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  1. ITV Report

The West Country Debate Show: 'Why there's more to politics than Brexit'

The West Country Debate. Photo: ITV West Country

Plans to tackle the West Country's growing housing crisis and anger over the extension of the badger cull dominated the first 'West Country Debate' of the political year.

While the EU Withdrawal bill was being debated in the House of Commons, North Swindon's MP, Justin Tomlinson, was forced to defend the government's record on house-building.

18,200
Number of homes built in the West Country in 2016-17.

He pointed to the fact that £7.1 billion is being spent to build more affordable homes over the next five years.

However, he was challenged by Baroness Jolly, the Liberal Democrat Peer from North Cornwall, who claimed that "23,000 properties had already been lost as a result of second home ownership in Cornwall".

65%
of house building targets completed in 2016-17

The Government only managed to complete 65% of its house building target last year and Stroud's Labour MP David Drew said that "a third of his inbox" was housing related.

He argued that not enough was being done to build affordable housing outside the major town's and cities. The proof, he says, is in the tens of thousands of young people struggling to buy their first home.

Credit: ITV West Country

As the badger cull is extended in parts of the West Country for another five years, there was anger from shadow Farming Minister David Drew, who said "it cannot be justified".

But what is the alternative?

Bovine TB costs the farming industry millions of pounds each year. In the West Country alone tens of thousands of cattle have to be slaughtered as a result.

Justin Tomlinson accepted a vaccine could be a better option, despite voting for the cull in 2013. However he said a "worldwide shortage" meant it could not be ruled out.

Baroness Jolly called for a review of the policy, asking "where is the evidence that this is really working?"

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