Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

In My View

Article excerpt

Byline: By Caroline Spelman

Recently I had the pleasure of sitting in the Pitcher and Piano on Newcastle Quayside, enjoying a short drink after a long day.

I was looking out at the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and was struck by the sheer vibrancy and creative energy in Newcastle City Centre.

Smartly dressed people enjoying their disposable income on the banks of one of the proudest waterways in England.

Realistically, this is only half the story, though. Not far from the Quayside are areas of terrible deprivation and hardship, areas that politicians, both locally and nationally are morally obliged to help.

Lack of job opportunities, shortages of skills, anti-social behaviour and crime all conspire in some of Newcastle's deprived suburbs and those of outlying towns and villages to erode people's quality of life.

I believe local government has a strong role to play in helping turn round these urban areas, but this is best done by freeing it from the diktats of Whitehall.

It is my view that local government has been abused by national government, and nowhere is this more evident than in the issue of council tax. Council tax has become the ultimate stealth tax for this Government.

By transferring cost burdens onto local government and fiddling Whitehall funding, Labour have engineered a situation whereby council tax has gone up by 70pc since 1997. Typically, this hits those people on low and fixed incomes a lot harder than most.

I represent a constituency on the outskirts of Birmingham, and I have seen at first hand the regeneration of that city.

We need to spearhead the regeneration of suburban areas as well as the glossy city centres. To do this we need to bring in the expertise of social entrepreneurs and fully involve local people.

The Conservative's are committed to reversing the urban decline that is under way. We are committed to putting more police on the beat.

We also want to revitalise our towns and suburbs, with more housing in urban collars and more redevelopment of brown field sites so that we can safeguard our precious green belt. …

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