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Elections 2023: Cambridge City Council hopefuls answer your key election questions





Voters in Cambridge will head to the polls on Thursday, May 4 to choose new councillors and we’ve quizzed the parties and the others standing on the city’s key issues.

Older man voting at elections, hand putting ballot paper in ballot box.
Older man voting at elections, hand putting ballot paper in ballot box.

Contests will be held for 14 of the 42 seats on Cambridge City Council, with one councillor elected to represent each ward for the next four years.

By-elections will also be held in the wards of Castle, as Labour councillor Sarah Baigent is standing down, and in Coleridge, where former Labour council leader Lewis Herbert is standing down.

Currently, the city council is made up of 25 Labour councillors, nine Liberal Democrats, three Greens, one independent and four vacancies.

A Cambridgeshire County Council by-election will also be held in the Arbury division following the resignation of Labour’s Hilary Cox Condron.

Labour currently has a majority on the city council
Labour currently has a majority on the city council

LABOUR

1. Why should voters pick you at the May elections?

Since Labour came into power in 2014, we’ve consistently delivered against our key pledges. We’ve set ourselves ambitious council house building targets, been ranked amongst the top 10 per cent of all local authorities nationally for our climate work, and managed a sustainable budget despite financial challenges. We are tackling poverty and inequality, providing generous support to our residents and delivering essential services in the face of Tory austerity. 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.

2. The proposed congestion charge will be determined by county councillors, but voters are keen to know your position on it. Are you in favour or against?

We’re waiting to see the outcome of the consultation, however in its current form we are not supportive of the proposals. As a group we will propose various changes if any scheme is to go ahead. These include championing the needs of people on low incomes, small businesses, those who can’t access public transport for health reasons; lobbying for proposals to address the concerns of those commuting out of the zone, shift-workers and formal/informal carers, while supporting bringing buses under public control via a bus franchising system so bus services are determined by community needs, not private profit.

3. How do we make Cambridge a fairer, more equal city?

As a Labour-run council, we’ll continue to help our residents face the impact of the cost of living crisis, with direct help to those in the greatest need. We understand that poverty and inequality can take many different forms and will provide a safety net for all residents while tackling the root causes to make Cambridge a fairer city. Labour believes that social justice cannot be achieved without environmental justice, and we’ll continue addressing food and fuel poverty so all residents can thrive in Cambridge working with key partners, whether that’s building council homes, delivering food hubs or fighting discrimination.

4. The Local Plan proposes nearly 49,000 new homes in Greater Cambridge by 2040. Are we in danger of overdevelopment?

The 2021 Census displays how Cambridge is a growing city, with the fastest-growing population in the Eastern region. Therefore, more homes are required but we need to ensure that any development delivers affordable and environmentally sustainable housing. We won’t know how many homes can be included in the emerging Local Plan until we can protect our chalk streams from over-abstraction. Labour will implement high standards for future development in the city, including a requirement that no development uses gas connections, that they should generate as much renewable energy as they use, and that good community facilities are provided.

5. How will you work for the environment and aid the drive to net zero?

In 2019 Cambridge Labour 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. Additionally, for change to really work, we need to get everyone involved and work together across the city. We will work closely with our partners such as Cambridge Carbon Footprint, Cambridge Sustainable Food and others to make sure our residents and businesses are best supported to implement their own changes to combat carbon emissions.

GREEN PARTY

1. Why should voters pick you at the May elections?

The Greens are a small party so we know we have to work harder to earn your trust and deserve your vote. You will see our councillors working for you all year round, not just at election time. We will listen when you tell us what you need, not tell you what our party thinks you should want. We think the best solutions come from open and honest debate, not from a party whip. A strong Green vote is a warning to other parties that they need to work harder on Green issues and push back against pressure to move to the right.

– Jacqui Whitmore, candidate, Queen Edith’s ward

2. The proposed congestion charge will be determined by county councillors, but voters are keen to know your position on it. Are you in favour or against?

Greens are passionate about fixing our broken public transport system, reducing pollution and improving air quality in and around our city. We will always consider any proposals to do this very carefully and try to make them work for everyone. We will continue to campaign for fairer and simpler exemptions and discounts. Our 11-page consultation response explains the changes needed to prevent an unfair burden on residents, commuters and small businesses already struggling with the cost of living crisis. We cannot support the proposals as they stand now but expect significant change in the final version.

– Stephen Lawrence, candidate, Arbury ward

Green Party candidates, top from left, Jean Glasberg, Elliot Tong, below from left, Jacqui Whitmore, Sarah Nicmanis and Stephen Lawrence
Green Party candidates, top from left, Jean Glasberg, Elliot Tong, below from left, Jacqui Whitmore, Sarah Nicmanis and Stephen Lawrence

3. How do we make Cambridge a fairer, more equal city?

We need to ensure that the choices we make as a city don’t make things worse for our most vulnerable residents. We also need to press pause on the relentless drive for growth that is driving up housing costs and housing insecurity. Finally, we need to listen more to our residents to ensure we give them the help they need, not the help we think they want.

– Elliot Tong, candidate and ward team leader, Abbey ward

4. The Local Plan proposes nearly 49,000 new homes in Greater Cambridge by 2040. Are we in danger of over-development?

Over-development is already happening because of our reckless dash for growth. Our region is experiencing severe and worsening water shortages which is very alarming. The ecologically valuable chalk streams in our area are already suffering and trees are at risk as the water table falls. We will all suffer if we continue to destroy the natural world we depend on. The Green Party is the only party that calls for a “pause and rethink” on the dangerous policy of accelerated growth in the Local Plan.

– Sarah Nicmanis, candidate, Coleridge ward

5. How will you work for the environment and aid the drive to net zero?

We will work to protect Skater’s Meadow, Paradise Nature Reserve, Honey Hill and Coton Orchard from environmental vandalism. We will work with Cam Valley Forum and the Friends groups to protect our chalk streams and rivers. We will call out greenwash and ensure that selfish developers can’t use it to carry on with business as normal.

– Jean Glasberg, candidate, Newnham ward

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

1. Why should voters pick you at the May elections?

Liberal Democrat councillors work for their residents all year round, assisting with problem-solving and advocating for the interests of their wards. We are the only presence on the council presenting an effective, coherent challenge to the Labour Party: one-party councils are an echo-chamber and become complacent. If not the Liberal Democrats, who would call out ludicrous ideas like marketing homes built with public money to offshore investors? Or closing public toilets needed by 35,000 people a year? Who would initiate a herbicide reduction plan or campaign for improvements in council house repairs? We also bring vision for the Cambridge we aim for. See our election platform at cambridgelibdems.org.uk/electionplatform23/.

2. The proposed congestion charge will be determined by county councillors, but voters are keen to know your position on it. Are you in favour or against?

We don’t support the proposals as they stand. They are too tough on unavoidable car journeys. More flexibility and more confidence about bus improvements will be required before we could support them. But we already have a congestion charge of a kind, paid in wasted time, costly fuel and pollution – to no-one’s benefit and with no choice to avoid it. As a barrier to getting to Cambridge it hurts businesses and increases social isolation. It’s maybe something we’ve got so used to that we’ve forgotten. The idea of a different form of congestion charge, which opens up a way of reducing traffic and offers a fairer choice, is something well worth continuing to explore.

3. How do we make Cambridge a fairer, more equal city?

This requires change beyond a local council – but the city council must apply the powers it has. Opportunities in the city’s successful technology sector need to be much more accessible to Cambridge people, which involves support and alignment between schools and employers and more apprenticeships. This has started due to government funding originally negotiated by us, but it must be continued and expanded. Building more homes is vital to make it possible for key workers to find affordable and suitable accommodation in Cambridge. Contributors to people’s wellbeing such as sports facilities and playing fields need to be fairly distributed, which the council currently refuses for North-East Cambridge.

Leader of Cambridge Liberal Democrats, Tim Bick
Leader of Cambridge Liberal Democrats, Tim Bick

4. The Local Plan proposes nearly 49,000 new homes in Greater Cambridge by 2040. Are we in danger of over-development?

To avoid ‘over-development’ new building must be in sustainable locations, come hand in hand with new sources of water supply and work with the grain of Cambridge’s character and landscape. We think these are achievable hurdles and will work to cross them. It is important we succeed, because the need for housing is great. Leaving it unmet leaves people commuting long distances or paying high rents to live in often unsuitable accommodation. It isn’t acceptable for Cambridge to price out its key workers, becoming an ever more exclusive place. It better serves our city to shape and channel development than trying to turn it away wholesale.

5. How will you work for the environment and aid the drive to net zero?

The council is the source of a small proportion of the city’s carbon emissions, but it can influence the whole city. It must move on from just showing leadership, and create ways for others to follow. Improving public transport, infrastructure for active transport and electric vehicle charging would help reduce one of the main sources of emissions. New buildings need to be held to the highest possible standards of energy efficiency, but the council must also focus on insulating existing homes: bidding for funding for council tenancies and becoming the go-to source of independent advice for investment and return to private owners. And the council should increase participation in a more circular economy, starting with food waste collections.

CONSERVATIVES

1. Why should voters pick you at the May elections?

The Conservative Party is the only party in Cambridgeshire that unequivocally opposes the proposed congestion charge. This proposal would cripple Cambridge by shattering small businesses, severely impacting the least well-off and trapping the young, old, and vulnerable in their homes. Both Labour and the Lib Dems have advanced this proposal, that could cost residents up to £1,300 a year. Cambridge cannot afford “business as usual”. Since everyone has a right to safer streets, our candidates are also standing on a platform to reduce anti-social behaviour in their wards. Voters can send a strong message in May by voting Conservative.

2. The proposed congestion charge will be determined by county councillors, but voters are keen to know your position on it. Are you in favour or against?

Every Conservative candidate on May 4 is 100 per cent against the congestion charge. It will damage the lives of many of our most vulnerable residents, make life even harder for those feeling the pinch in the cost-of-living crisis, and harm our economic competitiveness, costing us jobs and business. Although the final vote will take place at the county council, Cambridge Labour councillors could stop the congestion charge right now by using their veto at the GCP. That’s why it’s so important to send a message to sitting councillors and other candidates on May 4 by voting Conservative.

3. How do we make Cambridge a fairer, more equal city?

We can start by abandoning the appalling congestion charge proposals, which will disproportionately affect those on low incomes and those with health and mobility issues. We need to make sure that development is responsible and focused on delivering homes for local people at affordable prices. We will aim to improve access to rapid, reliable public transport, supporting plans like the Cambridge South Station. We will always support small businesses across the city. As Conservatives, we will fight to keep the costs of local government low and to keep council tax down.

4. The Local Plan proposes nearly 49,000 new homes in Greater Cambridge by 2040. Are we in danger of over-development?

Cambridge is a vibrant and dynamic city which has benefitted massively from its growth. However, that is increasingly coming at a cost. Development on land at the old Marshalls airfield site could see 4,000 houses added in East Cambridge alone, placing an unsustainable pressure on existing infrastructure.

We need to think more carefully about how our area develops sustainably through considering the provision of education, healthcare, management of water supply to these new estates and impact on existing green spaces. We believe that business and housing development should be linked, along with prioritising homes for local people.

5. How will you work for the environment and aid the drive to net zero?

As Conservatives, we are committed to achieving net zero by 2050. We believe that the move to sustainability is one of transition, by giving people eco-friendly choices. We advocate for better public transport, in the form of better buses, opening of Cambridge South station or even possibly a light rail system. We will work with central government to get better funding for Cambridge to enable this, rather than applying punitive charges on residents and workers. We will also commit to protecting our natural heritage through preserving our green spaces around Cambridge, which is why you should vote Conservative.

DAVID SUMMERFIELD – IND

Without your consent, the arrogant cartel of Lib Dem and Labour councillors blatantly think they can promote crazy policies such as making you pay £1,300-a-year to drive to work, or flattening Coton Orchard and irreplaceably destroying more than 100 years of biodiversity.

David Summerfield - Independent candidate for Castle
David Summerfield - Independent candidate for Castle

Born in Cambridge, I have lived in Castle with my family for 17 wonderful years. This election, I am standing as your Independent candidate against the congestion charge. Being the only candidate who lives in Castle, I am your local champion – your David against Goliath – and I am passionate about fighting for Castle issues such as the appalling lack of promised amenities in Darwin Green.

Let’s make May 4 a referendum for democracy and change. A vote for me sends a clear message that we are sick and tired of their ignorance and abuse of office.

Say no to the hated and immoral congestion charge! Don’t be fooled by their gaslighting. Together, we’re going to capture the Castle and take back our city!

ANTONY CARPEN – IND

My name is Antony and I’m an independent candidate hoping to get everyone discussing overhauling how Cambridge should be governed.

This means abolishing the GCP (dealing with congestion charge proposals) and the Combined Authority. Cambridge’s chronic problems are rooted in obsolete institutions. Ministers treat our globally-recognised city like a market town. Three Commons select committees have called for overhauls of local government – ministers rejecting their findings.

Antony Carpen
Antony Carpen

What I want to call “Great Cambridge” needs a single council on new boundaries with significant new progressive powers to tax the wealth generated here. This can pay for retrofitting homes and designating more land for public parks. It can help pay for a light rail – requiring tourist coaches to deposit passengers out of town to use it.

It can contribute towards a new large concert hall and an expanded Museum of Cambridge on Castle Hill. Until then, Cambridge will remain a cash cow for the few, and never become the great city for the many that it has the potential of becoming.

COLIN MILLER– HERITAGE PARTY

1. The major political parties are responsible for all the difficulties we are facing. The Tories implemented the ineffective and disastrous lockdowns, which removed all our freedoms, and damaged the economy, supply chains, the NHS and people’s lives. The other parties supported them. The Heritage Party is the only party opposed to lockdowns and vaccine mandates.

2. I am against the proposed congestion charge.

3. Cambridge house prices have become unaffordable. This doesn’t seem to be improved by the recent extensive development. I suspect many properties are being bought up by wealthy investors, who are not using them as primary homes. This needs investigating and addressing.

4. I would like new development to be sited in the smaller towns in order to share the burden.

5. The ‘climate emergency’ is a falsehood. Human-produced carbon dioxide is a very minor contributor to the greenhouse effect. The manufacture of electric cars, wind turbines etc is terribly damaging to the environment. We need a complete shift away from the ‘net zero’ policies being promoted.

Also standing: Peter Burkinshaw, UKIP, in East Chesterton – no answers received.



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