Ben Bradshaw

Working Hard for Exeter

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Below is my latest column for the Exeter Express and Echo:

The state of our roads is probably the most common grievance raised by Exeter residents with me and my volunteers as we’re out and about. With the NHS and care for the elderly in crisis, one might have thought these would be top of people’s agenda. But the thing about roads and potholes is they affect everyone and they are a visible sign in everyone’s street of the more general decline people feel in our public realm. Meeting residents in Dorset Avenue on Saturday I got a real sense of their frustration. Their road is in a terrible state. We’ve written letters and raised petitions to Devon County Council, who are responsible for the roads, to no avail. Dorset Avenue hasn’t been resurfaced for more than 30 years. Although it’s fairly busy, it’s not a priority route because it doesn’t link directly to a main road. It’s on “the list”. But its prospects of being done any time soon look slim. The county council says it needs to spend £65 million just to keep the roads in their current state, but is spending only £35 million. So things are likely to get worse.

Which leads me to my main point of this week’s column. Our local councils face another £6.7 billion of cuts in this Parliament, on top of the huge reductions over the last five years. This was sneaked out by the Government just before Christmas and we don’t yet have details because councils have not set their budgets. Exeter City Council, responsible for parks, leisure, housing, street cleaning and planning, among other things, has managed to protect most of its services so far, while levying the fourth lowest council tax in England. But that job’s going to be even harder in future. The cuts that most people have notice have been in services run by Devon County Council – social and elderly care, the youth service, children’s services and pavement and road maintenance, including weeding. The police have also suffered big cuts and there’s a danger we could lose all our Police and Community Support Officers. As well as more cuts, we’re also facing the biggest council tax rise for many years as the Government shifts the burden for funding social care to local Government. Councils will be allowed to add an extra 2% to the council tax for social care and, with the police and fire expecting to seek similar rises, we’re likely to see a council tax increase well above cost of living and wage inflation.

On a brighter note, congratulations to Exeter City Council for helping secure Radio 1’s annual Big Weekend in May. This is Europe’s biggest free music festival and the majority of those people going will be local. It’s fitting that Coldplay, whose lead singer Chris Martin was born and raised in Exeter, is one of the main acts. Following the huge success of the Rugby World Cup this is the latest feather in the city’s cap and something for our young people and some not so young people to look forward to. 

My Latest Echo Column

Below is my latest column for the Exeter Express and Echo: The state of our roads is probably the most common grievance raised by Exeter residents with me and my...

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I wish the Prime Minister and the British negotiating team well for what remains of this process. Will he acknowledge that all the major threats and challenges Britain faces, from international terrorism to climate change, demand that we work closely and collaboratively with our close neighbours, and that we do not relegate ourselves to a position of isolation and impotence?

The Prime Minister: My judgment in all of this is that I want things that increase the power and the ability of Britain to fix problems and to deal with our own security, stability and prosperity. What matters is this: are we more able to deal with these things? One thing Europe needs to get right is to get rid of the pettifogging bureaucracy on the small things that infuriate people but do not actually make a difference, and to focus instead on security, prosperity and jobs—that is the focus.

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Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Following the shocking official report into the murder here in London of Alexander Litvinenko, when will the Prime Minister and his Chancellor take some meaningful action to tackle the dirty Russian money and property here in London that helps to sustain the Putin regime?

The Prime Minister: The report was shocking, although as the Home Secretary said at the time, this confirmed what the Labour Government understood to have happened. None the less, when one reads the report all over again, what happened is deeply shocking. That is why we have taken action in the form of asset freezes and the other measures described by the Home Secretary. On the problem of so-called hot money coming into London, I made a speech recently explaining that we are doing more than other countries in respect of transparency and beneficial ownership—who owns what in terms of companies, and we are going to do the same with property. That is one of the best ways not just to make sure that we do not have illegal Russian money, but to make sure that corrupt money stolen from African taxpayers and other continents does not end up in London.

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Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I shall be brief to allow as many colleagues to speak as possible. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing the debate and on the very salient points that he made. This is the umpteenth debate that we have had in the House since I was elected in 1997, and I want my remarks to focus on the financial commitment to this agenda.

The report by the all-party group in the last Parliament was an important report that all the Back-Bench members signed up to. The Prime Minister declared that he wanted to see a cycling revolution in this country. The Minister is a man who, thankfully, has been in the job for some time, so he knows about it. I believe that he is sincerely committed to this agenda.

We made it clear that the essential components of a successful cycling strategy were political leadership and a sustained funding commitment. The hon. Member for Bolton West was partly right when he talked about the level of funding that the Government have now committed, but the figure that he referred to included London, and London massively skews the overall figures. The overall amount that we are currently being offered in terms of cycling investment is still little more than £1 per head per year, in contrast to the £10 per head per year that the all-party group report said was a starting point, leading to £20, which is equivalent to what most other European countries spend.

We will not deliver the cycling revolution that the Prime Minister spoke about without significant extra resources for cycling. My one request of the Minister is that he explain something that he and predecessors have not really been able to explain to me. We are talking about such a tiny amount of money—a fraction of his roads budget, for example, and a fraction of his overall strategic transport budget. All he would need to do is reallocate a very small amount of money that is already committed to other things—we are not asking for more money from the Treasury—to cycling, and he would deliver the cycling revolution that the Prime Minister says he wants, so my simple question for when the Minister responds is: why can they not do that?

The full Westminster Hall debate on Government funding for cycling can be found here.

3rd February Questions

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I wish the Prime Minister and the British negotiating team well for what remains of this process. Will he acknowledge that all the major threats...

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Devon NHS had no deficit in 2010 when we had a Labour Government. It now has the worst deficit in England. What assurances can the Minister give my constituents in Exeter and those elsewhere in Devon that services and waiting times will not deteriorate even further?

Ben Gummer: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his co-operation and help in trying to form the future of the NHS in Devon. This will work only if there is a cross-party effort, and the same is true of the national level. We have particular, urgent problems in Devon, and that means that the deficit will increase unless we take significant local action. That action needs to be led by local clinicians, and I am very glad that they are talking constructively. My job and that of the right hon. Gentleman is to provide support in the coming months so that we can have one plan that we can then implement.

My Question on NHS Defcits

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Devon NHS had no deficit in 2010 when we had a Labour Government. It now has the worst deficit in England. What assurances can the...

My appearance on this week's Sunday Politics South West is now available to watch online here.

My Sunday Politics Appearance

My appearance on this week's Sunday Politics South West is now available to watch online here.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What additional investment the Government plan to make in rail infrastructure in the south-west during this Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [903324]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Claire Perry): I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, as a fellow south-western MP, will be pleased that the Government have committed to investing about £400 million in rail infrastructure in the south-west. This includes re-signalling the main line from Totnes to Penzance; developing a strategic freight network; electrifying the Great Western main line; refurbishing the Cornwall sleeper; £35 million for the necessary repairs at Dawlish; a brand-new station at Newcourt, just outside his constituency; another station planned in his constituency at Marsh Barton; plus 29 new AT300 trains. The Government get the importance of rail investment in the south-west.

Mr Bradshaw: Of course, that electrification is into south Wales, not the south-west.

The people of the west country well remember the repeated promises from the Transport Secretary, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of billions of pounds of investment in rail in the south-west, but the Minister has just failed, once again, to confirm that the Government will commit a paltry half a million pounds for the feasibility study that Devon and Cornwall needs after the Dawlish disaster into improved resilience and rail transport times. Do not the people of the south-west rightly feel completely betrayed by the Government?

Claire Perry: Month after month, the right hon. Gentleman comes here and seems to be in complete denial about the fact that his Government did nothing for the people of the south-west and that his party wanted to cancel the vital A358 road scheme that helps people directly in his constituency. I have already set out—but I am happy to discuss it further—that I am considering ways to find the very small amount of money required to do this one technical feasibility study, which is a tiny part of the south-west peninsula taskforce study. We expect that report to come out in April and deliver the strategic uplift the region requires.

My Question on Rail Resilience

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What additional investment the Government plan to make in rail infrastructure in the south-west during this Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [903324]...


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