Questions to Cambridge’s Party Leaders

Monday, April 14th, 2008. 1:44am

Andy Harper, (BBC Radio Cambridgeshire)

I heard on your show that you’ll be interviewing the leaders of the main political parties this week so I am writing to you with some of my thoughts on the upcoming election:

During these local elections the important issues to me are the proposed expansion of the city and the associated effect on transport especially the A14 and congestion in the city centre. Another key issue is policing.

One problem I have in deciding who – if anyone – to vote for is that in Cambridge we have people standing as representatives of political parties who don’t support their party’s central policies. I think this matters as although this is a local election the results will be interpreted in relation to national politics; for example my local labour candidate doesn’t support ID Cards but I feel a vote for him would be a vote for the current government and compulsory ID Cards neither of which I support. Of greater local relevance is the fact it is a Labour central government who are making transport funding for Cambridge conditional on a congestion charge but locally Labour appear to offer the strongest opposition to the charge. The other parties are also sending out confusing signals, the Liberal Leader Nick Clegg has stated he doesn’t want Cambridge to be used for a congestion charge experiment, yet in Cambridge City the Liberals are the party most supportive of the charge and are in a position to say no to it. The local Liberal policy of offering discounts to residents is tinkering at the edges and would, by all accounts including their own, make the scheme ineffective. The Conservatives centrally have said “local road pricing schemes are fine but only if they are originated locally and agreed locally” but a Conservative County Council is pushing congestion charging on the people of Cambridge.

As what our local candidates believe often appears so at odds to their party’s polices wouldn’t it be better for them to stand as independents? What value does party politics add to the running of Cambridge?

What do the party leaders see as the role of the councillors and the council with respect to policing? For example whoever becomes leader will be asked to approve the creation, renewal and expansion of dispersal zones in the city centre. We know Ian Nimmo-Smith, the current council leader signs off on these things on a regular basis – does he think they work – would the others continue to use them? More generally on policing – what do the party leaders see as the role of the city council with respect to policing? Is there an effective partnership where there needs to be? Is the experimental exercise in democratic ratification of neighbourhood policing priorities in North Cambridge working?

There are some big decisions to be made which could result in completely changing the character of Cambridge: Do we want to double the number of people living in city? If we are going to massively expand the city do we do it by building tall blocks of flats around the edge of the city and in the fields beyond? Are we going to respond to the increase in traffic with a congestion charge? Are those decisions being effectively being put to the electorate at this election?

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