Plymouth's City of Culture bid is 'a vote of confidence'
Keith Rossiter talks to Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman about Plymouth’s prospects.
WIN or lose, the bid for Plymouth to be named UK City of Culture 2017 will bring big benefits, says Labour's deputy leader.
Harriet Harman, who is also shadow Culture Secretary, backed Plymouth's bid for the competition, which was formally launched last week.
She said it was a "vote of confidence in Plymouth's future".
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The city council and Plymouth University have each pledged £20,000 towards making a bid and are looking for business to match the funding.
Ms Harman said it would be money well spent, in spite of the economic downturn.
She said the title of UK or European City of Culture had had "a massive impact" on other cities.
"Even in those that haven't succeeded, it has created partnerships and generated ideas that have gone ahead anyway. It's only a good thing."
Derry-Londonderry, the 2013 UK City of Culture, estimates that it will get a £100million boost to its economy. The Irish city is hosting some 160 high-profile events during the year.
Ms Harman said Plymouth was "a city with great culture and tradition. People all around the world know about Plymouth. It has great heritage and looks to have a dynamic future."
She spoke to The Herald just before she addressed the South West Labour Party's annual conference in Exeter on Saturday.
She said young people in Plymouth were finding it hard to get their first jobs.
In the wake of last week's labour market figures, showing another fall in unemployment, Ms Harman said: "It's quite often people settling for part-time work or short-term contracts.
"I don't think there is anything to celebrate."
Mr Harman praised Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans for committing the council to paying staff a "living wage" rather than the national minimum wage.
But she refused to commit a future Labour Government to putting the living wage on the statute books.
The living wage is now set at £7.45 an hour. The national minimum wage is significantly lower, at £6.19 for those over 21.
Last week Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, ruled out an in-out referendum on EU membership.
The depth of anti-EU feeling in Plymouth was made clear at the last European Parliament elections, where city voters put the UK INdependence Party in first place.
Asked whether Labour's stand would be damaging for Alison Seabeck, the party's MP in Plymouth Moor View, Ms Harman said: "Many people have justified concerns about the way Europe works.
"The answer isn't to walk away but to work with other European countries to improve it.
"Going it alone won't be good for British jobs or our economy."
She said that Prime Minister David Cameron's commitment to a referendum would have a big impact by cutting Britain off from what is one of the world's main trading blocs.
She said foreign companies would no longer see Britain as a good place to invest.
And she said Labour would campaign actively in Plymouth at the next European elections, in 2014, to try to address the concerns of voters.
Ms Harman said the way for Britain to escape the downturn was to invest in infrastructure.
But, in spite of the flood-hit rail and road network in the South West, she refused to give specific spending commitments.
Ms Harman later urged conference delegates to put up a strong team of Labour councillors in May's local elections.
She said they should stand up for communities hit by Tory-Lib Dem choices at every level of government.
There are no elections in Plymouth this May but in the rest of Devon and Cornwall voters will go to the polls to elect county, district, town and parish councillors.