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Labour urge BBC against ‘regrettable’ cuts to regional political shows

PUBLISHED: 13:30 22 June 2020 | UPDATED: 13:30 22 June 2020

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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Norfolk Labour councillors and an MP have urged the BBC not to make “regrettable” cuts to its regional political coverage.

Politicians and councillors from the Labour Party in the East of England have written to the broadcaster to urge them to make a “continued committment” to regional politics, news and investigative coverage.

Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis, Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters, Norfolk County Council Labour group leader Steve Morphew, and Great Yarmouth Borough Council group leader Trevor Wainwright were among those who signed the letter, alongside MPs and councillors from across the region.

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It comes after the broadcaster announced a review into its local news output to reduce costs, ahead of a further £125m spending cuts.

The letter saw Labour members “express [their] concerns about the review” and ask for clarity on the broadcasters plans for shows including the award-winning investigative series Inside Out, which revealed “sub-standard housing provided to homeless families and vulnerable people in Harlow” and regional Sunday Politics programming.

Mr Wainwright said the programmes had highlighted vital regional issues, including coastal erosion in Hemsby after flooding.

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“I think it would be a very regrettable step because they really highlight and drill down into local issues,” he said.

“Regional news programming doesn’t drill down into things like Sunday Politics and Inside Out do.

“It would be a really bad move.”

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The letter, to Ken MacQuarrie, director of nations and regions, and Helen Thomas, head of BBC England, said programs offered a “platform to highlight and explore issues and debate ideas in depth within our regional context”.

It stated: “Too often, politics is seen as remote, important issues confined to a Westminster bubble - but it’s our job and yours to prove that is not the case. It is critical MPs, local councils and elected officials are scrutinised, held accountable and given a voice.”

They asked the BBC to make a “continued commitment to its regional political, current affairs and investigative programmes” and to confirm when Sunday Politics Live and Inside Out were scheduled to return to the BBC.

A BBC spokesperson previously said there were “significant financial challenges and efforts to learn from the Covid-19 crisis” but no decisions had yet been taken.

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