AT the start of a wide-ranging public question-and-answer session organised by the Ivybridge branch of Devon Senior Voice at the Watermark, Devon South West MP Gary Streeter said that he had both bad news and good news for the audience.
Although the economy was recovering, Britain’s public finances remained in a ‘dire position’, he pointed out.
‘After three years of cuts, the Government is still spending £110 billion more than it receives,’ he said. ‘Although we have a plan to reduce the deficit to break even by 2017, we still have to tackle the debt mountain beyond that date.
‘The reality is that whoever is in power there will be no Government handouts for the next 10 years.’
Mr Streeter said that the good news was that Britain was reducing its deficit faster than any other European country, and that the economy was starting to grow again after several years of recession.
More than 1.4 million new jobs had been created in the private sector since 2010, which would reduce benefit payouts and increase the numbers of people paying taxes.
‘Unemployment in this constituency stands at 1.3%, which is virtually full employment,’ he said. ‘Apprenticeships are increasing, and we are putting more money into the NHS.’
Subsequently, the meeting was thrown open to questions from the floor, which led to a vigorous but good-humoured exchange of views between Mr Streeter and the audience on a number of topics, including the best ways to develop renewable energy; the future of the UK and the European Union; immigration; longer hours for GP surgeries; the West Country’s transport infrastructure; the future role of Ivybridge; affordable housing; local authority services; the role of volunteers; the ringfencing of the overseas aid budget; the need to have properly paid and professionally trained domiciliary care workers; and the price of heating homes.
Branch chairman John Montgomery said: ‘This was our second annual meeting with our MP, and again it was a highly successful occasion that allowed our members and the public to make their views known and to get straight answers. I’d like to thank Mr Streeter for making the time to come along and listen to us properly.’