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Elections 2022 Q&A: See what parties battling for Cambridge City Council seats had to say on critical questions





Voters head to the polls on May 5 to elect 14 of the 42 of the seats on Cambridge City Council.

A further two seats will be elected in Arbury and West Chesterton wards following the resignations of Labour’s Carina O’Reilly and Mike Sargeant respectively.

Can Labour retain its grip? Will the Lib Dems or Greens make gains? Can the Tories or independents make inroads?

The final tally saw Labour with 27 seats, the Lib Dems with 12, the Greens with two and one independent – Sam Davies in Queen Edith’s.

You can see who is standing with our guide to the candidates.

We probed the parties on key topics, to help you decide where to cast your vote.

We present their answers by party below, and indicate who is standing as an independent.

The Labour Party

The Cambridge Labour manifesto for the city council is launched. From left deputy leader Cllr Alex Collis, MP Daniel Zeichner, and council leader Cllr Anna Smith. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Cambridge Labour manifesto for the city council is launched. From left deputy leader Cllr Alex Collis, MP Daniel Zeichner, and council leader Cllr Anna Smith. Picture: Keith Heppell

Why should voters pick you?

Since Labour came into power in 2014, we’ve consistently delivered against our key pledges. On our housing record, we’ve met our ambitious council housing targets a year ahead of schedule, whilst on our climate work we’ve been ranked amongst the top 10 per cent of all local authorities nationally. We are tackling poverty and inequality, providing generous support to our residents and delivering essential services despite Tory cuts. Cambridge deserves a compassionate, principled council with a strong track record and a clear vision for the future. Labour understands the links between social, economic, and environmental justice required to deliver our vision.

What can you do to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis?

The cost of living crisis, following years of Tory austerity, has particularly impacted the most vulnerable and those on low incomes. Our Labour council has worked tirelessly to ensure no one is left behind. We support a broad network of local food hubs, invested £200k in a new community food centre, run one of the most generous Council Tax Reduction schemes in the country, ensured households can get online, and annually award £1.7m in grants to community groups. Furthermore, Labour has consistently fought for workers’ rights and fair pay. We believe that residents shouldn’t just survive, but thrive.

How should Cambridge’s transport and congestion challenges be solved?

Only in addressing our lack of reliable and affordable public transport can we really combat high congestion levels and air pollution across Cambridge. The Labour council is preparing a transport and movement strategy for the whole city including those living in and around it. Your councillors have committed to delivering reliable, cost effective, fossil free public transport, combatting the chronic public transport underinvestment by the previous Conservative administrations across the county. Additionally, Labour has consistently encouraged active travel, delivering safer, more accessible roads and providing more opportunities for our residents to enjoy walking and cycling.

What will you do to create a more sustainable and biodiverse city amid the drive towards net zero?

Cambridge Labour has declared a climate emergency and is working hard to reach our 2030 net zero target. This includes decarbonising our swimming pools, installing electric charging points across the city, retrofitting council homes and embedding sustainability in development. We’re currently delivering our biodiversity programme, including a herbicide-free trial, planting hundreds of trees and introducing wildflower meadows. Using a doughnut economics model, we’re transforming the way we think about food waste, recycling and reusing materials. We believe that social and environmental justice are intertwined, and therefore all our policies will not only support our residents but fight the climate crisis.

Are the Local Plan priorities right? What should be created at North East Cambridge?

Labour is working hard to fight the housing crisis whilst simultaneously combatting the climate emergency. Following some of the highest

consultation responses ever received from our residents, our draft Emerging Local Plan is committed to sustainable development, our communities and their wellbeing. All new developments will require rigorous water standards, no gas on site, ample transport provision, community and outdoor facilities, and larger development must provide whole life costs. Construction will need to be fossil free. In NE Cambridge, the development will be focused on communities and their wellbeing with necessary local services such as pubs, restaurants, markets, sports facilities and libraries.

The Liberal Democrats

Cllr Tim Bick, leader of the Lib Dem opposition on Cambridge City Council
Cllr Tim Bick, leader of the Lib Dem opposition on Cambridge City Council

Why should voters pick you?

Whether in control of the council or in opposition, Liberal Democrats continue to set the agenda. With Labour currently in power, we provide the ideas, the challenge and sometimes the partnership that make for progress – and we confront bureaucratic inertia. Overall power cannot change in this one election, yet choosing a Liberal Democrat candidate as your city councillor is a double win: both to fight the corner for your neighbourhood and to inject new ideas into the leadership of our city. Our team is tested and reflects the city it seeks to represent. Our manifesto Inclusive and Green is here: cambridgelibdems.org.uk/manifesto_launch_2022.

What can you do to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis?

Most tools to combat the grave cost of living crisis lie with national government, where Liberal Democrats are arguing for a temporary VAT cut, a windfall tax on energy companies and restoration of cuts to Universal Credit. Councils should focus on powers they have, illustrated by our Lib Dem-led County Council restoring holiday-time funding for children on free school meals. The city council must maintain the excellent local scheme, designed by the Lib Dems, to help people struggling to pay their council tax. Organisations assisting people who get into financial difficulties must be generously supported. The council must work much faster to get homes insulated to reduce energy costs.

How should Cambridge’s transport and congestion challenges be solved?

We badly need less congestion, pollution and carbon emissions from traffic throughout Cambridge, especially as it grows. The keys are better bus service options, more space for safe cycling and walking – and fewer car journeys. It is only going to happen through a combination of both funding for a bigger bus network – operating more frequently over longer hours with cheaper tickets – and measures to encourage everyone to be more selective over car use, which currently drastically reduces bus reliability. This is the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Making Connections agenda, which we support. We expect an outline scheme for discussion soon.

What will you do to create a more sustainable and biodiverse city amid the drive towards net zero?

We first made climate change a council priority 15 years ago and, whether controlling the council or in opposition, we have set the pace ever since. A lot has been achieved, but Cambridge should aim higher. There is surprising complacency around important areas: home insulation, food waste collection, on-street electric vehicle charging and the need to reduce city centre car trips to the council’s car parks. We would end these taboos and develop an all-embracing, systematic roadmap to net zero. We would foster biodiversity by increased tree planting, protecting and wilding the city’s constantly threatened green spaces and ensuring the council actually stops using herbicides as we recently persuaded it to.

Are the Local Plan priorities right? What should be created at North East Cambridge?

The emerging Local Plan broadly responds well to this area’s need both for homes and for respect for the environmental constraints of natural resources and Cambridge’s landscape and historic setting. We don’t agree that these must be opposites. Any successful, socially inclusive place must evolve. Development should be on sustainable sites, like NE Cambridge and Marshalls Airfield, designed for minimum carbon footprint and good community infrastructure. We would stop Labour’s robbing of new facilities from major developments like NE Cambridge to provide it in entirely different areas. We would also stop their deliberately inflationary policy of marketing homes on council land to international investors.

The Green Party

Why should voters pick you?

We are the only local party to oppose the policy of growth at any cost, and to provide a real voice for social and environmental justice. The Greens will plan for the future that Cambridge wants, rather than repeat mistakes made by others or scrabble to keep up with outdated projections. The Greens provide an independent voice on council – councillors from other parties are told how to vote by party bosses. Only the Greens offer proper scrutiny and ensure city residents’ concerns are addressed fully. Residents know that the Greens listen to them, follow up, and take action.

What can you do to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis?

Food hubs are telling us that residents are turning down food because they can’t afford to heat it. We will set up buying clubs, lend residents thermal imagers and provide advice so they can energy check their homes and insulate them as cheaply as possible. We will partner with local community groups to advise vulnerable residents about cheaper “social tariffs” for utilities with emphasis on supporting disabled and digitally excluded residents. We will establish a renters’ charter for the 42 per cent of residents renting privately. We will set up a library of things so people can borrow rather than buy.

How should Cambridge’s transport and congestion challenges be solved?

Cambridge needs a bus service that is well-connected, safe, fast, cheap and convenient to use, via Travel Hubs. There should be: an emissions-free zone in the city centre, with strict rules against engine idling, 20mph speed limits in all residential areas and the creation of low-traffic neighbourhoods, and a fully interconnected, properly segregated cycle network. We must increase charging points for electric vehicles, car-sharing schemes, on-demand minibus services and scooters/bicycles to reduce private car use. Funding should come from new sources such as a workspace parking levy, congestion and/or emissions charges, after evidence-based assessments and trials.

What will you do to create a more sustainable and biodiverse city amid the drive towards net zero?

Further losses of urban green space and Green Belt land must be halted. Where development is essential, high-quality green space for nature and people must comprise a high proportion of the land. The network of city wildlife sites, country parks and local nature reserves must be expanded, without damaging sensitive habitats. We will implement a programme to maintain recreational green spaces and play areas as safe, clean and accessible to all. Tree planting initiatives will continue. We will increase council officer time dedicated to biodiversity and green spaces and improve support for volunteer and community involvement in managing green spaces.

Are the Local Plan priorities right? What should be created at North East Cambridge?

We support many of the LP’s core principles but not its focus on growth. Greater Cambridge has already committed to thousands of new jobs and houses in the adopted 2018 Local Plans – more than enough to meet demand. Priority should be given to investing in existing communities.

Wherever possible, existing buildings should be renovated and insulated to the highest standards. Homeowners need support to install insulation, solar panels, and heat pumps in place of gas boilers.

We do not support the plans for North East Cambridge as they are dependent on relocating the sewage works into the green belt.

The Conservative Party

Conservatives in Cambridge with the police and crime commissioner
Conservatives in Cambridge with the police and crime commissioner

Why should voters pick you?

We will work with you, openly and transparently, to get the best for all in Cambridge. The existing parties on the council are complacent – too often they ignore residents after getting elected, and don’t consult on big decisions, such as the closure of Mill Road bridge. We will change that. We’ll keep council tax low 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 Cambridge. We will be tough on planning enforcement, fly-tipping and fraud.

What can you do to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis?

We can help lower household bills by not making unnecessary council tax increases or introducing 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 would ensure a team of support officers at the council help residents and businesses understand what financial support there is available. We would 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.

How should Cambridge’s transport and congestion challenges be solved?

A balanced approach is needed, making active travel and public transport safe and attractive for those who can use it, while supporting car and van use where it’s the right answer. We are a great city for walking and cycling, but more can be done following the government’s Gear Change strategy, including more segregated bike lanes (helping car users as well) and working with the police to better enforce the new Highway Code and fight bike theft. Car and van use will continue to be the right answer for many residents and businesses, so road and bridge closures need proper consultation with all affected parties. This time last year the mayor of Cambridgeshire promised to fix public transport but nothing has been done; we will hold him to that promise.

What will you do to create a more sustainable and biodiverse city 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 city 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 there is ongoing maintenance. We will also help residents engage with national government schemes to move towards clean power.

Are the Local Plan priorities right? What should be created at North East Cambridge?

Cambridge needs more housing if it is to continue to be the vibrant city we love, and it’s right that we encourage residential development on the brownfield sites of North East Cambridge, rather than encroaching into the beautiful countryside that surrounds us. But it’s essential that the plan prioritises the things that make development successful – like great design, sustainable public and active transport available from day one, great leisure facilities, local shops and pubs, and quality green spaces. North East Cambridge mustn’t become another large-housebuilder dormitory suburb like Worts Causeway, but an area that Cambridge can be proud of.

Independents

Jason Scott-Warren is an independent candidate for West Chesterton.

He says: “I’ll be an independent voice for West Chesterton, free to challenge proposals with the interests of locals in mind. My aim is to join the dots between a depleted environment and social inequality, calling for a radical revision of our priorities in the light of the climate crisis.”

On North East Cambridge he adds: “We should resist the current hugely wasteful plan to move a sewage works on to green belt land, so as to initiate a building boom in North East Cambridge. The green belt is non-negotiable, end of story!”

Monica Hone is an independent candidate for Coleridge.

She says: “We need to declare a water emergency. We are installing more and more taps while more and more sewage is ending up in our river. There is no environmental capacity for further growth.”

Of North East Cambridge, she says: “NECAAP and the sewage plant move to Honey Hill should be shelved. Our small roads and medieval centre cannot cope with more people and more cars.”

Read more

Elections 2022: Full list of Cambridge City Council candidates



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