CAMBRIDGESHIRE County Council is currently controlled by the Conservatives with a clear 15-seat majority but, with every one of the 69 seats being contested on Thursday June 4, that could change next week. The present council is made up of 42 Conservative
CAMBRIDGESHIRE County Council is currently controlled by the Conservatives with a clear 15-seat majority but, with every one of the 69 seats being contested on Thursday June 4, that could change next week.
The present council is made up of 42 Conservative councillors, 23 Liberal Democrat members and four Labour councillors.
The election will inevitably be influenced by voters' attitudes towards the MPs' expenses row and the way the parties have reacted to the series of revelations over the past few weeks.
To help electors make up their minds about who to support at county level, The Hunts Post put a selection of readers' questions affecting Huntingdonshire to the four parties fielding multiple candidates.
These are the responses from Labour.
1. How do you propose to keep Council Tax levels below the increase in the Retail Prices Index (the rate of inflation used for pensions indexing) after the inflationary cycle resumes?
If people wish to maintain services, I don't think it will be possible to reduce Council Tax. I would like to put these choices directly to people. If it's their grandmother who can't find a care home or there's another child disaster, that's what you get if you cut Council Tax. The Tories have cut £14million from the budget. That's a real decrease because there's no inflationary uplift. But that doesn't mean we support an increase.
2. More public investment goes into Cambridge city than anywhere else in the county. How will you redress that balance equitably?
Some of that is the result of the city's high-value economy. This year, we supported the administration's proposal to increase the amount of money that has gone, for example, into Fenland. We favour a system that loads allocation of funds towards the poorest wards.
3. What would you do to improve tourism outside of the city of Cambridge?
I would talk to the district councils about that. We know there are many features of interest to tourists outside Cambridge. For example, Huntingdon is a very beautiful little town, but there are specific niches to aim at.
4. Would you support a package of Government funded transport investment, as envisaged by the Transport Innovation Fund, that includes roundly £500million for public transport and other transport improvements along with a congestion charge in the morning peak in Cambridge city?
No. we regard the congestion charge as a tax on poor people. There must be other ways of managing congestion without that. It would never get through a referendum. But there has to be more and better public transport. In rural areas, access to services is an absolutely critical issue. Congestion in Cambridge is the other. You can't get anywhere from the rural areas unless you pay an arm and a leg for a taxi.
5. Will you support proposals for a "regional-scale settlement", initially of 20,000 homes, based on Huntingdon and Alconbury, as put forward in the review of the Regional Spatial Strategy?
The economic climate has put a lot of these ideas on hold. It needs to be looked at again, because circumstances have changed.
6. What are your plans to stimulate Cambridgeshire's economy and create new jobs, and what support would you make available to people at risk of losing their homes because of the credit squeeze?
The Government has already got a package of measures in place, and I hope the main lenders will take advantage of what's on offer. Stimulating the economy is a macro issue [for central government]. But the downturn in the housing market has hit Cambridge city much less hard than elsewhere because the hi-tech industries are not affected. I would like to see growth in manufacturing industries - that's one of our big problems.
7. How would you get St Neots Community College out of "special measures" as quickly as possible to restore to the 1,000 students a reasonable prospect of achieving their educational potential?
We are not sufficiently close to the issue to comment.
8. Would you increase the highways maintenance budget sufficiently to rectify the winter frost damage to the county's roads?
Damage to the county's roads is widespread. The trouble is that you would have to increase the budget by a substantial amount to deal with it. Local government does not have enough money. That's the result of central government policy by both major parties. So we shall have to make do as best we can. You have to work within your financial means. I can only see the roads deteriorating in the foreseeable future.
9. Will you invest more cash in recycling, including a renegotiation of the contract with the operators of the Buckden recycling centre to provide weekend public access?
Peter Downes (the Lib Dem deputy leader) has fought a serious battle for this, but the risk is that you lose money if you renegotiate a contract that has so recently expired. We strongly support recycling, and the county is very good at it. Mr Downes has made a number of very cogent arguments about the Buckden centre, for example about additional pollution. I tend to believe his figures and side with him on that. As a general comment, there's scope for a much more [cross-party] collaborative approach to the problems that face the county. The administration has the majority to force anything through, but it's a question of style. A lot of people are fed up with the party bickering.