Electing a Cambridge City Councillor for King’s Hedges

Thursday, April 17th, 2014. 7:21pm

Jackson Road in King’s Hedges Ward, Cambridge

In the last election held in Kings Hedges, the ward in which I live, over 76% of electors in the ward did not vote. In the last Cambridge City Council elections Kings Hedges was one of three wards in the city where neither the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or Labour put up a candidate who lived in the ward.

Kings Hedges’ existing councillors appear to me to be largely silent; they make few contributions to council meetings and have a very low public profile; there is little sign of activity* evident, or even discoverable for those, like me, who actively try and find out what our representatives are doing on our behalf.

I think it’s in the interests of those of us who live in King’s Hedges to elect good councillors; and we have a responsibility to do so in the interests of the city, and wider country.

What I Want from a Cambridge City Councillor:

  • Ensuring Kings Hedges, and the wider city, is as safe as possible is one of the key things I would like to see my councillor doing. One way would be through voting to set local police priorities based on the evidence of crimes, and behaviour, which cause, or risk, injury and distress.
  • Extending residents parking controls to the whole city has been proposed. I want to elect a councillor who will oppose this. Charges for permits would adversely impact Kings Hedges residents, they’re a form of taxation which do not reflect people’s ability to pay.
  • Kings Hedges’ local councillors have a duty in my view to ensure King’s Hedges doesn’t get a second class treatment when it comes to things like litter picking and maintaining the state of the roads, pavements, street furniture, street lights and signage. I’ve recently published some examples of Campkin Road and Milton Road. Our existing councillors have not been effective in pushing for these matters to be resolved.
  • Acting as an advocate for council, and other social housing tenants in is a key part of a councillors’ role, especially in Kings Hedges. I think councillors who debated and approved the privatisation of council house maintenance in 2010 failed to fully appreciate its impact; especially on leaseholders who can now be faced with huge bills for works, which they don’t consider necessary, on their properties.
  • Planning decisions are one of the most significant ways a Cambridge City Councillor influences their ward, and the city. I’ve commented on many planning matters. I think it’s important councillors are able to stand up to developers in the public interest; give appropriate weight to the living conditions within schemes they approve. I want to see more proactive planning; for new developments to be high quality genuine extensions of the city, not just residential estates, and certainly not private enclaves through which there isn’t public access. See: my comments on the development underway between Milton Road and Woodhead Drive.
  • Transparency and democracy crucial when it comes to making decisions about how the city is run. I think it’s important councillors make it easy for people to express views to them, but I don’t like the way our current councillors often treat consultations as referenda, I think that risks giving to great a say to those with the time, and ability to respond. Elected representatives need to ultimately make decisions themselves, after having done all they can to ensure they’re as well informed as possible. I want to see councillors debating options for the city in public, and think that those voting for party political groups, where very small numbers of people effectively take decisions in secret, which their party councillors nod through, do not benefit the city.
  • I want a local councillor prepared to represent residents of King’s Hedges to whoever they are required to, be that supermarkets, bus companies, other parts of the state such as health services and schools. It’s important that our local councillors don’t waste time in the council chamber rehashing national political debates; but it’s right they ensure our MPs are informed of the impact of their policies in Cambridge.
  • Nationally the country has decided to invest in Cambridge through the “City Deal”, which could be worth £500m. A major role for our councillor will be to ensure the money offered does come to Cambridge and is spent in a manner which benefits the city as a whole. It’s important the offered housing, and skills, elements of the deal come to fruition, as well as the primary infrastructure component. I would like to see the city deal take us towards one council for Greater Cambridge. One council would remove the inefficiency and confusion multiple councils bring, and ensuring clear democratic accountability when decisions on spending the city deal money are made. Kings Hedge’s city councillor needs a city wide perspective, and a commitment to supporting Cambridge’s contribution to the national economy as well as global human endeavour and progress.
  • A Kings Hedges Councillor must seek to reverse the plans to scrap the council funded pest control service. I don’t think the Liberal Democrats understood what they were doing in scrapping the service.
  • I think it’s really important that everyone is treated fairly and equally by the state. I strongly oppose the idea that travellers, or parents dropping children off at school, ought be dealt with more leniently by the police, as we have seen happening in North Cambridge. I also want to see all our councillors working to reduce the tensions between students and other residents of the city.
  • I want a councillor who promotes making the city a safe and attractive place to cycle in.
  • I want an active and communicative councillor who takes on the opportunities the role gives them and who publicises what they are doing. Apparently quiet or inactive councillors often claim to be working hard behind the scenes and on private correspondence. My view is that isn’t enough. Councillors of course have to correspond privately with constituents on occasion; but they should be following up assisting individuals with tackling the underlying problems they learn about.

Notice of Election

On the 9th of April 2014 a notice of election was published for Cambridge City Council elections to be held on the 22nd of May 2014.

Each ward in Cambridge elects three city councillors; just one seat per ward is being contested in this election (two in Petersfield where there is a by-election).

Nominations are open until 4pm on Thursday 24 April 2014. Those who consent to their nomination and have a proposer, seconder, and eight other nominators from a particular ward will be those who appear on the ballot paper. (Nomination Pack [Word Document via the Electoral Commission] or (View via Google Docs).

Prospective Kings Hedges Candidates

At the time of writing the only prospective candidate to have emerged is Martin Smart of the Labour Party, who lives on Warkworth Street in Market Ward, whose first act of the campaign appears to been to delete his @RomseyLabour Twitter account (he has previously stood for election on the other side of the city).

Ex Liberal Democrat Councillor for Kings Hedges, Neale Upstone has cryptically tweeted:

I’m aiming to do the mad job again :)

However he has not publicly responded to a King’s Hedges resident asking him which ward he is to stand in.

At the time of writing the latest Tweet from the Liberal Democrat team in Kings Hedges is from 10 January 2013; around 15 months ago.

My own position; which I often state, is that I would be prepared to stand if I was nominated, ie. if other residents of the ward genuinely wanted me to. I think it’s right to publish what I want in my elected representative, and I have done this a number of times previously in advance of other elections. eg. the 2010 General Election, and the 2012 elections for Police and Crime Commissioner.

*Labour’s Cllr Kevin Price has recently shown some signs of life; he has made a couple of speeches at council meetings about the availability of social housing in the city, he attended a meeting on anti-social behaviour in the ward, and he even knocked on my door to discuss local issues. This flurry of activity led me to suspect it might be Cllr Price who is up for re-election; but it isn’t, it is Liberal Democrat Cllr Simon Brierley who is coming to the end of his term of office.

4 comments/updates on “Electing a Cambridge City Councillor for King’s Hedges

  1. Chris Brown

    Interesting article Richard, I like your list of wants. Any signs of nomination yet? If you were nominated, which party would you represent, or would you be an independent? I’m not in your ward so can’t nominate.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Usually parties require those they allow to stand under their names to be members of that party. I’m not a member of any party; and I don’t think parties add anything to local decision making, they take decisions out of the democratic system and out of the public eye and result in giving huge power to tiny groups of people meeting behind closed doors.
      If I were nominated I’d have the option to either put “Independent” next to my name, or just stand with nothing next to the name. I think either are good options, nothing might be preferable if there were other “Independents” worth distinguishing yourself from.

  2. ian tyes

    I am standing in next week’s local elections as an Independent candidate who has lived in Kings Hedges for the last 30 years.

    I agree with much of what you say and would hope that if elected I could work with people like yourself who have a strong concern and loud voice for local issues to protect, enhance and improve this area.

    Keep the Blog going and I have bookmarked you to keep up to date with your concerns,


    Ian Tyes
    Independent Candidate for Kings Hedges

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