How the Lib Dems would tackle Cambridge’s housing challenges, pollution and waste
Opinion | Cllr Tim Bick, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Cambridge City Council, writes on the party’s alternative budget.
Brexit is being willed on by both Conservative and Labour leaderships nationally, though it will leave us poorer and less able to fund good public services. So you might expect our Labour city council would do all it can to make the money it has work especially hard for us. Sadly not, as our alternative budget demonstrates.
Housing continues to be the major source of disadvantage in Cambridge. The city needs homes that address the needs and pockets of a broad spectrum of people. New social housing will help some, but not all - and Labour’s budget is silent on the rest. We are proposing the council buys 40 homes from the market and offers them to key public service workers at local living rents, using £12.5m of funds which have so far been left in the bank.
Homelessness visibly haunts Cambridge and damages lives. So, as part of the same housing investment, we will use five more houses to expand the existing scheme of shared housing, offered for rent to help homeless people with lower support needs to get quickly back on their feet.
Polluted air harms health and needs urgent action. The council has expressed good intentions – but the Liberal Democrats are proposing immediate actions to bring this issue into daily life, so we can all see how our behaviour and choices can help. We plan to tackle the idling of engines when vehicles are out of traffic; to monitor air quality in sensitive locations like schools to evidence preventative steps; to multiply electric vehicle charging opportunities; and to plant 5,000 more trees in a co-operative venture with schools.
Reducing waste and maximising recycling are vital to protecting the environment. We regret that the council has cut back on green waste collection. We want the council to work out what it would take to introduce a weekly collection of separated food waste, which could help residents recycle more. We also propose to invest in public water fountains across the city to help reduce single-use plastic waste.
What Labour say and do are increasingly different. Their budget last year imposed extortionate charges on disabled people using the council’s shop mobility service, making their slogan “One Cambridge, Fair for All” almost meaningless. This year, despite at long last bowing to our widely supported campaign and agreeing to scrap the charges, they are still extracting money from users right to the bitter end. We want them withdrawn immediately.
Labour’s budget radically reduces the notification of neighbours affected by nearby planning applications and increases the number of planning applications determined by officers in private, rather than by elected representatives in public. In a city with so much growth pressure, this reduction in transparency will undermine confidence in the planning system and we are firmly opposing it.
Also in our budget is new equipment to get the city centre streets swept better; a plan for water play and cafés on open spaces; and a project to tackle period poverty.
All this is funded by better use of resources the council already has. As Labour loses its way, we are reflecting many city dwellers, in demanding better from our city council.