1 Apr 2024
Cllr Tim Bick

Lib Dem city councillors have criticised Michael Gove’s proposed Growth Company and Development Corporation, announced this week to support his ‘Case for Cambridge’ to drive the future shape of Greater Cambridge. They are calling instead for empowerment of local democracy and a unitary council to strengthen local decisionmaking. 

Cllr Tim Bick, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Cambridge City Council, said: 

“This is a creeping takeover of the role of local government in our area. We have never been told what problems it is seeking to overcome with a ‘growth company’ and a development corporation. It seems just a power play in order to be seen to be doing something. 

“Councils of all parties in our area well understand both the serious need for more housing here and Cambridge’s importance to the national economy. We have all in turn overseen the growth here over the past 25 years. But this is a fragile flower. Although it has brought huge benefits, not everyone feels that or likes the change. Any suggestion of imposition from Whitehall risks just increasing local hostility. 

“A government with its own back less against the wall than this one, would look for a more constructive way of going forward. That should be a proper partnership in which central government undertakes to do the things only it can do – invest in our water and transport infrastructure, help fund social housing and provide an evidence-based national industrial strategy, into which Cambridge’s contribution is properly measured. 

“In return the local councils should fold into a single unitary council for Greater Cambridge, providing a more simple and equal way of talking to central government with a single democratic voice, rather than the current room full of people that it now takes. It could undertake more joined up decision-making and offer the considerable benefit to all local people of simpler, more accountable local government. 

“The new council should be empowered to prepare its own integrated local plan and transport plan, taking account of national industrial strategy and the complementary contribution that would be needed from central government. But at the end of the day, locally elected representatives know their people and their area better, understand the area’s character, and are best placed both to orchestrate quality new communities and to address the challenges that growth inevitably brings with it. 

“We just don’t think this is a job for a growth company or a development corporation.”  

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