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Elections 2021: Cambridgeshire mayoral candidates answer your key election questions



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Voters will head to the polls to elect the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor on Thursday, May 6.

Elections 2021: Cambridgeshire mayoral candidates answer your key election questions
Elections 2021: Cambridgeshire mayoral candidates answer your key election questions

The mayor leads the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority established in 2017 as part of a devolution deal giving local government in the county additional powers and funding.

There are three candidates fighting for the position, representing the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.

The inaugural Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoral election was held in 2017 where it was contested by the Conservatives, the English Democrats, the Green Party, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP, as well as an independent candidate.

The mayoral election uses the supplementary vote (SV) electoral system, which is used to elect a single winner by voters ranking the candidates in order of preference.

If no candidate receives an absolute majority of first preference votes, then all but the two leading candidates are eliminated and there is a second count.

In the second count, the votes of those who supported eliminated candidates are distributed among the two remaining candidates, so that one candidate achieves an absolute majority.

In 2017, Conservative James Palmer was elected after securing 56.9 per cent in the second count compared to 43.1 per cent for Liberal Democrat Rod Cantrill.

The turnout was 32.9 per cent.

James Palmer, Conservative

Incumbent mayor James Palmer, who represents the Conservatives
Incumbent mayor James Palmer, who represents the Conservatives

What should voters know about you?

I am a Soham man and have lived and worked in Cambridgeshire all my life. I am married to Alison, with two grown-up children, Emily and Max.

Before becoming mayor I was leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, where I was instrumental in the delivery of Ely southern bypass, Ely leisure village, the Hive leisure centre and Stretham Community Land Trust. I am a big sports fan and regularly watch England rugby and cricket as well as being a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur.

If elected, what would your priorities be for the next term?

  • Housing: Now that I have successfully proved the concept and policy of £100k homes, I will build them in every district in the CPCA area. My goal is that at least 10 per cent of all homes built will be £100k homes for local working people. Alongside this unique and ground-breaking policy I will continue to help communities build their own Community Land Trusts, providing homes to rent for local workers. CLT’s have been a tremendous success, typically providing rent at 65 per cent of market value and in some cases offering rent holidays at Christmas.
  • Transport: I will continue to deliver transport solutions across the whole area. My priorities will be: CAM Metro, Cambridge South station, dualling of the A10 and the A47. Upgrading of Ely North Junction and Wisbech Rail. I will work alongside government to deliver a newly refreshed franchised bus service.
  • Education: Delivery of phase 3 and 4 of the new ARU Peterborough University. Making sure that Peterborough continues to set the standard for a technical, jobs focused university. Continued delivery of the successful adult education policy of the last four years. Making sure the extra £1m government funding we have received goes to areas of most deprivation.

Retraining will be crucial in the post-Covid world and we are well placed to help those in most need.

Is the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro the answer to our transport challenge – and can it realistically be delivered?

It is imperative that the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro is delivered. Four years ago I set a vision for future transport in Cambridgeshire and now that vision has the backing of some of the greatest minds in transport delivery. The latest concepts prove the technology and the affordability of CAM, with predicted costs being no more than £2bn. CAM is a platform for sustainable growth for the area. It is the only way to deliver carbon neutral growth for the area and will benefit huge swathes of the county. The proposal for CAM includes self-funding policies such as Land Value Capture and tax incremental funding, meaning that there will be no local taxation to deliver CAM. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough deserves the very best public transport system and I will deliver that with CAM Metro.

What should be done to ensure there is sufficient affordable housing in the county?

It is clear that national policy, relying on grants to housing associations, has not delivered the affordable housing necessary here in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. What is needed is a bespoke policy for this county. Every survey tells us that people want to buy their own home yet the social housing policy adopted by councils excludes the majority of those in need.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has high employment and low wages. What is needed here is discounted housing for local working people. The demand for the first £100k homes is massive. Anyone earning over £18,500 can buy one of these homes and I will build as many as I can. We have to change from the current social housing policy and provide homes that people want.

Forcing people into expensive rent is not the way forward. The £100k home is just the start and I will work with developers to deliver more discounted housing.

Do you support the GCP’s transport schemes – and how do you see its future relationship with the Combined Authority?

The GCP has been a disaster for Cambridge and South Cambs. Six years in, can anybody actually point to a single improvement in traffic control? Their busway policy is outdated already and what is even more concerning is the lack of democracy and public engagement. Has anybody ever stood for election to the GCP? Who do they answer to?

If re-elected, I will seek to absorb the GCP into the Combined Authority, streamlining decision-making and offering joined-up thinking to the problems of traffic in the Cambridge area. The GCP is the only City Deal that has not been taken into its CA and that has to change. As mayor, I am answerable to the public, the GCP is not.

Dr Nik Johnson, Labour

Nik Johnson is standing for Labour
Nik Johnson is standing for Labour

What should voters know about you?

My name is Dr Nik Johnson. I am a NHS children’s doctor.

I am standing to be your mayor because I believe I am the right person to lead the local post-covid public health and economic recovery.

Using all the skills I have learnt in my 30 years as a doctor I want to be at the heart of a revival and social programme that will deliver real and meaningful change.

I want every single resident to know their mayor puts the three Cs of compassion, co-operation and community at the heart of every single decision he makes.

If elected, what would your priorities be for the next term?

I will be the mayor who develops a fully integrated, greener, countywide transport system.

I will be the mayor who provides free transport for 16-18 year olds, and subsidised travel for all under 25s.

I will be the mayor who actually delivers affordable and social housing with green, sustainable, carbon neutral developments.

I will be the mayor who helps build a county-wide water management group to prevent flooding and save precious water resources.

I will be the mayor who encourages people to lead healthier lifestyles.

I will be the mayor who encourages the arts.

Is the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro the answer to our transport challenge - and can it realistically be delivered?

In a word - no.

I believe in being honest and upfront with voters and therefore I have to say it straight out - no I will not support this project.

I want to start my term as mayor with a clean sheet and consider all transport options with a fresh eye.

I want to concentrate on making more immediate positive transport changes for the betterment of residents across Cambridgeshire.

In principle I’m not totally opposed to a rapid system project but this has all the hallmarks of being an expensive folly and a potential financial blackhole.

What should be done to ensure there is sufficient affordable housing in the county?

This area is crying out for low cost, affordable and social housing.

I believe I am the only candidate who is committed to delivering such housing in the numbers required. This is one of the key issues I am determined to put into place if elected in May.

I was elected as a district councillor on a manifesto calling for at least 50% of new developments should be social housing or affordable homes.

As mayor I would continue to press for that 50 per cent figure – following the lead of Labour’s Cambridge City Council who are building large numbers of social housing.

Do you support the GCP’s transport schemes - and how do you see its future relationship with the Combined Authority?

One of the three Cs on which I’m standing is co-operation. It is only by working with – and not against - GCP and the Labour-controlled city council that we will be able to ensure that not just the Greater Cambridgeshire area but the whole county will have the best and most sustainable transport system in the future.

I immediately plan for buses brought back under control of the Combined Authority to work alongside all other local councils and partner organisations including GCP.

I believe these specific proposals for bus regulation will work well with many of the proposed GCP transport schemes.

Aidan Van de Weyer, Liberal Democrat

Aidan Van de Weyer is representing the Liberal Democrats (46468257)
Aidan Van de Weyer is representing the Liberal Democrats (46468257)

What should voters know about you?

I have lived in Cambridgeshire since I was one and love bringing up my family here. I grew up in Hunts and went to state school. I now live in Barrington with my family, working to support small growing businesses.

I’ve been a parish or district councillor for 14 years and really enjoy being able to make a difference in my community.

I have been deputy leader at South Cambridgeshire since the Lib Dems took control of the council 2018. I have launched the first electric buses in Cambridgeshire, welcomed vulnerable refugees and created an apprenticeship brokerage service.

If elected, what would your priorities be for the next term?

I will work to protect our environment, with actions for getting us to zero carbon and improving our green spaces. I will prioritise sustainable transport, with buses under local control and better, safer routes for cyclists and pedestrians. I will get higher environmental standards for housing.

I will make our society fairer, building many more homes that are genuinely affordable and helping small businesses through the pandemic.

I want a better future for young people and I will boost apprenticeships and improving access to post-16 education and training. I will shape a green recovery with skilled long-term jobs.

Is the Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro the answer to our transport challenge – and can it realistically be delivered?

Palmer’s CAM is a money pit. He has spent over £12million, but much of the work done has now been binned as he is restarting from scratch. All we’ve got are some sketches of imaginary tunnels and maps.

The risks are huge. The extensive tunnels won’t be completed until the 2030s. Autonomous vehicles might never be able to navigate urban streets or country roads. We’ve got no idea where the money is coming from.

I will replace CAM with a plan for a realistic mass rapid transit system that can start delivering benefits now, not in a decade.

What should be done to ensure there is sufficient affordable housing in the county?

At South Cambridgeshire, I have helped double the number of council houses that we are building. And I am ensuring that the new homes meet national space standards and are environmentally friendly.

James Palmer has lost £45million of government housing funding – even his own party don’t trust him to deliver. Hundreds of families stand to lose the chance of a new home.

The Combined Authority should be focussing on maximising the numbers of affordable houses built, especially homes to rent, not putting huge subsidies into gimmicks like Palmer’s £100k house, of which only four have been built.

Do you support the GCP’s transport schemes – and how do you see its future relationship with the Combined Authority?

The local government set-up in our area is a mess. But the real problem over the last four years has been the attitude of Palmer and the Tory county council. They are not willing to collaborate with others. It has always had to be on their terms. This has slowed progress on the GCP’s work on transforming transport in and around Cambridge.

The GCP is a delivery body. Its job is to implement the mayor’s local transport plan. I fully support the need for high quality public transport that is attractive enough to get people out of their cars.

Read more:

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

Elections 2021: Conservative and Labour candidates clash over Mill Road bridge closure in Cambridge



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