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Newspaper presses Cameron over council cutbacks

Prime Minister David Cameron was pressed over cutbacks to local council services during a visit to a regional daily’s office on Friday.

In his second visit to the Derby Telegraph in the space of a year, Mr Cameron was quizzed over above-average reductions in the city’s grant.

The Fair Deal for Derby campaign has spawned a 12,000-signature petition against the cuts, which it says total £75 per head since 2010 compared to a national average of £62 per head for similar-sized councils.

But Mr Cameron told the newspaper he did not believe the reductions were “unfair for individual councils” and the authority should “still be able to deliver good services”.

David Cameron talks to Derby Telegraph editor Neil White, right, and managing director Steve Hall, centre.

The Prime Minister also renewed a pledge made on his previous visit to consider the impact on the UK supply chain of future major train building contracts.

It followed the row over the award of the £1.4bn crossrail contract to German company Siemens ahead of Derby train maker Bombardier in 2011, which generated an award-winning Telegraph campaign.

Mr Cameron also praised the Telegraph’s current Save a Life Campaign which encourages readers to become life-savers – either by giving blood or learning first aid.

He said:  “I applaud your campaign. One of the positive things from the Leveson Inquiry was all the campaigning and social action that newspapers do and he particularly singled out praise for regional newspapers.”

In a first-person piece published in the paper today, Telegraph editor Neil White said that he was “impressed” by Mr Cameron as a person irrespective of what he thought of his politics.

Said Neil:  “Whatever I might have thought of his responses, I couldn’t accuse Mr Cameron of dodging any issues.

“He was forthright on the city council – despite cross-party protests and a 12,000-name petition claiming Derby was being treated unfairly when it came to the Government grant to the city – and he had figures to hand which he said backed up his argument.

“It would be wrong of me to say whether or not I agree with his politics but what I will say is that, as a man, he was impressive.”