Can the County Mayor work with the Greater Cambridge Partnership to deliver a splendid and sustainable public transport system?

Summary

I remain convinced that Cambridgeshire needs to be split into three unitary authorities, but given where we are, what does the future hold for the Greater Cambridge Partnership?

The call for three new unitary councils in Cambridgeshire to replace the county and districts was backed up in the Cambridge Independent by Edward Leigh of Smarter Cambridge Transport.

We are awaiting the results of the review of local governance to report back to the Combined Authority. In the meantime…

Rail minister Jo Johnson probably didn’t know what hit him when County Mayor James Palmer rocked up to Transport House with the message that 2025 was far too late to deliver South Cambridge Railway Station.

Mr Palmer is right – it needs to be delivered far sooner – it should have been delivered ages ago – before the building work around the railway line to London had even started. I don’t think I’ll ever know why it wasn’t built.

This is one of the reasons why community campaigners and activists can save a lot of time with a laser-like focus on the ultimate decision-maker. Getting a minister to make a public statement on who is responsible for what can be very helpful. Just who was responsible and at which points, for South Cambridge getting into this state?

That’s assuming the minister is competent enough not to set up a system of administration that is a complete mess.

Above – this is no way for a supposedly great city like Cambridge to be governed.

“So, when are we going to get our light railway underground that the Mayor promised Puffles then?”

In early 2018 I tabled a public question to Mr Palmer – stating that I still stood behind the principle of a light rail underground for Cambridge and surrounding areas, despite the doubts of others.

I still remain convinced that this is the case for Cambridge given the time horizons we are looking at. I’m looking at the next 50-100 years, far longer than the ones envisaged by ministers in their existing frameworks. Also, dare I say it, Mr Palmer is probably one of the very few politicians in the county who could actually deliver such a project. However, the risk he faces is potentially alienating some of the people and politicians whose support he will need in order to deliver it. This was the big mistake the Greater Cambridge Partnership made in its first two years – it turned people who could otherwise have been ‘critical friends’ into hostile opponents. It cost South Cambridgeshire Conservatives dearly at the recent local elections.

Liberal Democrats take over South Cambridgeshire District Council

They control two thirds of the seats and will hold them for the next four years unless there is a massive overhaul of the structure of local government inside Cambridgeshire. Note the list of new outside appointees here (item 12). This also means that Cllr Aidan Van de Meyer takes the South Cambridgeshire seat on the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

One of the first things he announced was this:

…which made Cllr Lewis Herbert’s comments interesting in his debate with Mr Palmer.

Have a listen and judge for yourselves.

Earlier today, there was an astonishing series of tweets from the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

Bus franchising – when?

One persistent criticism opposition politicians have made of Mr Palmer is the lack of movement on bus franchising and on Park and Ride.

The statement below is from the Executive Councillor for Communities on Cambridge City Council.

Indeed, the managing director of the Whippet group has called on the Mayor to use his powers.

And prior to her victory at the South Cambridgeshire elections, Cllr Bridget Smith, the new leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council for the Liberal Democrats, said the following:

Will they meet to thrash things out?

Cllr Herbert and Mr Palmer confirmed to Dotty McLeod on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire that they met on a weekly basis. I get the impression that despite their disagreements, they know (& I’d like to think are both mature enough as civic leaders) that having a blazing row on the radio wouldn’t serve anyone as they still have to work with each other.

June sees a number of important public meetings where we will get a feel for how the three political parties are going to work with each other. These next meetings are:

  1. Combined Authority and the Mayor – meeting at Fenland District Council’s HQ on 30 May in the town of March.
  2. Combined Authority overview & scrutiny on 01 June in the same venue.
  3. Greater Cambridge Partnership joint assembly on 14 June at Cambridge Guildhall
  4. Greater Cambridge Partnership board on 04 July again at Cambridge Guildhall

Lets see how the next few weeks progress.

 

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