Meet the Candidates: St John the Evangelist

Amidst all the excitement of an impending General Election and a metro mayor election, I am working hard defending my county council seat. Elections take place on 4th May.

Tomorrow night, Thursday 20th April, I shall be at St John’s Church for the Queen Edith’s Community Forum’s hustings for the county council elections, along with the three other candidates.

Do come along and ask questions about local issues and hear how we address these on the County Council. The County is responsible for vital services including transport, highways (streetlighting and roads maintenance) social care, health scrutiny, children’s and young people’s service, libraries and heritage.

We Liberal Democrats have published a manifesto for Cambridgeshire, which you can read here.

An elected mayor for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?

The councilsPeterborough and Cambridgeshire could come together with a joint authority and an elected mayor, under government devolution proposals. The good news is that the deal would bring more money for transport, housing and other infrastructure. The bad news, for many, is that the government demands an elected mayor.

All the councils in Cambridgeshire and Peterbrough are debating the government’s deal, holding extraordinary meetings. Before voting at Cambridgeshire County Council, I visited Peterborough City Council’s meeting to get a different perspective.

Peterborough Town’s Hall a short stroll from the main railway station, near the city museum and cathedral. It’s imposing from the outside: my problem was getting inside, as the front door was firmly shut, with a small sign directing me to a back entrance in St Peter’s Street.

Once I had found my way in, I was led up some old stone stairs to the public gallery. This gives a good view of the council chamber and you can actually hear the speakers too, which is more than can be said for arrangements at Shire Hall.

The chamber is a mixture of ancient and modern – reasonably enough for a New Town that still has a Norman cathedral and the remains of a prehistoric causeway, Flag Fen. The furniture is up to date with big desks for all those council papers and comfy chairs (such comfort as would not be risked at Shire Hall.) There are lovely old wrought iron lights and a gorgeous ceiling decorated with lilies, roses and thistles. One one wall hang two Victorian worthies and on the other the St George’s flag and the Union Jack. No EU flag.

The meeting opened thoughtfully with prayers and a 1-minute silence for the recently murdered MP Jo Cox.

Although I couldn’t quite tell who was who, the speeches seemed to break down pretty neatly by party: the Conservatives talked up the devolution deal, the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Liberal1 members exposed its deficiencies.

Cllr Seaton proposed the motion, declaring that the deal was Brexit-proof – he’d been given advice. He was pleased about the promises for a University Enterprise Zone and ‘local decisions being taken locally’. It was a great opportunity.

The next councillor talked about how he had sat on a committee arranging devolution. At first, only large metropolitan cities such as London and Manchester were considered, but now the government was extending the offer more widely. Not that he would claim credit…

Lib Dem Darren Fower was less than enthralled. He pointed out several flaws – eight altogether. He said Peterborough was being compromised by having weaker representation on the new body, and by threats to its autonomy on transport and planning. The new authority would inevitably be Conservative. And Cllr Fower was the first – but not the last – to bring up the extra housing money being assigned to Cambridge.

Labour Cllr Ferris questioned the need for an elected mayor. Most cities, when offered a mayor in a referendum, had said no thank you.

Rush and Drew spoke about the proposed consultation. Responses should surely not be only on line. And must be made public. Could there be roadshows?

Cllr Over bemoaned losses when Peterborough split from Cambridgeshire to become a unitary authority in the 1990s. Powers on health and education had been taken away, and Peterborough had been regarded as a colony far up in the north of the county where it could be safety ignored. The new combined authority must meet in between the two cities and not be based in Cambridge.

Labour councillors Murphy and Ellis also criticized the democratic aspects of the deal. Elected Mayor: O, can we not? A mayor could only be denied with a two-thirds majority – much harder than on a council!

Liberal Chris Ash could not support an elected mayor and the extra bureacracy – and wasn’t it undemocratic for the mayor to appoint the deputy? He too was reluctant to join up with Cambridgeshire – good things had happened since breaking away last time.

New councillor Azurula made a passionate maiden speech about the needs of his constituents in North Ward. He wanted the deal to address issues of deprivation, including low life expectancy.

Lib Dem councillor Julia Davidson expressed scepticism about the consultation, as the timetable outlined in the papers allowed no time for comments to be acted on.

The Tories’ responses to the many valid criticisms made were rather weak. They assured the council that future deals would be better and that the consultation might leverage improvements to this one. They ignored the objections to the new mayor and focussed on his location: you never know, he might not be from Cambridge; he might work in Cambridge but live in Peterborough! 2

THE VOTE

The Conservatives, having promoted and praised the deal, voted FOR – not surprisingly.

The Liberals and Liberal Democrats, having spoken of several important shortcomings in the deal, voted AGAINST – not surprisingly.

Labour, having highlighted the lack of democracy and made other criticisms without saying one positive word for the deal, voted FOR too. That was rather strange.

The other eight councils in the area are taking their votes this week. So far, Cambridge City, Cambridgeshire and South Cambs have voted in favour of the devolution proposals. The public gets its say over the summer.

1Peterborough has members who sit as Liberals and not as Liberal Democrats, due to a local row at the time when the Liberal Party merged with the SDP.

2The mayor being Conservative AND from Cambridge are unlikely, given that Cambridge has not one Conservative councillor.

Hills Road cycle lanes layout: residents’ feedback prompts changes

hills roadIt is fair to say that views on the Hills Road cycle scheme are mixed, at least amongst local residents.

Council consultation results show Queen Edith’s residents split 50-50 between those who support the new segregated lanes and those who fear that the scheme will improve safety for cyclists at the expense of more vulnerable pedestrians.

Residents raised a number of concerns about safety, rat-running and access to properties. Councillors shared these concerns and asked County Council Highways officers to do further work to address safety issues. A number of changes have been made to the original proposals and the scheme will go back to councillors on 8th July.

Here is the report that they will receive. cycle lanes

  • There is now a clearer division between footway, bus stop and cycleway.
  • All the bus stop islands will be at least 2 metres wide and all waiting facilities will be on the island, so passengers won’t have to cross the cycleway as the bus arrives.
  • As the cycle lane approaches the bus stop it will veer left and narrow to 1.5 metres; there will then be a short ramp up to the level pedestrian crossing point, which will have tactile paving and be a different colour to the cycle lane. These differences are to alert cyclists of the need to be mindful of pedestrians.
  • The kerbs will now be sloped to allow cyclists to mount more easily should the need to leave the carriageway arise.
  • Although there will be double yellow lines, there will not be a loading ban to allow commercial vehicles to park briefly.
  • New gullies will be installed and a full CCTV drainage survey carried out to identify any necessary repairs.

There are concerns that if there are additional traffic hold-ups, motorists may evade them by using smaller streets off Hills Road – four of which have schools/ nursery schools. It is hard to predict the effect in advance, but I shall be asking for a traffic survey to be carried out before and after the scheme is input.

What to do if bus timetables aren’t working

Real Time Passenger Information is the technical term for what you see on the illuminated displays at bus stops that tell you when the buses are on their way. They are handy if you’re trying to decide which bus to take, or whether it’s quicker to walk. I know that they are useful because when (occasionally) a display is out of order, people tell me! Here’s a short post on how to get them working again quickly.,

Last week, the display was broken at the stop on Hills Road opposite Marshall Road and outside Homerton College. First, it simply gave the times for the day before – then went completely blank. Although it had been reported to a bus driver, the County Council were unaware of the malfunction.  When I reported it on Friday last week, the traffic manager at the County Council, Mr Gerry Watkins, promised it would be working again in two days. I am pleased to report that Mr Watkins went one better and had it restored to working order in just one day – extremely impressive.The Council has a smart system of ‘interrogating’  the displays remotely every six hours to check for malfunctions, but this time, the remote check had not detected the fault. Mr Watkins said he was pleased people find the displays useful and commented,’There are still certain circumstances in which we have to rely on someone visually noticing a problem and informing us. It is our aim to respond and correct within two working days.’

SO: If this or any other timetable display is not working, ring the County Council traffic department on 0345 0450675 or email them from their website.

The County Council was consulting councillors on good locations for new timetable displays earlier in the year. Based on the feedback we received, George, Jean, Geoff and I recommended additional displays for the Citi 1 and Citi 2 routes and we hope to see some new ones soon.

Pig Roast in Meldreth, 7th July

Saturday 7th July, from 5.30pm

Pig Roast
Venue: Key’s Cottage, Meldreth
Family: £30, all kids under 15. Adults £13.50
All you can eat, traditional roast pig, plenty of vegetarian options.
Riverside garden

Contact Susan van de Ven (01763 261933) or Tim Stone (01223 836527) for tickets.

Light the cycleway! 230-name petition presented to Shire Hall Conservatives

Today I presented the petition for lighting the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway to the Conservative Cabinet of Cambridgeshire County Council. It closed on just over 230 signatures, 150 on line and 80+ on paper. A great show of support.

The petition’s main focus was on low-level lighting for safety reasons, but it included requests for signs and a dividing line.

I proposed these things should be funded by ‘developer contributions’, money for transport projects, contributed by developers as part of their planning obligations.

Here is the text of my speech:

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Liberal Democrats launch petition against web surveillance plans

Cambridge Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert has launched a petition to stop any plans to create a snoopers’ charter. This petition follows a public letter in The Independent from 17 Lib Dem MPs, led by Julian Huppert. The letter called for openness from the Government about controversial proposals to monitor emails, telephone calls and social media. The petition demands a guarantee from the Government that no-one will be allowed to read the content of internet communications, phone calls or texts without a warrant. The petition also calls for “substantially stronger safeguards for civil liberties”.

Julian said “Local Liberal Democrats will always fight for the basic right of every single Cambridge resident to have a private life. I’ve already helped force the Government to publish the new bill in draft form, so it can be scrutinized and amended. This petition, launched by Liberal Democrats across the City, will push the Government to create new safeguards to protect against state surveillance. Lib Dems in Cambridge will do whatever it takes to protect our fundamental civil liberties.”
The petition can be signed at: http://cam.lib.dm/No2NetSnooping

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.

One World is Enough, Cambridge Fairtrade pioneer

My Nepalese cardigan from One World is Enough

Yesterday, I visited One World is Enough on Bridge Street with the Chair of the Cambridge Fairtrade Steering Group, Revd Pat Heap. We were there for a photo to illustrate a story for the Cambridge News about the Fairtrade retail audit that we are carrying out during Fairtrade Fortnight.

One World is Enough was the first fairtrade shop in Cambridge, and is unique in the city, I think, in stocking only fairtrade goods and it’s run by Peter and Laura Harlow. It is an eclectic cornucopia of beautiful and original clothes, jewellery and gifts from around the world – everything from floaty dresses for evenings out to vivid and cosy rainbow jumpers and hoodies.

I first got to know the shop and them about twelve years ago, when they were on Mill Road. They’ve been active in the fairtrade movement in Cambridge for years and were involved in gaining fairtrade city status for Cambridge back in 2004. The most memorable event leading up to that was a Fairtrade Fashion Show they led for us at the old drama centre in Glisson Road.

Since then, they’ve moved, via market stalls and an Internet operation, to their present site on Bridge Street, close to Quayside. Much more footfall and an alternative way to spend your time and your money, and as they put it, you’re ‘helping skilled craftspeople in developing countries to help themselves’.

Here is the way the Cambridge News reported the retail audit, in their Style Guide: How to stick to Fairtrade shops in the city.

We look forward to hearing all your nominations for new shop windows needing our Fairtrade stickers!

Favourite Fairtrade place in Cambridge? Please tell!

Watching the Mayor put up the first Fairtrade Cambridge sticker

Yesterday, the Mayor of Cambridge, Councillor Ian Nimmo-Smith, put up the first Cambridge Fairtrade sticker in the Green Coffee Company and gave out stickers to Fairtrade retailers, including the Co-op, Harriet Kelsall Jewellery Design and One World Is Enough.

The stickers are sponsored by the Co-operative, which was the first big supermarket to stock Fairtrade goods back in 1992.

Cambridge shoppers are being asked to keep an eye out for Fairtrade goods when they go shopping – and pass on their findings to the Cambridge Fairtrade Steering Group by email ([email protected]) or via their blog http://fairtradecambridge.wordpress.com. Having a good list will help us when we come to renew our Fairtrade City status, and we would like to know about anywhere that sells a range of Fairtrade products. Look out for the green and blue Fairtrade mark.

Cambridge has been a Fairtrade City since  1994.