Why prospective elected mayors should pause after the Cambridge roadblocks fiasco

It appears that Labour/ Conservative proposals to fine drivers using key roads in and out of Cambridge in peak hours may be for the scrap heap, or at least the City Deal chair, Labour councillor Lewis Herbert, has declared them ‘unviable’.

It’s excellent that the huge volume of objections appears to have forced the Cambridge area’s City Deal Board into a rethink. But such a plan shouldn’t have seen the light of day in the first place, especially without proper exploration of other ways to achieve the very necessary aim of reducing traffic congestion in Cambridge.

The decision two years ago to introduce parking charges at the Cambridge Park & Ride sites resulted in half-empty car parks and a drop of 15% in bus passenger numbers. That clearly needs to be reversed. And we need an open and wide-ranging conversation including all who live or work in Cambridge, or visit the city for whatever purpose, about how to make travelling into the city more sustainable.

But the whole fiasco is also an object lesson in what happens under remote boards like City Deal, consisting of representatives selected by councils to make decisions at an extra remove from the public. And it’s an alarm bell about how decisions on all sorts of matters will be taken by the new ‘powerful Mayor’ of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough and his ‘combined authority’, which will be foisted on us by the Government and by Conservative and Labour councillors from May next year.

VIKI SANDERS FOR QUEEN EDITHS

Viki 2014_1The local Liberal Democrats have chosen Addenbrooke’s nurse Viki Sanders to be our  candidate for the Queen Edith’s by-election on November 13, caused by the resignation of former Labour councillor Sue Birtles.

Viki, a sister in the fracture clinic at the city’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital, served a four-year term on the council between 2007 and 2011, deciding afterwards to support her daughter who was taking GCSEs at the time.  During her time as councillor she played a key role in improving local facilities from securing dropped pavement kerbs to help disabled people to the facelift of the Wulfstan Way shops. She also campaigned for more comprehensive gritting of pavements during the winter. In the intervening years she has remained an active campaigner on local issues raised by neighbours and colleagues and supported us at community events such as sales and the annual Christmas carols.

Born in Ely, Viki, of Hulatt Rd moved to Cambridge and attended Chesterton Community College, then Long Road Sixth Form College before nursing training at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

I have known Viki and her family for more than 20 years and worked with her previously on the city council. I appreciated her common sense approach to sorting out problems for local people as well as her sense of humour.

The by-election is for a new councillor to sit on Cambridge City Council until May 2016. You need to be on the electoral register, but if you are eligible to vote and are not on the register, you can be added up till 28th October. If you are away, you can vote by post or by proxy but need to apply by 29th October. Contact [email protected]

Budgens new SMOOTH forecourt

Many of us do our shopping at Budgens at Adkin’s Corner, just outside the Queen Edith’s ward. While the supermarket itself is modern and pleasant to shop in, its car park is full of monster potholes and hard to traverse. When it rained, the potholes fill up and the area resembles Venice gone grey.

As the Labour councillors representing this area seem to have taken no action, Lib Dem councillors took on the challenge of getting the forecourt sorted. The County Council has acknowledged responsibility for it and repairs are on order.

Cambridgeshire County Council Election: THANK YOU

A huge thank you to everyone who supported me and the Liberal Democrats in yesterday’s election to Cambridgeshire County Council. The result was as follows:

Queen Edith’s results [electorate: 6,590, turnout: 2662 (40.24)]
Candidate
Party
Votes
% share
John Frederick Beresford Labour and Co-op 931 35.1
William Birkin Green 172 6.5
Tom Bygott Conservative 361 13.6
Amanda Joan Taylor Liberal Democrat 1188 44.8

We campaigned on a range of key issues in the Queen Edith’s ward, including roads & pavements maintenance, parking management, road safety and policing, as well as community amenities, such as playgrounds and the local library.

Lib Dems in Queen Edith’s have a tradition of working all the year round, but the election campaign proper began in March, with lots of lovely snow! Thank you to those of you who bravely opened their doors to us. Between then and the belated appearance of spring, we called on as many people as we could, and had a wealth of conversations about the local area, garnering many good ideas as well as things that need to be sorted out.

My thanks as a candidate also go to my fellow Liberal Democrat councillors Jean and George, as well as to the army of helpers who delivered leaflets and got the message out. And to retiring county councillor Geoff Heathcock, who has set a high standard of hard work and commitment for the Queen Edith’s area.

The work starts immediately: tomorrow morning I shall be making my first visit to Shire Hall for my induction as a county councillor – an opportunity to raise a number of local issues with officers, building on my work over the past year and during the campaign.

South Area Labour chair moves local planning applications to the Guildhall

Cambridge city councillors will determine six planning applications on 19th November – half of them for sites in Queen Edith’s and the other half for Trumpington. If you want to speak on the applications or listen to the debate, you will need to go into town, as they are being heard not locally at the South Area meeting, but at the Guildhall.

All three of the Queen Edith’s applications have objections to them and are controversial, so it is surprising that the meeting is not to take place in the area where people live. It is a regressive step to take local decision-making out of the community and require residents to go to the Council rather than the other way round, but possibly a sign of what we can expect now that the committee is chaired by a Labour councillor.

Here is an agenda, and a short summary of the applications in Queen Edith’s:

  • 12/0956/CLUED – Cantabrigian RUFC, Sedley Taylor Road |Certificate of Lawfulness for the car park at the HRSFC sports pavilion to be used as such
  • 12/1033/FUL – 100 Glebe Road |New house to replace existing garage
  • 12/1020/FUL – 167 Queen Edith’s Way| Extension

For details of these applications use this link   http://idox.cambridge.gov.uk/online-applications/ and enter the reference number.

The meeting starts at 7.30 p.m. and will be in the Committee Rooms at the Guildhall. It is open to the public but you can only speak if you have made a written representation to the application on which you wish to speak. You also need to give notice to the Committee Manager by noon on the 16th November.

Social media: how it can freshen up our local democracy

Puffles the Dragon Fairy in the chair

The first time I ever attended a council meeting (1970s, Labour-run Leeds Town Hall), the radio and papers took a keen interest in municipal goings-on, to the extent that they would even visit councillors at home to interview them. When I became a councillor myself in Cambridge in the 1990s, the press had their own table in the meeting room and usually turned up to report, even on quite dry topics.

By the mid-2000s, the local paper, the Cambridge News, had relocated to the sticks, and there were many meetings at the Guildhall with no journalists at all, let alone members of the public. Often, local government was given to a new reporter, meaning each new person had to get to know everyone and everything from scratch each time. Then they would move on… Many did a lot of their work over the phone from their offices in Milton.

Things are better now than five years ago. Since the demise of Cambridge First, Cambridge only really has one local paper, but the local government reporter, Chris Havergal, is experienced, knows who’s who and what’s what, and gets out and about, even to the extremities of the city.

Another big change is the new media – people who aren’t professional journalists but turn up to speak or just listen, and provide a commentary via blogs and social media. For example, last Monday’s Cambridge South Area meeting, held in Cherry Hinton, was attended not only by the professional reporter Chris Havergal of the Cambridge News, but by three local bloggers apart from myself: Richard Taylor, Chris Rand and Puffles’s Bestest Buddy, Antony Carpen. Puffles, in case you’re wondering, is a baby dragon, and pops up all over the places, from the Beer Festival to the Council Chamber. Yes, social media can be a little quirky – but hey, we need to think out of the box.

(more…)

Labour cap on shared houses

The latest motion to appear from the Cambridge Labour Group alarms me greatly. They are raising concerns about shared houses, and call for a report on limiting the number of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Labour wants to widen the HMO term to include homes with lodgers as well as shared houses of young single people (though whether this is legal or not we do not know). And they are contemplating a cap on the number of shared houses in individual streets.

I find the motion nasty in the way in which it demonises people who share as ‘troublemakers’.  When we first moved to Queen Edith’s, one set of next-door neighbours was a large family with children; the other had Anglia Ruskin students. We never had any noise or disturbance from the students; the family with children, though friendly and sociable, was noisier by far!

I fear for the motion’s effects on those who rent and share houses because they cannot afford to buy in Cambridge, as well as for the many families who depend on extra income, say, from renting out spare bedrooms to students from the universities or language schools. And quite honestly, not everybody fits into the nuclear family mould – why should we all conform?

My colleague Tim Ward, who runs the Cambridge Accommodation Noticeboard, details the problems http://www.brettward.co.uk/canb/threat.htm.

Here is the motion, proposed by Petersfield councillor Gail Marchant-Daisley:

The Council recognises the vital contribution that well-run Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) make in providing housing for families, students, professionals and migrant workers.

However, given problems from some HMOs failing to deliver quality, safe housing, or creating serious problems for neighbours, the Council requests the Executive Councillor for Housing to bring forward a report to assess options to improve the operation and regulation of HMOs in Cambridge, including:

1) extending the current HMO definition to include all properties with 3 or more people in two or more unrelated households, regardless of the building layout

2) improved enforcement of breaches of licences granted to HMOs, and

3) wider adoption of best practice on HMOs by comparable cities including Oxford,

and that the Head of Planning Services also report to the Executive Councillor for Planning and Sustainable Transport and the Development Plan Scrutiny Sub-Committee on the future option of denying permission for additional HMOs in any street or 200 metre stretch of any street where HMO numbers reach 25% of residential properties, to enable inclusion of this proposal in the summer ‘issues and options’ consultation on the Cambridge Local Plan 2014 to 2031.

Other motions this Thursday are on:

  • taking more local decisions at area committees, eg tree works, safety grants
  • recording protocol for council meetings
  • housing maintenance contract
  • Marshalls
  • supporting Post Offices

I attach the full agenda. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 6 p.m. in the Guildhall this Thursday.

Amanda Taylor: Your Liberal Democrat candidate in Queen Edith’s

Amanda standing for re-election

Liberal Democrat Councillor, Amanda Taylor is standing for re-election in Queen Edith’s. Amanda has been in Queen Edith’s for nearly twenty years and represented the area on Cambridge City Council since 1994. She lives in Holbrook Road with her husband Ashley, and their eight-year old son, a Morley Memorial pupil.

Amanda is best known for her work on transport and housing. Her biggest achievements have been Dunstan Court on Wulfstan Way, which replaced Labour’s sub-standard sheltered housing accommodation; and improved bus services, following her campaign for improved reliability. ‘When I first came to live here,’ says Amanda, ‘there were just two buses an hour into town from Hills Road – and they didn’t always come on time. Now there are over twenty buses an hour, and bus usage has increased dramatically.’

More recent successes for Amanda and the Lib Dem Focus Team include revamped play facilities at Nightingale Avenue Recreation Ground and new lighting and paving outside the shops on Wulfstan Way. They have also got the police to monitor parking outside schools.

Amanda is currently campaigning for improvements to cycleways in the area, for example lighting the Guided Bus cycleway, and for road safety improvements, eg yellow lines on junctions near the Queen Edith’s Primary School.

She is an active member of the Friends of Rock Road Library, which started as a gardening group and then took on a campaigning role in the fight to prevent the Conservative County Council from closing the library down.

In our wider community, Amanda chairs the Council’s South Area Committee, is a member of St John’s Church on Hills Road, and is a member of the Cambridge Fairtrade Steering Group.

Amanda and Lib Dem team visit residents in Queen Edith’s all through the year, not just at election time. When there are issues in a particular street, we always try to listen to the concerns of residents. At election time we try to call on as many households as we can, and we look forward to speaking to you soon, if we haven’t already! The BBC came to see us in action on Tuesday: see here.

Please see the link on the left for this year’s Liberal Democrat election manifesto for Cambridge.