21 May 2024
Tim Bick

Lib Dem city councillors are calling for a challenge to central government’s ‘power grab’ for Cambridge’s future. In a motion to be debated by the city council on Thursday, the Liberal Democrats advocate instead a 'genuine partnership'. Michael Gove’s “Vision for Cambridge” aims to more than double the number of homes within 25 years and to drive this with a government growth company and a development corporation, promising council leaders roles on an advisory group. 

Cllr Tim Bick, who leads the city Lib Dems, says:

“Where we can agree is that there’s a shortage of homes in and around the city. Without meeting that need, we would be making life here harder and harder for many people who are needed for our public services and for employers in the sectors on which the local economy depends. 

“But this is something with which our area has also had some success. So with our commitment to sustainable development, our local knowledge, our work with existing communities, and visible achievements such as the new communities at Trumpington, to be followed by others at North East Cambridge and Cambridge Airport: why would it be logical to take it all over?

“Government help is certainly needed and that message has been rather slow getting through. In particular investment in water supply is vital - and so is funding for transport infrastructure and social housing. It’s most welcome that this now looks possible. But coming late to the party and taking over the driving seat is way over the top.

“The concern is that Michael Gove is making up the rules as he goes along, with arbitrary numbers, which don’t correspond to the evidence-based approach adopted by local councils. There are worrying grounds for seeing this as a charter for reckless development.

“Words of partnership are being used, but there’s less evidence of it in practice. We want the city council to stand up to be counted more than it appears to be doing. With some equality between partners the Cambridge area could have the best of what local councils can offer and the best of what central government can bring to the table. Without it our area could be the passive host of a vanity project.

“One step locals councils could take to make this so much easier, is to try and simplifiy our fragmented local government structure and move towards a unitary council bringing all local responsibilities and elected representatives together for the area.” 

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