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Elections 2023: East Cambridgeshire District Council hopefuls answer your key election questions





Voters go to the polls on May 4 to elect councillors to every seat on East Cambridgeshire District Council, which is currently under Conservative control.

The district’s current make-up is 16 Conservative councillors, nine Lib Dems, two independent councillors and two vacancies.

We asked those standing for their views on key issues (you can read our Q&A with Cambridge City Council hopefuls here).

CONSERVATIVE PARTY

Conservative Cllr Anna Bailey, the current East Cambridgeshire District Council leader. Picture: Keith Heppell
Conservative Cllr Anna Bailey, the current East Cambridgeshire District Council leader. Picture: Keith Heppell

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

East Cambs Conservatives will:

- Keep council tax low — we have frozen the East Cambs part of council tax for 10 years

- Keep parking free in our town and city centre car parks — we have kept our promise to keep car parking free to support residents, businesses and the health of our High Streets

- Provide more affordable homes reserved for local people — by supporting Community Land Trusts and providing £100k Homes we are helping local people continue to live where they grew up

- Invest millions in community projects, like GP surgeries, community hubs, recreational facilities and nature projects.

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 it?

East Cambs Conservatives are united in our fight against the hated Cambridge congestion charge. In our surveys nearly 90 per cent of residents told us they are against the charge. Conservatives believe the charge will hit the least well off and those in rural areas the most — we will work tirelessly to stop the Lib Dems, Labour and Independents from bringing in a congestion charge. We believe that the more people that vote against parties proposing the charge, the stronger position we all are in to stop it – this may be the only time residents get to vote before charging begins.

3. What should be done to improve transport and connectivity for residents?

East Cambs Conservatives believe we need the incentive of a ‘turn up and go’ solution not the congestion charge punishment.

We need:

- Improved bus services, like the successful Ely Zipper that we supported.

- New and improved rail services with more direct and frequent services

- Bus franchising or an enhanced bus partnership. We support demand responsive infill solutions for more rural areas.

- Improved cycling and walking infrastructure — we commissioned studies for our Cycling and Walking Routes Strategy

- The A10 dualled between Ely and Cambridge, safety improvements to the A142

- Downgrading of the A1123 and A1421 to B roads.

4. How will you help residents amid the cost of living crisis?

East Cambs Conservatives ensure pro-active, preventative support is available for communities and people where they live. We run the Housing and Community Advice Service, including the community bus, which provides advice and support on housing, benefits, cost of living, debt and mental health out in our communities. We supported the set-up and running of a network of 10 warm hubs throughout the district, and we provide grant funding for new community initiatives both large and small. We provide financial help and support through both government initiatives and local schemes pro-actively targeted to those who need it.

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

East Cambs Conservatives are committed to getting to net zero by 2040 or earlier. Our environment plan has 20 new actions every year, both strategic and grass roots.

We have already planted thousands of trees, gifted fruit trees for community orchards and retrofitted homes with energy improvements.

We are doubling land for nature and have identified nine areas for a biodiversity boost.

We became the first council to run a project helping schools achieve Ofsted’s sustainable development goals. We are installing electric charging points in council-owned car parks and we will purchase new waste fleet that runs on hydrotreated vegetable oil, cutting CO2 emissions by 90 per cent.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

Cllr Lorna Dupre, the leader of East Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats
Cllr Lorna Dupre, the leader of East Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats

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

We’ve got energy, enthusiasm and a programme of action to bring out the best in our district. It’s time for an East Cambridgeshire that’s greener, cleaner, fairer and safer; and a council that’s responsible with public money, is open and transparent, listens to residents, and works constructively with its neighbours. The Conservatives have run out of ideas — even their own deputy leader is standing as an independent against his party’s own candidates. They’ve had their time and they’ve let us down. Labour haven’t won a seat in East Cambridgeshire this century—a vote for them will only help the Conservatives.

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 it?

We don’t support the current proposals, as they’re not fair. The GCP must listen to residents, and must work properly with the county council and the Combined Authority. Doing nothing is not an option, with more housing on the way and two more hospitals coming to Addenbrooke’s. Public transport is very poor, and we need to see a credible plan to improve this before any other proposals are brought forward. The government has been clear it’s not going to help, so we need to work out our own solutions that improve public transport, but fairly.

3. What should be done to improve transport and connectivity for residents?

The Combined Authority and county council need to improve the junctions on the A10 to help traffic flow better, and provide a safe crossing for pedestrians and cyclists at the A10/A142 BP roundabout. We also need to ensure that changes to level crossings east of Ely don’t leave Queen Adelaide residents stranded. We need bus franchising, which would bring bus routes, fares and timetables under democratic control — and we’ll work with other Cambridgeshire councils to agree how this should be funded.

Longer term, we need affordable light rail or similar solutions into and around Cambridge, and non-diesel powered East-West Rail.

4. How will you help residents amid the cost of living crisis?

Nationally, we would introduce a proper windfall tax on the fossil fuel industry to lower people’s heating bills. Locally, we will take part in schemes to install renewable energy and insulate more homes.

We’ll concentrate on affordable rented housing, not the Conservatives’ ‘£100K homes’ gimmicks. We’ll work with partners to improve public transport, walking and cycling. And we’ll open discussions with Citizens Advice about restoring the independent advice services for local residents which the Conservatives closed down in Ely.

Our alternative budget for the district council also proposed a temporary council tax break for the least well-off.

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

We’ll double the council’s budget for local environmental projects, and spend it on projects with community support. We’ll work with willing parish councils and others to develop community energy schemes and projects to improve biodiversity and reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

The council’s Local Plan is now eight years old — the Conservatives have no plans to update it and rejected our budget amendment to update the Plan over the next four years. If elected, we’ll begin an updated Local Plan which will properly reflect the challenges of climate change. And we’ll improve public transport which is fundamental to net zero.

LABOUR

East Cambridgeshire Labour spokesperson Rebecca Denness
East Cambridgeshire Labour spokesperson Rebecca Denness

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

East Cambs has been run by Conservatives and Lib Dems for years. The Tories are out of ideas and Lib Dems have lost 30 per cent of their councillors.

You don’t have to accept that everything is broken. Labour has the ambition and determination to improve East Cambs. Some examples:

- Insist on affordable homes and good infrastructure when granting planning permission

- Back tenants to stand up to bad landlords

- Take powers to enforce parking rules

- When spending council money, favour local companies who pay fair wages

- Promote a wide range of leisure activities with something for everyone.

Full manifesto at bit.ly/3MWQ8pN.

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 it?

No-one, including me, likes new charges. The charge is being considered to pay for better public transport desperately needed due to huge Tory funding cuts.

We’re working to make the proposals fairer for East Cambs, eg access to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, hours of operation and exemptions. I certainly won’t support a charge unless there are genuine transport alternatives.

Labour’s Take Back Control Bill will give local areas proper control over transport.

We’d put an end to pitting one area against another for funding.

Under a Labour government, the need to raise money through a congestion charge would go away.

3. What should be done to improve transport and connectivity for residents?

It’s difficult to get around East Cambs. Many villages have no bus service and cycling links are poor.

Building roads is expensive, provides only short-term relief and is no help if you don’t have a car.

The leader of the council has a seat at the Combined Authority which provides transport infrastructure in Cambridgeshire. The current Conservative uses her place to obstruct progress. Labour would co-operate to improve public transport through bus franchising to run services for the public good. We’ll support active travel, working with parishes to provide good, well-signposted foot and cycle paths.

4. How will you help residents amid the cost of living crisis?

Real pay down. Prices up. Families struggling as never before. This didn’t just happen. It’s about political choices.

Tory choices: highest taxes for 70 years, energy companies raking in £billions in profit. £billions in tax cuts for the richest one per cent.

Locally, Labour will make cost of living our top priority. Joined-up policies across everything the council does.

Other Labour councils subsidise or scrap council tax for the worst-off. We’ll do the same.

Residents will have good advice on welfare and grants they are entitled to. We’ll lead by example: paying staff and contractors the Real Living wage.

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

Labour will:

- Speed up progress to a net zero council. Stop buying or investing in fossil fuels

- Protect our communities from the impact of climate change, eg nature-based anti-flood measures and keep gullies clear

- Cut the 46 per cent of local waste sent to landfill here. Put recycling bins next to litter bins and encourage more repair cafes

- Increase tree cover. East Cambs has just five per cent tree canopy. This is the 8th lowest in England. We need projects such as ‘Trees for Streets’ and rewilding of open areas

- Invest in a greener local economy.

GREEN PARTY

Green Party candidate for Bottisham, Mark Slade. East Cambridgeshire elections 2023
Green Party candidate for Bottisham, Mark Slade. East Cambridgeshire elections 2023

- The Green Party has two candidates standing for election to East Cambridgeshire District Council — Pip Gardner in Ely West and Mark Slade in Bottisham. Mark writes here.

We know that East Cambridgeshire residents are unconvinced by the congestion charge proposals. When your bus services are few and far between, it’s very hard to believe that any future bus service will be halfway decent, let alone “world class”.

Outside Soham and Ely, most residents have to get into their cars to do the simplest things. Because of persistent ram raiders, some residents have to travel seven miles to go to a cashpoint. We are losing rural pubs and businesses at the fastest rate for five years.

A village without a pub is just a dormitory. Our market towns and villages are being hollowed out and communities are being eroded.

The Green Party is the only party calling for a “pause and rethink” on the dangerous policy of accelerated growth in the Local Plan.

East Cambridge residents need to know that they will not go on being ignored and overlooked, and that both Cambridge City and East Cambs councillors are listening.

UKIP

UKIP candidate for the East Cambridgeshire District Council elections, Richard Fullerton
UKIP candidate for the East Cambridgeshire District Council elections, Richard Fullerton

- UKIP has one candidate standing — Richard Fullerton, in the ward of Woodditton. He writes here.

UKIP differs markedly from the LibLabCon parties. For a start, the party does not whip its councillors and gives them freedom to vote.

On tax, I’d seek to keep council tax low. Savings could be made easily, for instance by cutting excessive allowances for councillors, executive pay and bonuses, and reducing advertising.

Also, in 2019, ECDC ludicrously declared a ‘climate emergency’. When councils do this, it diverts money from local services to expensive vanity schemes such as electric vehicles and solar panels. I’d also work to restore local democracy which has been eroded by cabals of councillors that bulldoze through contentious proposals like major housing developments. These are destroying our countryside. It is UKIP policy to hold binding local referenda in these instances.

I am against the congestion charge in Cambridge. Tax is already at its highest for 70 years and this war on the motorist is just an excuse to raise income. Since lockdown, congestion has reduced markedly due to behavioural change. The charge would also damage small businesses.

- Don’t miss our live coverage from the count on Friday, May 5.



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