The newly re-elected Conservative MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson talks to the BBC’s Andy Gall and answers some questions elicited from the general public by a BBC reporter on walkabout, regarding the problems affecting Peterborough and the way that new Coalition Government policies could affect the outcomes. Broadcast at 08:20 on Wednesday 2nd June in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
ANDY: It’s twenty minutes past eight o’clock. David Cameron will host his first Prime Minister’s Question Time as Britain’s new Prime Minister later. No doubt he’ll be asked a few tough questions about the departure of the former Chief Secretary of the Treasury David Laws. So to mark the occasion we thought we’d get you, the people of Peterborough, to ask our MPs a few questions about a few local issues. And today it’s going to be MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson who’s been brave enough to face the questions, and he joins us now. Good morning Stewart.
STEWART: Good morning Andy.
ANDY: Nice to talk to you again. So first up Stewart, it’s the hot topic of conversation at the moment, cuts. And this man is worried about where the axe might fall. Here’s what he had to say.
PUBLIC 1: What cuts are there going to be in health, locally, and schools?
ANDY: So he’s worried about cuts in health and education. What areas, if any, do you consider off-limits to cuts, and will you fight cuts to education in the city?
STEWART: Well that’s a very good question. We went into the election committed to real terms increases in the NHS funding over the period of the parliament, and we’ve stuck to that, and that’s the agreement that we’ve made with the Liberal Democrats in the coalition. There will be reductions in some services in health over the next few months, because of the entirely separate situation of the NHS deficit, because of the spending at the PCT, and that’s a separate issue. And my view is that there have to be reductions in expenditure in the short term, so that in the medium and long term we can protect those jobs and services in the hospital and the Primary Care Trust. So in terms of Government policy, no there won’t be cuts in health .. in the health service. In terms of schools, we’ll have to wait and see what happens on the Twenty Second of June with the Emergency Budget. My understanding is that the schools budget will be protected, but that the Department for Education funding other than direct funding for schools will be looked at, and there will have to be a reduction, because we are one hundred and sixty billion pounds in deficit.
ANDY: Ok. That’s the first question. There’s your answer for that. Now the second question, Cathedral Square opened yesterday with it’s new fountains, and here is what this man thinks of them.
PUBLIC 2: Well that was a waste of money for a start.
REPORTER: Well you’re nodding towards the fountains. Tell me about it sir. What problems do you have?
PUBLIC 2: I just think it’s a waste of money. The amount of money they spent on it they could have done more seating, garden area, flowers and bedding plants, things like that.
ANDY: Now I don’t know Stewart if you’ve seen the fountains yet, but looking back, was there enough consultation on the project, and will it benefit Peterborough. Is there enough public consultation in the city in general?
STEWART: No I don’t think there was. I don’t think there is. And I think that’s one of the areas that the City Council need to look at, in improving the way it has opinions from local people through into the system and policy making. And I think that that’s a fair point. Having said that, I think that Cathedral Square, the renovation and regeneration of Cathedral Square is a good thing. I think it’s very beneficial for the city centre. It’s good to get people from different parts of the country to come to Peterborough, and I think the very heart of the city is the image that people take back with them. And I look forward to St John’s Square being completed. Because, let’s be honest, the city centre in Peterborough hasn’t really been refreshed or changed in any meaningful way for over twenty five years. And it was certainly time to do something about the tired city centre and Cathedral Square. So I support it, and I’m glad it’s finished.
ANDY: Ok. We’ve got one more question for you in our mini-Question Time. But before we ask, have you ever been on the programme itself with Mr Dimbleby?
STEWART: No I haven’t.
ANDY: No? I bet you always fancy it don’t you?
STEWART: (LAUGHS) Well I’m not certain about that.
ANDY: Don’t you, really? I thought that every politician would lick their lips and go, yeah, give us me ten minutes on there. I’ll tell it as it is.
STEWART: I’ve been an audience member, so I’ve actually seen it being recorded, a long long time ago. But no, it’s not something I’ve ever really had an ambition to do.
ANDY: Well this is a mini-version of it anyway. Now the next question, it was a big topic during the election, and it’s a big concern of people living in Peterborough, immigration. So let’s hear from another member of the public. this person in Row Four, I think in the pink blouse.
PUBLIC 3: I sort of grew up in the Millfield area. i lived round there quite a few years ago, and when I go back to visit my Dad, it’s totally different. It’s almost like going to another country. So it seems really overflowing there, overpopulated in a big way, you know.,
ANDY: What do you make of that? How do you respond to that?
STEWART: I absolutely agree, and it’s something I’ve been banging on about in Parliament for six years, lack of funding, and lack of preparedness for this massive influx of immigrants from the European Union. We need to look at workers’ registration schemes, we need to return people who aren’t in meaningful work. we don’t want to import people to claim benefit, from other countries. We need to tackle rogue landlords in those areas. We need more money for policing, and schools where children don’t speak English as a first language, and I’m going to be seeking, I am seeking a meeting. And hopefully we’ll have a meeting with the new Immigration Minister Damien Green in the next few weeks. Because Peterborough has seen a huge increase in population and it hasn’t had the resources to cope with it.
ANDY: Ok. Stewart, thank you for that. We’ve almost run out of time, but obviously today, Prime Ministers Question Time, David Cameron taking his first one, what’s your view so far? We’re obviously in the salad days of the Coalition. What do you make of it?
STEWART: Well people didn’t vote for a majority Conservative government, and we’ve got to understand and respect that. But equally they didn’t vote for a coalition either. So we’re in uncharted waters. i think we’re absolutely right to try and have a common interest in running the country, and doing the right thing, and tackling the big problems, which are the welfare dependency, and of course the massive debt that Labour left this country in the last thirteen years. So I think people are giving us the benefit of the doubt, and I think that the Coalition has made a good start, and we need to make more progress in tackling those very big issues.
ANDY: Ok. Stewart, can you stay with us for a second, because we’d like to just touch upon this issue of scrapping council allocated plans for new housing, I know you’re in favour of. But we’ve just got to take the weather first. Can you stay with us?
ANDY: Eight twenty seven. We’re still with Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson. Stewart, just quickly this, on the subject of new housing. There is a kind of crisis in Peterborough for new housing, lots of people on the waiting list for housing, but you’ve been critical of council allocated plans for housing in places like Eye and Great Haddon.
STEWART: Exactly. And Peterborough City Council is now in a position, having received a letter from the Secretary of State Eric Pickles, for Communities and Local Government, to rip up its plans for what seems to me to be lots of low-quality houses, playing a numbers game, and actually go back to square one and look at which parts of the city need sustainability, in other words, which need more houses to protect local shops, bus routes, doctors’ surgeries, to look again at infrastructure like libraries and community centres, schools and health centres, instead of ploughing on with this numbers game. And unfortunately it seems the City Council are not interested in listening to other people’s view on this.
ANDY: But Peterborough does need more housing. Cross Keys Homes says that ten thousand will be needed by twenty twenty.
STEWART: But they need the right kind of homes. They need a balance of affordable homes, executive homes, middle-market homes, good quality homes, that better mix, rather than the whole numbers game. Because at the moment we’re not looking at infrastructure. We’ve got problems with maternity services which are struggling, we’ve got schools which we need to improve both at the primary and seconday level, we have transport infrastructure problems. Instead of focusing solely on numbers, which the Regional Spatial Strategy forced the City Council to do, the new government, the Coalition Government, has now got rid of that, and the City Council can step back and look at where it really needs to build new housing, rather than just following these top-down regional diktats.
ANDY: Ok. Thank you very much for your time there Stewart.