The West Country Debate December: Strikes, ambulance delays and devolution

  • Watch December's edition of the West Country Debate

A Christmas of walkouts is ahead in the West Country as rail staff, nurses and paramedics have confirmed strike action in the weeks to come.

But that is not the only issue facing the region as new figures reveal South Western Ambulance Service is struggling with demand - an issue bosses have told ITV News is a system-wide problem.

Labour has also called for the House of Lords to be scrapped, with more power given to regions - is this good for local services or shifting the blame?

In this month's edition of the West Country Debate, Labour MP for Bristol West Thangam Debbonaire, Bath Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse and Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth, George Eustice clashed over each of these issues.


The RMT union had confirmed there will be further walkouts through the Christmas period, as negotiations over pay and job conditions continue.

Wera Hobhouse MP said the government has failed to "sit round the table" to negotiate with unions.

Thangam Debbonaire MP said workers have been “driven to take desperate action” because of what she describes as a lack of dialogue between the government and unions.

But George Eustice MP said the budget for sectors like the NHS continues to grow, but the government has to “show restraint” when faced with the “eye-watering pay demands” of unions.

Ambulance delays

While response times to the most life-threatening callouts in the South West improved last month, they are still among the worst in the country.

Staff say a large part of the problem is the amount of time it takes for a patient to be handed over by ambulance to A&E, and the problem is getting worse.

Wera Hobhouse MP blamed the government for the delays, saying the solution requires long-term planning by ministers instead of local government around social care.

But George Eustice MP said the government is already tackling the issue of discharging patients from hospital. He said a £500 million discharge fund has been announced. £200 million of it is planned to go to local authorities in charge of social care.


'Higher, wider and better' - that is Sir Keir Starmer's vision for giving more powers to local politicians rather than ministers in Westminster.

The powers he wants to devolve to English counties and regions include those around transport, housing and planning, and he wants to scrap the House of Lords.

Thangam Debbonaire MP backed the Labour leader's aim, saying that more decision-making should be devolved to those most affected by the decisions being made.

In Cornwall, a £360 million devolution deal has been signed by the council and government, which would mean funding and new powers handed locally over the next 30 years.

George Eustice MP welcomed the measures announced in the deal, but said the county should have devolved powers without needing a mayor.

Wera Hobhouse MP was concerned a mayoral system would centralise power, saying local decisions should take into account a variety of voices .