Cambourne residents to elect candidates to dedicated new ward as South Cambridgeshire goes to the polls
Conservatives hope to retain grip of community - but Labour, Lib Dems and Greens have other ideas
As South Cambridgeshire goes to the polls on Thursday (May 3), one of the most interesting wards to watch will be Cambourne.
All wards are now being elected every four years in the district, replacing the system of voting by thirds. The council has been Tory-controlled.
The number of councillors is being reduced from 57 to 45 following boundary changes that have left 26 revised wards.
It will be the first time that the community of Camboune has its own ward, having been previously formed part of the Bourn ward that also included surrounding villages.
Voters visiting the Hub in Cambourne to vote will get three votes as they elect three candidates to the new ward.
Bourn - like the district as a whole - was typically Tory-controlled and Cllr Ruth Betson, who won a by-election there last May, is hoping the new ward will follow suit.
“I want to continue the community work I’ve already started, first as a resident - I created the Cambourne Info Sessions - then as a parish councillor. I was on the steering committee for the Parish Plan,” she said.
“I’ve been lobbying hard within South Cambs District Council – and with other local authorities – to ensure Cambourne is recognised as an important parish within Cambridgeshire.
“We might be called a ‘village’ at the moment, but the size of our parish is the equivalent of a small town and should be treated as such with regards to infrastructure and transport, particularly developing the High Street and attracting more businesses, as well as travel and public transport to Cambridge and other commuter destinations.
“I’ve also actively supported the parish council in its efforts to bring a Post Office to Cambourne – its first success was to secure a mobile service on Wednesday afternoons in the car park at the Hub. The next step is to open a permanent site.”
Also standing for the Conservatives is scientist and parish councillor Shrobona Bhattacharya, who runs the village’s Electronics and Robotics Club and is helping to organise Cambourne Science Festival for Children, being held this year on May 12.
She said: “My focus as a parish councillor is to engage as many people as possible through technology, science, cookery, arts and literature – which, if elected on May 3 as one of your three district councillors, I want to continue.”
Evelyne Spanner completes the Tories’ line-up. She has worked across the world as an IT consultant and now runs a small business. She said she wants to support the High Street and local firms, and tackle social isolation and loneliness in the older generation.
Labour’s candidates are Gavin Clayton, who has worked for mental health, disability and social care sector charities, Darren Macey, a curriculum researcher and former secondary school maths teacher actively involved in Cambourne’s music and sport scenes, and Len Thornton, who has retired from a career in education and now volunteers for charities and groups including Cambourne Youth Partnership. Like the Tories, they all live in Cambourne.
Gavin said: “For me, it’s a very different population from the villages that were in the ward previously. They were well-established, predominantly Conservative and small. Cambourne is a lot bigger and most people are incomers from Cambridge or London for example.
“People vote on national issues at local issues - it’s in their minds and we hope it is.
“There are people really finding times tough.”
But there are also some key local issues that need tackling, he believes.
“My family and I moved into one of the first shared equity houses in Cambourne. We just about had the money for a deposit,” he said. “Something that South Cambs needs to take on is truly affordable housing. Promoting a good rate of affordable housing really needs to be addressed.”
Ensuring Cambourne’s facilities keep pace with its growth is also high on Labour’s agenda, particularly with the new homes planned in West Cambourne.
“There’s not a resistance to the idea of growth but there have been a lot of promises about the High Street and facilities, some of which has come, and we’re better served than a lot of communities around. But the performance of the council has been pretty poor in conjunction with the developers. And now the planning department has been so degraded,” said Gavin.
He wants the developers to be challenged over providing a swimming pool more quickly and discretion used over business rates to promote the Business Park and High Street.
“We need to be in there to challenge and have an opposition voice. At the moment it doesn’t feel like there is that,” he said.
Standing for the Liberal Democrats are Paul Newns and Robert Pinsker, two residents of Milton. The party says they are the only likely alternative to the Tories in the district, based on results last May. They are standing on a platform of controlling and properly planning development, delivering infrastructure and creating a proper public transport service.
The Green Party is putting forward two candidates: Marcus Pitcaithly, of Cambourne, and Michela Morleo, of Whittlesford.
They say they will promote investment in green transport, including better bus services and a joined-up cycle network, subsidised district-wide energy efficient upgrades to the housing stock to cut bills and reduce carbon pollution, and protection for our green spaces for people and wildlife.
Contested parish council elections will also take place in Cambourne, Gamlingay, Waterbeach, Little Eversden, Hatley, Meldreth and Great Chishill. All other parishes are uncontested.
Voting takes place from 7am-10pm. No polling card or ID is necessary.