I observed Cambridge’s North Area Committee on Thursday the 3rd of July 2014. One of the items on the agenda was the consideration of various environmental improvement schemes for the area. One proposal was to improve the area in-front of the Tesco mini-supermarket on High-Street Chesterton.
This is one of my local shops and I’ve used it regularly over the last six or so years.
I tweeted to say:
— Richard Taylor (@RTaylorUK) July 3, 2014
I have transcribed what occurred:
Cllr Ian G Manning (Liberal Democrat, East Chesterton): Chair, it’s just a suggestion. I actually support the proposal but it’s a suggestion that we take this forward as an LHI bid, get the money from county then go to Tesco and make them pay for the rest of it.
Well no but Tesco you know if we went to them and said we’ve got I’m pretty sure that together we can get this through the LHI process and then in advance of the LHI process go to Tesco and say you cough up the other five, ten, grand…
Cllr Kevin Price (Labour, King’s Hedges):
Or I won’t shop with you again.
Cllr Ian G Manning (Liberal Democrat, East Chesterton):
Or none of us will shop with you again.
I’m sure they wouldn’t like the adverse publicity that two ward councillors from both, two, political groups could drum up if they didn’t drum up, if they were so minded to make us lose ten thousand of county money.
That would then give us money for the other schemes; that’s all I am saying.
I was shocked by Cllr Manning’s comments I thought they were totally inappropriate.
I think the suggestion from Cllr Price, echoed by Cllr Manning about not using the shop again was probably a joke; however the threat of generating adverse publicity sounded to me like a genuine blackmail threat.
The proposal is to flatten out the camber of the road and pavement to make the area more level. The £15,000 scheme was being promoted by East Chesterton Councillor Gerri Bird.
Cllrs decided not to fund the project, deciding to “defer” it, apparently with a view to seeking alternative funding sources.
The County Council’s Improving highways webpage includes links to forms for “local communities” to apply for funding to improve highways, the funding is conditional on “local communities” coming up with 10% of the funds. This is the Local Highways Improvements (LHI) scheme Cllr Ian Manning was referring to.
Cllr Manning’s comments shows up a problem with the county council’s policy on funding Local Highways Improvements – it allows wealthy businesses such as Tesco, and other groups which are in a position to use their existing wealth to obtain public spending in areas of interest to them.