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 the Conservatives.
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?
Conservatives are committed to keeping Council Tax increases to the minimum. Cambridgeshire has historically suffered from unfair funding from Government and we have been in discussion with David Cameron's team about this. We are confident that following the election of a Conservative Government we will be able to work with them and by maintaining our drive for efficiencies and value for money, keep Council Tax increases to the absolute minimum.
2. More public investment goes into Cambridge city than anywhere else in the county. How will you redress that balance equitably?
Suggesting that this is the case for county council services is largely a myth. There is specific Government money for Cambridge because of the high level of new housing in the city but Conservatives have always been determined to ensure money is spent across the whole county.
Our market towns strategy, which has been worked up for the last few years, will enable them to grow and thrive while keeping their uniqueness.
There are numerous examples of initiatives specifically within Huntingdonshire, including Trading Standards tackling underage drinking in St Neots, a significant focus on some of the issues that face the Oxmoor, and, of course, the new Huntingdon library.
3. What would you do to improve tourism outside of the city of Cambridge?
The promotion of tourism is primarily a district council function although we recognise there is much we can do to help and support them in this important area.
The Guided Bus will be of real benefit to Huntingdon and St Ives. People will be able to visit those historic towns with a reliable, fast transit system. The new rail station planned at Chesterton will give people direct access to Ely. The market town strategy will make places easier to access and easier to move around. Once again by working with district councils we will be able to make these towns a real destination for people.
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?
We support investment into the infrastructure in and around Cambridge and have been working with Government to try and get them to relax the rules of the Transport Innovation Fund. We set up the Transport Commission which is currently working on a report that will show us what the problems are and what the solutions might be. At this stage nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out. We do not support the introduction of a congestion charge but recognise that the Cambridge area badly needs investment, and we must find a way of securing that finance.
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?
No. Cambridgeshire is the fastest growing county in England and we are already taking a huge amount of housing growth. In common with other local authorities in Huntingdonshire we do not support the development of Alconbury as outlined in the Regional Spatial Strategy. We also believe that future planning must be sustainable with the proper infrastructure. Developing another town the size of Huntingdon would be disastrous, certainly in environmental terms.
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?
We acted quickly when it became apparent that we were about to plunge into a recession. We gave support to various voluntary organisations to enable them to help people facing difficulties. Cambridgeshire's economy has shown that it is strong through these difficult times, but we are not resting on our laurels. We continue to push to get housing growth started again, providing new jobs on the way. We are pushing to get infrastructure completed, like the Guided Bus and a new station at Chesterton Cambridge.
We recently agreed a £500,000 package specifically to support voluntary groups and to help families affected worst by the recession.
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 moved quickly to address this important issue and have been providing additional support to the college for some time. The process of turning the college around is already well underway. An action plan has been produced and is already being implemented. The support the county council is already providing, along with the co-operation of the college, means that it should be out of special measures fairly quickly
8. Would you increase the highways maintenance budget sufficiently to rectify the winter frost damage to the county's roads?
We recently allocated an additional £2million specifically for highway maintenance and road safety as part of our commitment to improving the condition of our roads. The winter frost damage was not kind to roads in Cambridgeshire and we have already been out rectifying more potholes than any other year. We have also urged Government to provide us with extra resources to enable us to further improve the condition of our roads.
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?
Cambridgeshire has and does lead the way in recycling and the county council is one of the top three performing county councils in England with over 50 per cent of the rubbish collected being recycled.
The lease on Buckden came to an end last year. We are investing heavily in modern recycling and treatment centres. This autumn, a modern state of the art indoor waste and recycling centre will open in St Neots which will allow residents to dispose of their waste and recyclables in a much cleaner environment. The new mechanical biological treatment centre being built at Waterbeach will also be brought into use later this year, helping to further reduce landfill.