The Cambridge Liberal Democrats have launched their manifesto for the city council election, calling for a “fresh start” after seven years of Labour control.
The group’s plans include offering rough sleepers a bed every night in winter, “building the case” for a new unitary authority, and supporting a clean air zone for the city’s roads,
The Lib Dems, currently the largest opposition group on Cambridge City Council, launched their manifesto on Wednesday (April 7), and said they are offering “a clear-headed, inclusive and sustainable agenda for the future”.
Every seat on the city council is up for election on May 6, and there are also elections in the city for the county council, a county-wide police and crime commissioner, and the directly elected mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Launching their manifesto for the city council election, the Liberal Democrats criticised the ruling Labour group, claiming there has been a “serious gap between promise and delivery” over the past seven years.
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‘Presumption for low carbon’
On the environment, the Lib Dems say that if elected as the majority group they will introduce a “presumption for low carbon” requirement “that on any decision, the lowest available carbon option will be adopted unless an overpowering case is made to the contrary”.
They say they will provide a “detailed” roadmap of how the council can achieve net-zero carbon emissions “as far before 2050 as possible”.
And the group will “explore” separate food waste collection and smoke control areas, and introduce a “broader education programme” on household waste and an “awareness campaign” against engine idling.
The city council is currently controlled by the Labour Party
On transport, the Lib Dems manifesto says they will support a “financial disincentive” for driving cars at peak times, as well as introducing a “clean air zone”, whilst also supporting greater subsidy for the bus service.
On housing, the Lib Dems manifesto says they will “focus” on the delivery of new homes on the North East Cambridge and Marshall’s Airport sites. Both areas could provide a combined total of around 20,000 new homes, but the Lib Dems have not committed to a figure in the manifesto.
On homelessness, the group said they intend to offer rough sleepers a bed every night in the winter, as well introduce a “multi-disciplinary task force to address addictions and mental ill-health” issues.
On the question of water supply, the manifesto says that additional housing numbers to be agreed as part of the next local plan “will not be supported unless alternative sources of supply are provided” to the chalk aquifer.
‘Pandemic has highlighted much that could be done better’
A “periodic residents’ wellbeing survey” is proposed to monitor a new “community wellbeing strategy”. And the Lib Dems say they will “encourage” the development of community childcare provision.
Included in the manifesto is a plan for a “community cohesion fund for local business to contribute to alleviating the social impact of the city’s fast growth”.
The Lib Dems say they will renovate rather than close public toilets, improve council house maintenance, and commit to a “re-imagining of the city centre to adjust to growth in online sales”.
And the Liberal Democrats say they will begin “building the case” for a Cambridge unitary authority, which would bring control of the city’s local government under a single council, rather than split across the current two-tier district and county-wide structure.
The manifesto does not mention the proposed Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro, which the Lib Dems said will be included in their mayoral county-wide manifesto. The Lib Dem mayoral candidate has previously questioned the viability of the Conservatives’ tunnelled proposal and called for the project’s funding to be halted until greater clarity is provided.
The Lib Dem city council manifesto also does not mention the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s (GCP) four busway proposals, but the leader of the Lib Dem group, Tim Bick, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We accept the need for the new public transport routes to Cambridge that the GCP is working on.
“With the important addition of the independent audit review of the proposed western access, we have confidence in the process which is underway at various stages with different schemes to determine the routes.
“We will respond to the consultative, environmental and technical evidence as it is forthcoming.”
The party in control of the city council will have considerable influence over the GCP’s agenda and could halt or significantly alter the plans for further busways.
Cambridge City Council elections
The Cambridge City Council elections will be held alongside other local elections on May 6, 2021.
Some of the ward boundaries have changed, and so every seat on the council – all 42 seats across 14 wards – are up for grabs. Each ward has three councillors, so you will be able to vote for up to three candidates.
The city council is in charge of waste collection, council housing, public toilets, planning and setting the local plan, as well working with other authorities on policy affecting rough sleeping, community safety and more.
The political group that wins control of the council will also send a representative to serve on the boards of the Greater Cambridge Partnership and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, which both have separate powers and budgets, with a particular focus on transport.
On the manifesto launch, Cllr Bick said: “This election happens at a time where the pandemic has highlighted so much that could be done better. Because all seats on the city council are being elected at one time, power could easily change to the Liberal Democrats after seven years of Labour rule.
“Under Labour, there has been a serious gap between promise and delivery, a catalogue of missed opportunities and a skewed sense of priorities”.
The city council Lib Dems’ deputy leader, Cheney Payne, said: “Whether it’s on housing or transport or community building, the Lib Dems are offering fresh ideas and clarity of purpose, where the alternatives are half-formed, ambivalent or confused. Our vision is for a city where people have equal opportunities and meaningful choices, can shape their community and can find their own place in the sun – all with the support of a council which empowers them.”
The Liberal Democrats are the first political party contesting seats on the city council to release their manifesto for the upcoming election.