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Conservative James Palmer elected as first mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority

Tory James Palmer is the first mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Picture: Keith Heppell
Tory James Palmer is the first mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Picture: Keith Heppell

The Tory candidate beat Liberal Democrat Rod Cantrill into second place

Liberal Democrat Rod Cantrill came second in the mayoral vote. Picture: Keith Heppell
Liberal Democrat Rod Cantrill came second in the mayoral vote. Picture: Keith Heppell

James Palmer, who entered the mayoral race as leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, will be the region’s first Combined Authority mayor.

The count was conducted using a preferential vote system, which left Mr Palmer vying for the position with Rod Cantrill for the Liberal Democrats after the first preferential votes. Mr Palmer secured 79,310 votes to Mr Cantrill’s 50,021 in the first round.

The final tally, after the second round of votes was declared, was 88,826 to Mr Palmer and 67,205 to Mr Cantrill.

The Conservatives also took control of Cambridgeshire County Council in the local elections. The council had been under no overall control.

The new mayor, who says he will base himself in Ely and stand down as leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, will play a key role in driving the local economy, influencing government and improving services, with a particular focus on delivering affordable housing.

The authority will have an annual £20million budget devolved from government, and will also have control of £170million to spend on new homes in the region, including £70million in Cambridge.

Mr Palmer’s victory had been widely expected in a county that typically elects Conservative MPs everywhere except in Cambridge itself.

The mayoral vote in the city will be scrutinised by Labour, with Daniel Zeichner hoping to secure a second term by fending off the challenge from Liberal Democrat candidate Julian Huppert - who was MP before him.

Labours Kevin Price, Lib Dem Rod Cantrill and Tory James Palmer with Snapdragon Consulting director Ben Lee at a mayoral hustings event
Labours Kevin Price, Lib Dem Rod Cantrill and Tory James Palmer with Snapdragon Consulting director Ben Lee at a mayoral hustings event

But Dr Huppert will be encouraged by the vote, as the Lib Dem mayoral candidate secured 1,051 more votes than Labour’s Kevin Price in the first round of voting.

By contrast, in South Cambridgeshire, it was a battle between the Tories and the Lib Dems.

Mr Palmer won the first round votes in the other districts of the county comfortably.

First round mayoral vote in Cambridge:

Con 5,384; Lab 12,222; UKIP 966; Lib Dem 13,273; Green 3,029; Ind 1,204; Eng Dem 113

First round mayoral vote in South Cambridgeshire:

Con 17,644; Lab 6,761; UKIP 2,405; Lib Dem 16,590; Green 2,570; Ind 2,378; Eng Dem 229

First round mayoral vote in East Cambridgeshire:

Con 9,980; Lab 2,495; UKIP 1,336; Lib Dem 5,174; Green 1,156; Ind 1,288; Eng Dem 120

First round mayoral vote in Huntingdon district:

Con 19,914; Lab 4,603; UKIP 5,111, Lib Dem 7,395, Green 1,982, Ind 2,140, Eng Dem 424

First round mayoral vote in Peterborough:

Con 12,629; Lab 8,614; UKIP 3,359; Lib Dem 3,100; Green 3,012; Ind 1,207; Eng Dem 851

First round mayoral vote in Fenland district:

Con 10,513; Lab 2,602; UKIP 2,754; Lib Dem 1,494; Green 879; Ind 959; Eng Dem 519

Second round mayoral vote in Huntingdon:

Con 3,246; Lib Dem 2,995

Turnout total: 33.57% Breakdown: Cambridge City 42.18%; South Cambs 42.43%; East Cambs 34.02%; Huntingdonshire 32.75%; Fenland 26.74%; Peterborough 24.71%;

What can we expect in the first 100 days?

James Palmer told the Cambridge Independent: “It’s no good just saying I want to do something, there has to be proper modelling and a proper business case. I will start getting business cases together for an underground light railway, an M11 extension, for the A10 improvements, for the A47 and Wisbech rail, because currently the 2020 vision, I think, could be stronger.

“If we are to move down the line of creating a better Cambridgeshire and Peterborough that can compete internationally with the very best, and will provide the very best opportunities for everybody in this county, the first thing we have to do is solve the infrastructure problems and I will be looking to get models in place and get on with the job.”

How will he tackle the housing crisis?

Writing for the Cambridge Independent in the lead-up to the election, James Palmer said: “Let’s face the facts: our housing market is broken. We haven’t been building enough homes for decades and it’s led to house prices growing faster than incomes and spiralling rent increases hitting families across our county.

“It’s time to turn this around and build on the success of developments like the picturesque village of Cambourne and the growing community in Hampton. I want to help deliver the homes we need to meet demand, encourage investment and boost opportunities for everyone in our county.

“More than anything, we have to build houses for local, hard-working people. Community Land Trusts will play a part in my vision to help meet our housing needs, but there will need to be many strings to the bow. Under my leadership of East Cambridgeshire District Council, we’ve provided advice to communities wanting to build homes to meet local demand. As a result, the Manor Farm development in Stretham will deliver 75 homes to the community, 23 of which will be owned by the community and affordable in perpetuity. We have plans for 350 trust houses to be built – they are built in conjunction with local people, they are for people on lower wages and they do not cost the taxpayer anything.

“I will work with councils, community groups and MPs to make a plan to deal with the housing pressures across our region. Only then we can tackle the next, most frustrating, barrier in our housing market: the speed at which the homes are built once planning permission is granted.

“We will invest in making the planning system more open and accessible, improve the co-ordination of public investment in infrastructure, support timely connections to utilities and tackle unnecessary delays by giving councils and developers the tools they need to build more swiftly.

“I won’t shy away from tackling the issues facing our housing market, but I know it won’t be a quick or easy fix. I’m confident the situation in our region can be turned around.

What about transport?

Mr Palmer told the Cambridge Independent: “The mayor needs to commit to a solution to the traffic problems across the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – not simply focus on ‘areas’. It requires a solution that will spread the ‘Cambridge effect’ across the entire region.

“The debilitating congestion in and around Cambridge MUST be addressed and I believe the only practical answer is an underground and light railway. Cambridge, with its medieval centre, is a fast-growing seat of business and learning. Buses and trams are an impractical answer to its problems. Only an underground will transport people safely and quickly across the city and beyond.

“The poor train service must also be addressed. Travelling to London from Peterborough, Cambridge, Ely, St Neots and Huntingdon is fine; but the local service between our towns and cities is woeful. Investment in Ely North junction will allow more frequent and larger trains to travel across Cambridgeshire. I am fully committed to Wisbech rail, improvements to Whittlesey station and to a new station in Soham. Linking our towns and cities with an effective and frequent train service will attract new business and allow in-situ businesses to expand, providing additional and higher-paid jobs across the county. It also means people can work where they want but live where they can afford to because their commute is quick and simple.

“The road network in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is not fit for purpose. Planned improvements to the A14 and A428 are a start, but the appalling A10 MUST be upgraded between Cambridge and Littleport. The A47 needs more investment – it is the only road link between Peterborough and Norwich and its status should reflect this. I will also look at an M11 extension through Fenland and up to Peterborough, linking our two major cities and the food production heart of England. If and when these schemes are planned, cycle routes will be considered.

“The role of the mayor is to create a region where people can move freely and easily using public or private transport. My solution is one that works for ALL our cities, towns and rural areas – not just some of them.”

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