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Elections 2023: Labour call Cambridge City Council result a ‘great endorsement’ – but there’s encouragement for Lib Dems, Greens and Tories

Labour has maintained its grip on Cambridge City Council after an election that also brought about a surge in votes for the Conservative Party.

The election campaign had been dominated by the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s plans for a citywide road charge and this was reflected in the voting patterns.

Labour celebrate at the Cambridge election count 2023 Picture: Keith Heppell
Labour celebrate at the Cambridge election count 2023 Picture: Keith Heppell

The Conservative Party secured a huge 19 per cent share of the vote, yet failed to win a seat.

With a third of the council up for election, Labour took 37.6 per cent of the votes, with the Liberal Democrats securing 22.6 per cent and the Greens took 18 per cent. The remaining votes went to smaller parties and independents.

Labour finished the day with 27 seats, down two on their position from a year ago, while the Lib Dems remain the opposition party with 10 – up one. The Greens took their tally up one to four, thanks to Jean Glasberg winning in Newnham.

Council leader Cllr Anna Smith told the Cambridge Independent that Labour had secured their second best result in Cambridge, topped only by the 2021 vote.

She said: “We’ve got some amazing new councillors and we’ve got some amazing councillors that have won their seat again - every single councillor who stood for re-election was re-elected, which I think is a great endorsement of the work they’re doing.

The Cambridge election count 2023. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Cambridge election count 2023. Picture: Keith Heppell

“To have that endorsement after nine years in power as a Labour council… I’m thrilled and I’m very grateful to the people of Cambridge for continuing to put their trust in us.”

Cllr Smith admitted the authority will continue to face hard decisions against a backdrop of increasing government funding cuts.

The Labour leader also acknowledged that the GCP’s proposals had played a role in the election, and said the group will listen to the results of consultation, which are set to be released next month.

She said Labour had not been in the “luxurious position” to say “we’ll do everything you want” during the election campaign as a result.

“We have consistently said we won’t promise easy answers,” said Cllr Smith, adding that: “We will listen and that’s our job. We are elected to serve our residents. It’s up to us to show that’s what we will do.”

The Cambridge election count 2023. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Cambridge election count 2023. Picture: Keith Heppell

She added: “What I have picked up, as well as on the doorstep, is that the scheme as it stands has not won a lot of love. What we have to look at is where do we go from there?”

Cllr Smith said she would not speculate on what the next steps will be until the results of the consultation are published.

Opposition leader Cllr Tim Bick was also in good spirits following the vote, with the Lib Dems gaining one seat overall.

He said: “That’s a step in the right direction. We’re very pleased with that and we’ll be a stronger group as a result.”

Cllr Bick, who is chair of the GCP joint assembly, said all parties recognise that there needs to be changes made to the current proposals.

He continued: “Certainly so far as our winning candidates are concerned - and I think probably all of the parties’ winning candidates - everyone has gone away recognising there needs to be changes in what is proposed in order to make them workable and fair for people because we’ve all spent a lot of time talking about people’s concerns.

“People who are taking a principled objection are going to be hard to satisfy, but people who have quite understandable and legitimate concerns are setting our agenda. I think our candidates who won are going away with that commitment, and we’re going to try and work on changes that will make it OK. But we do have a problem, which we do need to fix. We just need to find a fair and workable way of doing that.”

One of the biggest shocks of the day came in Cherry Hinton, where Labour stalwart Cllr Rob Dryden was left breathing a sigh of relief after holding on to his Cherry Hinton seat against a charge from Zachary Marsh of the Conservatives, who fell just 63 votes short of winning the Tories their first seat on the council.

Elsewhere in Castle ward, independent David Summerfield, a congestion charge opponent, finished fourth overall behind two Lib Dem and two Labour candidates, but was only 184 votes behind the winning Lib Dem, Cheney Payne.

The Greens, in addition to celebrating their Newnham seat, also saw their candidate re-elected in Abbey ward, which represents the first time the group has maintained a spot on the city council

Green Party leader Naomi Bennett told the Cambridge Independent the group would continue to work hard for its residents.

“We’ll continue to do newsletters throughout the year - we won’t leave residents waiting until the end of the year to find out what we think. We’ll continue our casework and we’ll continue to go to community events throughout the year,” she promised.

The Cambridge election count 2023. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Cambridge election count 2023. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Bennett explained that she was hoping to get new Abbey councillor Elliot Tong sworn in today so he can attend an upcoming meeting about the GCP’s proposals.

And while the party is not represented on the GCP, Cllr Bennett said: “We both live, work and have casework experience of disability issues and we want the GCP to understand why giving Blue Badge exemption doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to tackle the issue.”

In her first interview after she was announced the winner of the Newnham ward, Jean Glasberg told the Cambridge Independent: “I’m very grateful to all the people of Newnham, who’ve supported me. This is my community.

“I’m hoping to represent Newnham on all the green spaces, the environment - these are really important - and big - issues for the city.”

The Green Party hopes that Jean will become the group’s spokesperson for the environment as well as leading on issues such as protecting chalk streams and supporting the Save Honey Hill campaign opposing Anglian Water’s plans to move the sewage works.

She added: “I've already been campaigning on these issues, I know a lot about them and I want to see some action on them.”

See the ward-by-ward election results for Cambridge here, and for East Cambridgeshire here. You can also read our live blog to see how it all unfolded. And we have reaction from the Tory leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council and the Lib Dem group leader.

Elsewhere in the county, the Tories strengthened their grip of Fenland District Council, where they now have a majority of 27 compared to the 13 they previously had, while Peterborough City Council remains in no overall control.

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