Plymouth.
COUNCIL BUDGET 2023/24
The debate was held for the by-elections in Chaddlewood and Moor View on January 12th. However, the discussion related to Plymouth issues, especially the potential £37m deficit in the budget being drawn up by the current Tory-led council.
Hugh's main points were;
- that local government had limited fund-raising powers compared to other G7 countries
- that Liberal Democrats would need to look at the books for areas of over-spend or mismanagement, before proposing adjustments
- that the Council lobbies government for the Fair Funding Review (Office of Local Government) to be enacted this year instead of kicked down the road by central government as it was in 2021. The review proposes increasing Business Rates income to 75% (up from 50%) which Plymouth would be allowed to keep. Currently, half is returned to Westminster.
The contentious issue of tree-felling on Armada Way was a big topic. The petition against it has now reached over 11,000 signatures, by far the biggest Plymouth has ever seen. Although the Council has paused the felling it is currently unwilling to enter into open discussions about a revised plan for Armada Way. Plymouth Liberal Democrats and Environment Plymouth have backed STRAW (Save The Trees on Armada Way).
"Any new plan must start with the trees," Hugh said on BBC. "The Council said it would keep the 37 trees on New George St, it has kept one!" This Council cannot be trusted.
Afterwards Hugh said, "I was disappointed that many of the councillors did not recognise the value of the mature trees as a home for birds and wildlife and as efficient managers of carbon reduction. They are also just beautiful to look at."
BALANCE OF POWER
When asked how he would vote if Liberal Democrats held the balance of power Hugh responded, "Look at each motion in turn, then vote the best way for Plymouth."