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Elections 2022 Q&A: Parties vying for power on South Cambridgeshire District Council answer our key questions





All the seats on South Cambridgeshire District Council are up for grabs when voters go to the polls on May 5.

Can the Conservatives win back control of the council from the Liberal Democrats, after losing it in 2018? Can Labour or the Greens make some gains? Will the independents win some seats?

The current make-up of the council is 30 Lib Dems, 11 Conservatives, two Labour councollors and one independent. There is one vacancy following the resignation of Liberal Democrat Cllr Fiona Whelan in the Harston and Comberton ward.

You can see the full list of who is standing for election in our guide to the candidates.

Here, we’ve probed the parties on the major issues, such as housing and living costs, and offered those standing as independents a chance to make their case too. We present the answers by party, and below also detail those standing as independents.

The Liberal Democrats

Cllr Bridget Smith celebrates winning the 2018 election with fellow Lib Dems. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Bridget Smith celebrates winning the 2018 election with fellow Lib Dems. Picture: Keith Heppell

Why should voters choose you?

The Liberal Democrats are the local team that you can trust to stand up for you. Over the last four years in charge at the District Council, we have made South Cambs greener and fairer, recognised by national awards for its work under our leadership. We have supported our communities through the hardships of Covid. We are welcoming families from Ukraine and Afghanistan. We have more than doubled the number of new council houses built in South Cambs each year. We are particularly proud of Young Minds which works with young people with mental health problems.

Is South Cambridgeshire in danger of being overdeveloped?

Before 2018, under the Conservative administration, the greatest danger was the lack of a sound Local Plan which meant rampant, speculative development in our villages. The best protection we have is the new Greater Cambridge Local Plan, delivering homes that are truly affordable to live in close to public transport links and public services that have capacity for them. The new towns of Cambourne, Northstowe and Waterbeach will continue to develop as thriving places with great facilities. Only a small number of houses will be built in rural areas where high growth just isn’t sustainable, ensuring the precious natural environment of South Cambridgeshire can be restored.

How would you help the district become a more sustainable and biodiverse place amid the drive towards net zero?

Under the Liberal Democrats, the council is successfully achieving the zero carbon goals we have set, recognised by two national awards for leadership in the climate emergency. The proposed Local Plan includes some of the highest standards for sustainability, biodiversity, water and climate change in the country – and this will give us teeth to protect our natural environment. We are one of the first to convert our bin lorries to electric ones and we are installing electric car charging points. Our Zero Carbon Communities grants help villages be part of the solution; £300,000 has been given to 51 grassroots schemes. The annual free tree scheme has allowed many villages to plant more trees.

Will you back a congestion charge and the proposed Cambourne-Cambridge and CSET busways?

There’s an urgent need to tackle congestion and the worsening air pollution from cars. Many key workers and students are facing terribly long commutes that affect their quality of life and limit their choices. As Liberal Democrats, we believe in sustainability and public transport which is so good it’s a first choice for people not the last. The CSET and C2C projects are part of a plan for a network of public transport that will help people have better access to education and jobs. Rather than building on sensitive areas around the city, they link communities outside of the green belt to Cambridge centre. This is about equality of opportunity for all whilst solving environmental problems.

What can be done to support families and businesses amid the cost of living crisis?

The rapid rise in the cost of living, coming straight after the Covid restrictions, is putting huge financial strain on families. The Liberal Democrats, as community campaigners and through the councils we run, have supported numerous community groups including food banks. Under the Lib Dems, the county council has restored funding during holiday time for those on free school meals, which the Conservatives had axed. The business support team we created at South Cambs has given out millions of pounds of grants as a lifeline to small local businesses. The latest scheme has just been launched.

The Conservative Party

Cllr Heather Williams is leader of the Conservative opposition on South Cambridgeshire District Council. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Heather Williams is leader of the Conservative opposition on South Cambridgeshire District Council. Picture: Keith Heppell

Why should voters choose you?

We will work with residents in an open and transparent way to get the best for all in South Cambs. We will keep council tax as low as possible and support people with the cost of living. We will be accountable to you and will always respect that it is your, the taxpayers, money that is being spent and will make your money count for residents of South Cambs. We will be tough on planning enforcement, fly tipping and fraud. We will listen to you our residents and never forget that it is you that we serve.

Is South Cambridgeshire in danger of being overdeveloped?

Yes, we need the right houses in the right places, but we cannot achieve this by imposing extreme house building targets on ourselves. We have serious concerns as to the level of house building proposed in the next local plan. We will not be able to get the affordable housing we truly need by planning for the future in this way. Nor do we have the infrastructure to support such development especially when it comes to our already endangered water supply. We will be pushing for much lower house building targets and protecting the character of our towns and villages.

How would you help the district become a more sustainable and biodiverse place amid the drive towards net zero?

We believe in doing all we can to achieve net zero carbon as soon as possible. The planning system is one of the key ways in which the district council can help with this. We need more biodiversity preservation and find ways to ensure that trees are not simply planted to tick a box by developers, but that there is ongoing maintenance. We want new trees and the like to have a chance of survival unlike what has happened on the A14. We would have a particular focus on grow your own schemes and fund more tree planting across the district.

Will you back a congestion charge and the proposed Cambourne-Cambridge and CSET busways?

We will not back congestion charging because we believe this will be a further financial burden on people from South Cambs where the cost of living is already higher than many other places in the country. Congestion charging should be off the table at least until a proper public transport alternative is in place. We do not support the proposed CSET busway. The current route of the Cambourne to Cambridge busway is not acceptable we believe that the trees along the A428 must be protected and that the current route is far too close to Coton.

What can be done to support families and businesses amid the cost of living crisis?

We can help lower household bills by not making unnecessary Council Tax increases or introduce new charges. We can help people lower their electricity and heating bills by a home greening scheme that helps residents and businesses improve insulation and increase the use of renewable energy. We can ensure a team of support officers at the council to help residents and businesses understand what financial support there is available. We can increase council housing, ensuring more properties for people to live in where they are paying discounted social rents. We will commit to free blue and green bin collections.

The Labour Party

The Labour campaign launch in South Cambridgeshire
The Labour campaign launch in South Cambridgeshire

Why should voters choose you?

Our five promises are built on the success of Labour councils elsewhere.

We’ll act on climate and biodiversity. We’ll create pathways out of poverty so that no-one is left behind. We’ll provide affordable and decent homes. We’ll co-operate with other councils and local groups, building on community knowledge. We want fairness for all with projects that benefit locals.

Our vision is a modern, open and green council. Time to end accounts being years late and parish councils being over-ruled in planning.

Labour will be careful with money and publish progress reports so residents can judge our performance.

Is South Cambridgeshire in danger of being overdeveloped?

Yes, but Labour will change that. We want the right development with truly affordable homes including for social rent with secure tenancies. Families worry because younger people can’t afford to live here.

Labour will put the voice of the community at the heart of the council.

Parish councils and community groups do not have enough say. Working patterns have changed, the government dropped the OxCam Arc. We disagree with Lib Dem policy of investing in offices. We prefer community amenities eg leisure centres. Labour will re-evaluate the Lib Dem plan and agree what is right for South Cambs communities.

How would you help the district become a more sustainable and biodiverse place amid the drive towards net zero?

An assessment of local Lib Dem environmental policies ranks them below average. Labour will take urgent action. We’ll commit to a net-zero council this decade.

Trees are nature’s super-heroes yet after years of Lib Dem and Conservative rule no-one knows how many trees we have. Labour will set targets to increase tree canopy cover and involve the community in helping trees thrive.

We’ll co-operate with relevant groups to enhance natural habitats eg precious chalk streams.

We’ll operate to recognised climate and biodiversity standards. Labour will work with the mayor to deliver the Cambridgeshire Climate Action Plan.

Will you back a congestion charge and the proposed Cambourne-Cambridge and CSET busways?

We need to cut vehicle traffic in Cambridge. Pollution levels are high which causes ill-health, for children especially.

There’s a lot of scaremongering about the congestion charge. There is no specific proposal. However, Labour is clear we want greener, cheaper, more frequent public transport to reconnect our villages.

Good public transport gives people real options on ways to access the city.

Then, and only then, we’ll support a congestion charge. We must cut emissions and save lives.

Busways are one transport option. There must be consultations and environmental assessments of any proposed scheme. Community voice is important.

What can be done to support families and businesses amid the cost of living crisis?

It’s a severe crisis because of Conservative policies. For real change we need a Labour government on the side of ordinary people.

A Labour South Cambs will create an anti-poverty strategy. We’ll make a permanent commitment to paying council staff the real living wage. We’ll encourage local employers to do the same.

Labour councillors got the Council to set up a welfare advice service to help people to navigate the complex benefits system.

Labour will keep wealth generated here in the community, we’ll favour businesses that provide local employment through contract award and promote them via ‘Visit South Cambs’.

The Green Party

Simon Saggers, a Green Party candidate for South Cambridgeshire
Simon Saggers, a Green Party candidate for South Cambridgeshire

Why should voters choose you?

The Green Party is the only party that takes tackling the climate crisis and preserving the planet for future generations seriously.

We recognise that the people of South Cambridgeshire are facing a number of other serious issues. But we have the vision and joined-up thinking that can address those problems while also taking the action required to avoid environmental catastrophe.

You cannot have social and economic justice without environmental justice. By implementing Green policies, we can make life fairer and happier for everyone in our region.

Is South Cambridgeshire in danger of being overdeveloped?

Yes, it is. But the issue is not solely the number of new developments being built and everyone, including the Green Party, recognises that we need more homes for local people. It’s about the kind of construction that is going on and the lack of sustainability involved.

The creep of Greater Cambridge into the green belt must be resisted. What we need are energy-efficient homes that are built in sympathy with the existing environment and that are affordable to local people.

How would you help the district become a more sustainable and biodiverse place amid the drive towards net zero?

As well as fighting to end reckless overdevelopment in parts of our region (see above), we will campaign for improved services and new schemes that help families to cut waste and to save money. While representing wards at district level, we can also press the county council to improve public transport. And we would promote and expand access to open green spaces in order to provide better leisure opportunities and generate greater awareness of the beauty of our region.

Will you back a congestion charge and the proposed Cambourne-Cambridge and CSET busways?

The Green Party supports in principle all policies that will help reduce dependence on cars and encourage more people to use sustainable means of transport.

But the devil is always in the detail. If a congestion charge were introduced, the authorities would have to find ways to stop the less affluent residents who can’t afford to pay it from suffering the most. The key to that would be good transport alternatives like busways – but only if they did not destroy important natural habitats, had affordable fares and actually allowed people to get where they wanted to go, when they wanted to go.

What can be done to support families and businesses amid the cost of living crisis?

Unfortunately, the district council has only limited power, financially and otherwise, to make a difference in the short term. Helping residents and businesses to cut waste and save money would be one way of helping.

But the most important thing everyone can do, whether an elected representative or not, is to lobby central government to find money to help the most impacted families. A windfall tax on the greedy energy companies is an obvious method that the government has refused

to consider.

In the long term, the Green Party wants to see Universal Basic Income – and why not trial it in South Cambs?

Independents

Edd Stonham who is hoping to gain a seat on South Cambridgeshire District Council at next month’s election is running a survey about the development of Cambridge Science Park North.

The park, if approved, will be located on green belt land between the A10 and Impington, currently used for farming.

The Histon and Impington parish councillor says he has concerns about how local infrastructure will cope and whether there is a need for the development.

“I have created a survey to give residents an opportunity to give their input; this will help determine the right outcome for the local community,” he said.

Cllr Stonham says if elected he will also push for 20mph zones, and safety improvements outside Histon and Impington Park Primary School.

Two independent candidates are also hoping to gain seats in the Cambourne ward on the district council.

They are Aftab Ahmed, who is a Cambourne town councillor, and resident Sobia Zaman.

Read more

Elections 2022: Full list of South Cambridgeshire District Council candidates



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