Giving evidence to the Greater Cambridge City Deal


What to ask? What to say to in the evidence session

If you don’t know what the Greater Cambridge City Deal is, or what it hopes to solve, watch Cllr Lewis Herbert’s speech below

I got confirmation of a speaking slot at the Cambridge Central Library’s hearing on 16 November 2015.


The details are as above.

The formal launch of the call for evidence (see was earlier this evening. I only found out about the opportunity to appear in person at the last minute – while on a bus out of town. I made it with about 3 minutes before the deadline expired. As Richard Taylor stated today, the city deal authorities seem to have ‘communications issues’ when it comes to advertising their events. He filmed this evening’s talks & Qs so expect them to be on his video website soon.

“What will you be asking?”

The two main priorities I have are:

  • Haverhill Rail – see them on FB here and the leaflet here
  • Getting the views of young people in a systematic manner that will cover the period of the city deal.

There are some very straight-forward pieces of data collection schools and colleges could do to assist the city deal processes as far as data collection is concerned. A simple transport survey asking students to identify the modes of transport they use to get to school/college, the postcode they travel to/from, and the number of times they are late each week as a result of traffic problems. This data doesn’t need to identify individuals. This data would – in particular for our major further education/sixth form colleges, identify the number of journeys that have to cross the city. Would data from these support business cases for bus or segregated cycle paths away from existing roads clogged by motor traffic?

How quickly could schools & colleges get such a survey up and running in order for the data to be collected and submitted as evidence to the County Council? By 30 November 2015?

Just as Robin Pellew of Cambridge Past Present & Future said he felt the scope of the city deal was too narrow, my take is that if handled properly, the city deal could be harnessed to kick start grassroots democracy activism in & around the city. The reason why that’s not happened so far is the city deal structures are not getting the basics right. Cambridge isn’t getting the basics right.

Consultation overload

I’m absolutely exhausted by the number of separate events I seem to be going to that involve one way or another the future of Cambridge. Have a look at the number of meetings hosted by Cambridge City Council alone in their calendar here. Then there are all of these ones with Cambridgeshire County Council – but you’ll need to search through them to find the one you want. Ever so frustrating that these things are not made easy for the ordinary citizen. At the same time, the community groups are desperately trying to get their heads around the systems & processes, organising their own meetings due to their concerns about Cambridge’s future. Here’s one I’m at on 12 Nov having been to two gatherings this evening. Exhaustion got the better of me for two recent events – one on the future of Mill Road and another on the local NHS – which run separate consultations. At the same time, one of the city deal projects, the much needed Chisholm Trail (a north-south cycle route through the city next to the railway line – so away from cars), is also out to consultation with a number of exhibitions.

“Isn’t consultation a good thing?”

It depends how the consultor frames the questions. The problem I have is that as a city, Cambridge is exhausting the ability of our citizens and civic society to give informed, considered responses. As a result, the only people able to respond are those who can afford to employ those to respond for them (ie big interests with big money), or the merry band of activists that scrutinise these things perhaps at the expense of having a life. (Other than members of staff, I think I was the youngest person at the Guildhall event this evening).

What would I like to see?

I would like to see Cambridge’s public institutions getting together (in particular their communications managers) and deciding how they are going to co-ordinate their future consultations so that it reduces the amount of work for ordinary citizens to find out about and respond to consultations. For me, this point nails it.

People don’t care about which institution does what, they care about whether a service is functioning or not. (Which is why if you want to design malfunctioning public services, you underfund, fragment and outsource as much as you can – sort of like what successive central governments have done for decades).

“If you find all those consultations exhausting & confusing, what hope for the rest of us? And for young people too if this is their first experience of it?”


But again, the way Cambridge functions is that you need to be inside an institution in order to really influence others. Not being inside one means I have no power or influence to bring together the relevant institutions to deal with some of the problems I’ve mentioned above. So I have to leave that for someone who does have influence/power locally to solve that one.


One thought on “Giving evidence to the Greater Cambridge City Deal

  1. Anthony
    There is a speaking slot available straight after yours (one of only a v few left)
    Do you want to tweet this to encourage under 30s to take up that space, and share with other contacts?

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