A Fresh start for Cambridge
Tim Bick - Group Leader
Our city and our society need to change to ensure we live in a world that is green and fair. Liberal Democrats want to seize the moment, as we exit the pandemic, to offer a fresh start for Cambridge on things that must be done differently.
The moment – May 6th – provides a rare opportunity to elect the whole city council at one time. A fresh start after seven years of Labour control is possible. An energetic Liberal Democrat team is keen to take the lead, offering a clear-headed, inclusive and sustainable agenda for the future.
1. A fresh start on climate change
Josh Matthews - Spokesperson on Climate Change and the Environment
We launched the council’s work on this 15 years ago. Even from opposition, we have driven most of what has occurred since, though we haven’t won every argument with Labour and opportunities have been lost. Progress has been made, as it has elsewhere. But as we hurtle dangerously towards the need to meet the globally agreed deadline for net zero carbon emissions, a new way of thinking is needed and our city council should model it.
We will determine a systematic roadmap with a net zero end-point and calculate the actions needed to meet this. This will inform all our actions across every area of city council control.
2. A fresh start for a stronger and fairer community
Cheney Payne - Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Communities
The pandemic has exposed deep disadvantage within our communities: health, educational, social, occupational and economic - much wider than Labour’s focus on poverty alone. We will work for sustainable change wherever the city council has real influence, to build conditions for fairer life chances – with and through residents, building on the strong community spirit that has developed across the last year.
We will support this with a new community wellbeing framework across all the council’s activities and we will explore ways of measuring it to drive progress.
3. A fresh start on housing our city
Dr Anthony Martinelli - Spokesperson on Housing
Without more homes, Cambridge will become a steadily less inclusive city – forcing property prices still higher, emphasising inequality between those living in social and private housing and encouraging more commuting. But development must be strongly managed. We believe that North East Cambridge and Marshall’s airfield should be the focus of future planning.
Within the council’s powers, we will enable housing only at the highest sustainable standard with the council setting a zero-carbon pattern in its own schemes. Development must be located respectfully within our historic and landscape setting and the constraints of water resources. We will demand a minimum of 40% affordable homes, with a diversity of tenures including social housing, and specifically encourage schemes for key workers.
4. A fresh start for green and open spaces
Katie Porrer - Spokesperson for Open Spaces
The pandemic has emphasised just how much of an asset public open space in the city is: vital as a communal focus, for physical and mental health, for biodiversity and relief from the built form. The council has been too willing to trade-off irreplaceable open space for convenience, at St Albans Rec, North East Cambridge and Jesus Green.
As part of our new community wellbeing framework, we will strengthen protection for public open space, make it a priority in new developments, seek to introduce distance from homes standards, enable only sustainable uses of it, develop biodiversity and finally stop herbicide use.
5. A fresh start to eliminate rough sleeping
Despite millions spent on this tragic problem, it remains with us – in particular the challenge of entrenched rough sleepers. We have driven many of the recent policy changes – including for Housing First and a new link worker support approach, but progress is slow. We want to see much greater attention paid to the relationship of the problem to addictions and mental ill-health and the criticality of addressing these issues with co-ordinated support from health services and the police.
We will develop a city charter on rough sleeping to create a more effective consensus for the integration of the necessary safety net better with the engagement and momentum of a pathway.
6. A fresh start for basic council services
Jamie Dalzell - Spokesperson on Finance and Resources
The basics of council service have been overlooked by the Labour council. Council tenants have been taken for granted with one in nine homes falling below decent standards and maintenance funds going unspent. Public toilets are to be closed rather than invested in and improved. Planning issues have gone too long unresolved. Complaints overall have nearly tripled.
In addition to revising underlying priorities, we will involve elected councillors in reviewing performance data, including residents’ survey feedback, enabling them to decide any corrective action.
7. A fresh start for a low traffic city
Tim Bick - Group Leader
The pandemic has shown us life with fewer vehicles on our roads and easier cycling. We’d like to lock in that benefit to air quality and climate change, as the need for mobility returns. We support the current localised experiments in reducing traffic and encouraging cycling, so long as consultation is meaningful.
It has become more urgent to avoid this concentrating more congestion on fewer roads - with public transport still getting no better. We will work through the Greater Cambridge Partnership for a ‘low traffic city’ - a combined strategy to reduce car trips and fund high quality, accessible public transport as an alternative.
8. A fresh start for an inclusive economy
Cambridge’s economy has thrived to the benefit of many; but fast growth has seen some get ahead and others left behind, accentuating disparities. We will work to make partners out of business, to understand their needs and engage them in the needs of the wider community which we share, which an inclusive city needs. Skills shortages and joblessness are two sides of the same coin, as are scarce housing and long-distance commuting; and changes in retail and the future of the high street.
“Putting something back into the community” is exemplified by many employers, but we would like to try and take it still further in recognition of the social impact of fast growth within the city.
9. A fresh start to governing our city
Cambridge is a city, but doesn’t have the powers that should go with it; unlike other dynamic small cities like Bath, Brighton and York, or nearby Peterborough and Bedford. We are prisoners of a county council that is actively hostile to urban transport needs, making joined-up policy from homelessness to the city centre unnecessarily difficult.
Cambridge must gain the right to tackle its own problems and to work with our neighbours on an equal footing. We will consult with major local employers, universities and our closest neighbours in South Cambridgeshire, on initiating the case for a unitary council.