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Elections 2021: Cambridge City Council parties answer your questions



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Cambridgeshire goes to the polls on Thursday, May 6 for a host of elections. Our final Q&A to help you make an informed decision on how to vote is with the parties vying for Cambridge City Council seats.

They have their say on affordable housing, the climate crisis, congestion and support for business.

There are also two independent candidates, along with three others representing the parties Rebooting Democracy, UKIP and the Workers’ Party of Britain. You can read about them in our separate piece.

Labour - Lewis Herbert

Cambridge City Labour leader Lewis Herbert Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge City Labour leader Lewis Herbert Picture: Keith Heppell

What will the priorities be for your party?

Our four priorities for Cambridge to 2025, working in partnership with residents, local groups and businesses, are to:

  • Cut poverty and inequality, building on our work with the food hubs to support the fight for food justice.
  • Tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies, delivering a net zero emissions city council by 2030.
  • Build 1,000 more council homes by 2032, adding to the 540 already under way, reduce homelessness and give all rough sleepers new opportunities.
  • Protect city council services despite a decade of government cuts, leaving near nil national funding and unfunded pandemic costs of £8.3million.

What will you do to provide more affordable housing?

One of Labour’s most important priorities is to tackle the affordable housing crisis in our city. We have made great progress in recent years, with over 540 new council homes either being built or completed and have plans for a further 1,000 low-carbon council homes to be built over the course of the next decade. We will also seek future opportunities to provide good quality affordable housing, let at sub-market rents, through our Cambridge City Housing Company and Town Hall Lettings, our lettings management service. And we will commit to bringing even more empty homes back into use.

How will you tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis?

We have put the climate and biodiversity emergencies at the heart of everything we do, against which we’ll assess the impact of every policy. We have committed to delivering a net zero council by 2030, will continue to reduce our carbon footprint by investing in our buildings, replace our fleet with electric vehicles (adding to the 11 already purchased), and champion the introduction of a clean air zone for the city. We’ll provide over 100 hectares of new public open space, plant another 1,000 trees on council land, double the number of wildflower meadows and eliminate the use of herbicides.

How should Cambridge tackle congestion?

Cambridge needs to cut car journeys and congestion, introducing a Clean Air Zone and pollution charging. Better public transport, funding for cleaner, reliable buses – plus the four priority Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) routes are all crucial. We need more cycling and walking investment, like the new Cam bridge and GCP Chisholm Trail section opening in 2021. Mayor Palmer’s job was to sort out the county’s transport, but he’s all talk and no action – handing back unspent cycling money, the CAM metro at least a decade away and bus franchising inaction. Time for a new mayor, real partnership and transport leadership.

How will you support independent traders and small businesses?

Small businesses and traders are at the heart of our plans to revitalise Cambridge. We’ll continue to make sure that businesses get the financial support they are entitled to. We’ve already given out £32million in Covid support grants over the past 12 months – a lifeline for many businesses. We’ll work with businesses, both through the BID and other agencies, to rejuvenate our local economy. Only a collective response will work – and we, the council, must make that happen. With basics in place, we can start to look to the future and create a bold vision for the Cambridge economy.

Liberal Democrats - Tim Bick

Leader of Cambridge City Liberal Democrats Tim Bick
Leader of Cambridge City Liberal Democrats Tim Bick

What will the priorities be for your party?

We need a fresh start for Cambridge. Climate change must govern everything the council does. We’ll protect public open spaces and biodiversity, and introduce a wellbeing strategy to support our community. We’ll build key worker homes to respond to the housing crisis, work to eliminate rough sleeping and end Labour’s shameful record of council house maintenance and failure with basic services. We’ll press towards a ‘low traffic city’, cutting congestion and pollution. We’ll work in partnership with employers to support our city as it grows. We’ll prepare the case for a single-tier unitary council for the Cambridge area.

What would you do to provide more affordable housing?

We would enable properly controlled, sustainable housebuilding in response to housing demand in the new local plan. This is vital to contain the price explosion which is dividing Cambridge, and to secure more affordable homes, at 40 per cent of the mix. The council should enable redevelopment of Marshalls airfield and North East Cambridge – sustainable locations with enough scale to ensure good community infrastructure, still keeping Cambridge compact. The council should provide some of these affordable homes and build new council homes on land it owns. Needs must be addressed right across the spectrum, and particularly for our vital key workers.

How would you tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis?

Our council should be a beacon to others in facing the climate and biodiversity crises. There have been too many mistakes and mixed messages, because these priorities are not embedded into everything we do. We’ll provide a systematic roadmap – a detailed plan of actions to achieve net zero carbon as far before 2050 as possible, integrated with the council’s corporate and financial planning. We’ll introduce a presumption of low carbon for all council decision-making and appoint a councillor to provide political leadership. We will seek a net gain in biodiversity in the urban area supported by effective ongoing management.

How should Cambridge tackle congestion?

We need a ‘low traffic city’ with more people using buses, bikes or walking. Safer cycling, walking and faster bus trips need to be the most attractive option, and road space should be re-allocated to achieve this. However, the bus network must also be greatly expanded with more frequent, affordable services over longer hours – and publicly subsidised. This could be achieved by financially disincentivising car use at peak hours in the city, with proceeds ring-fenced for the bus subsidy. We support further development of this policy so the public can judge what it would mean to them.

How will you support independent traders and small businesses?

The pandemic has accelerated changes to our high street through online shopping. We see this as an opportunity for the independent traders who help retain the vibrancy and character of Cambridge. We have proposed a city centre visioning exercise to bring commercial landlords to help build up a stronger independent sector: though rejected by Labour, in power we would proceed. We would also review the management of the market, where trust has been lost after the council’s high-handed and knee-jerk closure in January. Outside retail, we aim to provide affordable premises for smaller businesses, preserving a mix of employment in Cambridge.

Conservatives - Steven George

Steven George, Cambridge Conservatives
Steven George, Cambridge Conservatives

What will the priorities be for your party?

The three main priorities we are working with include building better communities – some haven’t been given the support they need. There are many Asian and Chinese communities and some feel left out. We also want to make our Cambridge streets safer and I have been working with our police and crime commissioner to get the priorities for Cambridge right. We are concerned about the drugs problem in the city and that impacts on burglaries, so getting drugs under control is a priority. We want women to feel safe in the streets when they are out jogging etc and this includes residents’ safety when they are out and about too. Cycle theft is another area we are concerned with. And we want to make Cambridge a world class sustainable city.

What will you do to provide more affordable housing?

I have also been talking to James Palmer, the current mayor, and he has an excellent plan to provide lots more £100k homes. He has got an excellent way of doing that by combining it with some of the transport we need for the city like the metro. I know the government has given Cambridge over £70m towards more council houses. I live in a former council house myself and we should be building more of them. I know the money is there to do this.

How will you tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis?

It is a priority for us to be able to make Cambridge a more greener and biodiverse city. What people are telling me is that they are not seeing the sort of initiatives that are helping them become greener. One example of that is our Conservative government is planning to get rid of all cars by 2030, so we will all be switching to electric cars. We need to support that, but the city isn’t doing so. We need more charging points so people can pop to the shops and visit Cambridge without running out of charge. There is no fast charging anywhere in the city. My company has given me a Tesla and I have been stuck in Cambridge! I can get charged at Stansted and in the East and North but not in Cambridge. The fast charging in the city has been neglected I am afraid.

How should Cambridge tackle congestion?

We should make the Park & Rides free and make more use of the guided busway, especially with autonomous cars, which could drive down the busway with speeds limited. This would free up the roads in Cambridge. We are just not making the use of the technology and we are a technology city. We should not have a congestion charge – that would be going backwards. How would that help people coming to work at the hospitals and the universities? It would just be adding another bill on them. Congestion needs to be tackled with sensible new modern technology.

How will you support independent traders and small businesses?

The government has been doing a lot to help independent business in the lockdowns with the furlough schemes. But business rates should be capped or held back because independent businesses and traders cannot compete with online traders. People like a shopping experience but businesses should not be paying tens of thousands out of business rates before they have even opened the door. It is just tax, tax, tax and it is crippling. It is about trying to let local businesses have a level playing field at the beginning.

Apprenticeships are something we are rolling out nationwide in a big way for those small businesses that need people. That is something the government is trying to do to help them get the people they need quickly. We have had a reduction in the workforce since Brexit.

In Mill Road, the businesses have been stifled not just because of the pandemic and the bridge closure but because they made the road worse. We really feel for the traders. The road has been completely messed up there. We want to get it open as quickly as possible if we are elected. We are the only party that looks out for business people – and Mill Road traders know it.

Green - Dr Hannah Charlotte Copley

Green candidates for Abbey: Jeremy Caddick, Naomi Bennett, Matt Howard and Hannah Charlotte Copley
Green candidates for Abbey: Jeremy Caddick, Naomi Bennett, Matt Howard and Hannah Charlotte Copley

What will the priorities be for your party?

The priorities for Green city councillors are to:

  • Ensure a sustainable future for Cambridge – the Greens are the only party not supporting the government’s extreme housing targets; we will question each development proposal and ensure that it addresses local needs for housing, employment and infrastructure.
  • Campaign for real action to address the climate emergency as a matter of urgency.
  • Protect nature and access to green spaces for everyone.
  • Ensure new houses are built to higher environmental standards.
  • Push for reform of the city’s transport system.
  • Address inequality, by focusing on the community, building on the initiatives established during the pandemic.

What would you do to provide more affordable housing?

We would:

  • Push for a significant increase in council-owned and managed secure rented property, and oppose the sale of council-owned housing.
  • Strongly support community ownership cooperatives, housing associations and co-housing projects, involving future residents in the design of developments as at Marmalade Lane.
  • Ensure new developments are based around local needs for housing, employment and infrastructure, not a top-down growth target.
  • Review the rates for Affordable Housing to ensure they are genuinely affordable for lower income households in Cambridge, and lobby to increase the requirement for affordable homes to 50 per cent of housing in all new developments.

How would you tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis?

We would:

  • Factor climate change and biodiversity into all Council decisions and, using Cambridge-based expertise, make the city a UK leader in addressing these emergencies;
  • Pressurise organisations to adopt strict net-zero commitments by 2030, and lobby for higher standards for energy and water efficiency with compliance mechanisms;
  • Seek support for retrofitting existing council and private housing;
  • Push for stronger protection of city wildlife sites and corridors (including the unique chalk streams), increase tree cover and halt habitat destruction for new development;
  • Invest in flood defences and hold Anglian Water to account for discharge of raw sewage into the Cam.

How should Cambridge tackle congestion?

We would:

  • Urge a rapid shift to greener travel, ensuring that Park & Ride locations, rail stations and buses are connected seamlessly via low congestion roads, reducing congestion and pollution by reducing the need for car travel;
  • Push for revision of the bus system to make it cheaper and responsive to the needs of Cambridge residents;
  • With residents, create low traffic neighbourhoods, whilst allowing good access for those with mobility and health issues;
  • Seek major investment for a fully interconnected, properly segregated cycle network;
  • Accelerate the move to electric vehicles, including installing more free or low-cost charging points.

How will you support independent traders and small businesses?

Given the varied impacts of the pandemic on such enterprises (some have closed, others have increased turnover), we will:

  • Push to ensure support is provided to those in the city excluded from any business grants due to the government criteria for funding support, recognising that the new, top-up ‘Additional Restrictions Grant’ provided by government has strict eligibility criteria that the council cannot change;
  • Ensure that there is a focus on sectors hit hard by the health crisis;
  • Work to explore how the council can signpost those excluded to more help and support, and raise concerns about those sectors most affected.

Read more:

Elections 2021: City council candidates that offer an alternative to the main parties

Elections 2021: Cambridgeshire police and crime commissioner candidates answer your questions

Elections 2021: Cambridgeshire County Council parties answer your key election questions

Elections 2021: Cambridgeshire mayoral candidates answer your key election questions



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