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



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Cambridgeshire goes to the polls next month for a host of elections. In the latest of our Q&As designed to help you make an informed decision, we ask senior members vying for power at Shire Hall to explain their policies and views on key topics.

Conservative - Josh Schumann

Joshua Schunmann. (46658522)
Joshua Schunmann. (46658522)

What will your party’s priorities be?

We will continue with our priorities around making Cambridgeshire a great place to live, ensuring we can bring forward job, work and leisure opportunities, supporting businesses and making sure that we have high quality education for both children and adults. We’re incredibly passionate about improving the environment, and our decarbonisation agenda. We have our strategy, which is still in infancy, and we put £16million into the environment, so our manifesto is to continue that work, accelerating and escalating that where we can. Another priority is putting neighbourhood communities at the heart of our decision-making and doing that with our feet by putting council offices throughout Cambridgeshire.

What will you do to encourage Covid recovery in the county?

We’ve been working closely with our district colleagues to make sure that we can utilise any government support grants and ensuring those grants are given out to businesses as quickly as possible. We appreciate that a lot of young people have missed out on school and the county has been accelerating its online learning modules through Learn Together Cambridgeshire, making sure families have the materials they need to catch up on any missed learning. We are starting to reflect on how we engage as a council together and with the public by looking at how we use platforms like Zoom and Teams.

How will your address the climate crisis and biodiversity?

We have a number of solar farm projects already done but we’ve got some more in the pipeline particularly around Cambridge at the Park & Ride sites, where solar canopies can go over the cars and then EV charging can be offered underneath or direct lines of power cables into businesses on the fringes of Cambridge. We have a trees and woodlands strategy, which we’re working on, looking at our farms estate to hopefully plant trees and increase biodiversity. We’re looking at our verges. Are there opportunities to let those grow a bit while still being safe for road users?

What services would you protect and enhance and how would you fund them?

Some of the services particularly around children, young people and adult services. We’ve been incredibly pleased to have peer reviews which have suggested that the services we offer around young people, with regard to early years provisions for support and care, are positive and good services. We want to protect those by having a community-led approach so we can target those more deprived areas and make sure that we’ve got the right services for the right people. I think the that is through the commercialisation agenda where we can generate income and put that money straight back into council services.

What can be done to improve transport in the county?

We’ve been directly involved with the mayor’s review of the bus services. We need to look at modernising the way the bus service operates on a much more shuttle basis rather than elongated journeys which aren’t user friendly. If we can do that and get a bus service which connects with the metro plan so it connects with train stations or important hubs then we’ll have a bus service which is more 21st century and more fit for purpose. But then the strategic road network, we’d put a lot more money into making sure our roads are fit for purpose. Because the better they run, the less congestion we have.

Green - Jeremy Caddick

Cambridge Green Party local candidate Jeremy Caddick. Picture: Keith Heppell. (46658581)
Cambridge Green Party local candidate Jeremy Caddick. Picture: Keith Heppell. (46658581)

What will your party’s priorities be?

The priorities for Green county councillors would be to campaign for the council to face up the climate emergency with real action and to protect nature and access to green spaces for everyone. On development the Greens are the only party who have not signed up to the government’s frankly outlandish housing growth targets. We need to question each development proposal to ensure that new houses are built to high environmental standards and that developers genuinely serve the needs of the local community. Transport needs far reaching reform. The inequality that blights the life of our city needs addressing.

What will you do to encourage Covid recovery in the county?

We need to replenish our social capital as much as our economic capital as we emerge from the pandemic. Pre-existing gaps in our society have been widened, with the worst effects being felt by those who are already the least well off. On the other hand, it has also shone a light on the incredible resilience of local groups and organisations to support people in a time of need. We will campaign to fund and support the community hubs and organisations that have developed during the pandemic to become points of connection and support for residents of all backgrounds.

How will your address the climate crisis and biodiversity?

High quality green spaces in urban areas are a haven for nature as well as offering huge mental and physical health benefits. Green councillors will commit to expanding and improving the local nature reserve network. Unsustainable development is driving destruction of our natural habitats within the city and across Green Belt land. Irresponsible developments increases the burden on our already overstretched water supply. As a result, the rare chalk stream ecology of many of the tributaries of the Cam is threatened, and the health of trees across the area is at risk as the water table falls.

What services would you protect and enhance and how would you fund them?

Greens would prioritise the funding of groups and services that build community and make everyone feel included. As well as community hubs, funding for youth activities and outdoor sports infrastructure is important. Libraries need additional support to provide video conferencing facilities and access to the internet for all. Cambridge is one of the most unequal cities in the UK. Inequality is bad for everyone, and so strengthening measures that promote equality benefit us all.

What can be done to improve transport in the county?

Transport in Cambridge is not fit for purpose. We need a rapid shift to greener travel. In particular our bus system fails local residents, increasing congestion because of increased car use. The Combined Authority should introduce a system of bus franchising, as in London, and our buses need to be zero emission. The popularity of electric cars will soar in the coming years, but Cambridge is not well provided with charging facilities. It has fewer public charging points per head than the national average. Green-led Brighton has three times as many. We need to catch up quickly.

Labour - Elisa Meschini

Elisa Meschini (46658634)
Elisa Meschini (46658634)

What will your party’s priorities be?

Restore the frontline services that have been so savagely slashed over the last decade. Support our communities during this crucial Covid recovery period, focusing on the basic needs of the most vulnerable and on those local businesses who are now at risk. Create a sustainable and reliable transport network that will end the current isolation of so many villages and rural communities in the north of the county. Support green initiatives and reach a net zero carbon council by 2030. And refocus ‘This Land’ so that it caters to the desperate need in the county for real affordable homes.

What will you do to encourage Covid recovery in the county?

Prioritise social mobility and diversity work across the county by establishing a real Cambridgeshire anti-poverty strategy. Support vulnerable groups and individuals with their household bills, food, fuel, clothing, white goods maintenance and repair, and continue providing free school meals over the holidays until April 2022. Ensure that the county delivers all essential frontline services itself rather than relying on the voluntary sector to fill the gaps. Harness the power of the voluntary sector as a respected partner, targeting funds to enable them to support community-led innovation.

How will you address the climate crisis and encourage biodiversity?

Our manifesto contains an extensive list of projects and areas of focus for a net zero carbon council by 2030. We will review the work of the Energy Unit in generating green energy and installing sustainable energy schemes and assess areas for faster progress. Invest in green energy schemes for rural communities, building on the Swaffham Prior project. Protect Cambridgeshire chalk streams as part of a wide water conservation and management strategy. Initiate major tree-planting programmes throughout the County. Protect and increase the County’s farmland, working in partnership with tenants on innovation, sustainability and biodiversity projects.

What services will you protect and enhance - and how will you fund them?

Children and adults services need urgent attention. Building on our campaigning work for early intervention, we must ensure adequate investment in preventive social care. We must make sure all schools, no matter their size or location, receive funding on a par with the rest of the country, and commit resources to special needs and help with return to school. To achieve this while government refuses to fund local authorities properly, we must lobby more effectively for the severely overdue review of the funding formula for Cambridgeshire, and we must change the county’s capital investment and minimum revenue provision strategies.

What should be done to improve transport in the county?

We must encourage a shift from private motoring in areas with crippling transport poverty such as Fenland. We will work with the Combined Authority to secure bus franchising and the creation of a reliable bus network, with bus priority lanes on key routes. Press for a bus and rail fair fares policy. Invest in high quality, segregated cycle routes across the county. Invest in urban and rural footway and cycle lane repair and maintenance. Campaign for more rail investment, including completion of the Wisbech-March rail link and Oxford-Cambridge East-West line, with full consultation on Cambridge South rail station.

Liberal Democrat - Lucy Nethsingha

Lucy Nethsingha (46658576)
Lucy Nethsingha (46658576)

What will your party’s priorities be?

Our top priority is a greener, fairer recovery. The pandemic has made the inequalities in our county even worse. We must support carers better, and make sure all our young people get access to high quality training and careers advice. The impact of the pandemic on those in schools and education has been enormous. We must make sure they get the support they need, not just to make up for lost educational opportunities, but also the lost social and sporting opportunities which are a key part of childhood.

What will you do to encourage Covid recovery in the county?

We must help support small businesses to recover from the huge challenges of Covid. Businesses in many sectors have been hit by the double whammy of Covid and Brexit. They will need advice and support to make a healthy recovery. Small businesses such as child-care providers, and many self-employed workers have been poorly supported by government during the pandemic. The help they need will vary by sector, but the county council has a role in bringing people together to understand what support is needed, and where the gaps in national support are causing major problems.

How will you address the climate crisis and encourage biodiversity?

The climate crisis is increasingly urgent, and the next four years will be crucial if Cambridgeshire is to meet the challenge of becoming a zero carbon county. We must invest in green energy, and support communities, schools and other partners in making that switch. We will also increase biodiversity, doubling nature, and planting a tree for every primary schoolchild. We will work with communities to understand how each area can best support the move to a zero carbon future, whether by increasing tree planting and biodiversity across the land owned and managed by the council, or by working in partnership to encourage others to use land in a way which will store rather than release carbon.

What services will you protect and enhance - and how will you fund them?

Our social care services have been stretched to breaking point by cuts imposed by the Conservatives at the County Council. Our children’s services have gone from “Good” to “requires improvement” when judged by Ofsted, and young people’s mental health services are at breaking point. We will re-invest in universal services, such as youth services, so that families and young people can access help and advice when they need it.

Our roads are also in a truly dreadful state, with many older people afraid to go out as potholes and uneven pavements mean they are fearful of falling. We will do all we can to reverse the cuts the Conservatives have made to our roads maintenance, although reversing the £7.5million cut from this year will take time.

What should be done to improve transport in the county?

Our transport system must be fairer and more varied in future. Not everyone is able to drive or keep a car, and we must move to a transport system which offers more choice. This means investing in a wide range of transport options, including walking and cycling, and much better bus services, which run at the times people need them, not just when it suits the bus company. We must also look at longer term solutions, and at how we build a transport system for a zero carbon future. Time has been wasted on too many vanity projects in the past four years; we need a transport system which is deliverable, not just pretty pictures.

Read more:

Elections 2021: Who is standing for Cambridgeshire County Council?

Elections 2021: Who is standing for election as police and crime commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?

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

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