The term “nanny state” should not be used in a negative way because nannies are “nice and cuddly,” according to a South Hams councillor. 

The subject arose as South Hams District Council (SHDC) held an executive meeting on Thursday October 13 to discuss a range of issues including the cost of living crisis and funding for community groups. 

A report on the council’s cost of living response plan included details of help available for struggling residents and information about a £100 cash sum available for families with one child and £165 for those with more than one child.  This is in addition to the £150 payment for residents is certain council tax bands.

Conservative councillor for Woolwell and executive lead for cost of living Nicky Hopwood also gave personal tips on cutting energy bills. 

After hearing details about the actions proposed by the council to help residents who may be struggling with rising costs, Lib Dem councillor for Newton and Yealmpton, Keith Baldry, took the opportunity for a swipe at the Conservative Party and the new Prime Minister Liz Truss. 

Cllr Baldry said: “Leader, I’m surprised we’ve got this paper before us, because I thought it was the philosophy of the new prime minister not to offer helpful advice to people on where they can save on their fuel bills.”

Council leader and Conservative member for Salcombe and Thurlestone, Judy Pearce, responded by saying the local authority and the central government were entirely separate.

“Councillor Baldry, what happens in Westminster and what we do here are two separate things,” she said. “So, we’re happy to at least provide the information to our residents. We don’t want to nanny-state them, but we are making the information available to them.”

Cllr Baldry quickly responded but instead of referring to the agenda item, he questioned Cllr Pearce’s use of a commonly used phrase.

“Leader,” he said. “I personally think I don’t like this phrase ‘nanny state.’ I think nannies are quite nice people on the whole. Nice and cuddly and helpful. Why we use ‘nanny state’ as a term of abuse is beyond me.”

The comment was taken in good humour and Cllr Pearce replied: “Cllr Baldry, it’s the first time I’ve had to put you in the same box as the Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg.” 

The Conservative MP for North East Somerset who is secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, is often on the receiving end of jokes for his aloof manner. While standing for election in 1997 he canvassed in the back streets of Central Fife with the family’s nanny in the back of his Bentley.