MAYORAL ELECTION: Green Party candidate puts focus on transport and housing

Julie Howell

Julie Howell - Credit: Archant

On May 4, people across the county will vote for the first mayor of the combined authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. But who will get your vote?

Alternative transport infrastructure should be considered to help older people and the disabled, as well as the environment, according to Green Party mayoral candidate, Councillor Julie Howell.

Cllr Howell, who joins the race to become the first-ever mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, says different ways of getting around need to be made “more desirable”.

“I care very passionately about social justice and believe the way disabled and older people are treated in this country is a national disgrace,” she told The Hunts Post.

Cllr Howell, who has multiple sclerosis, said she believes she is the only candidate living with a chronic condition, and that she champions the inclusion of the disabled.

“I am concerned that we create a transport infrastructure that meets the needs of our older population and our residents with disabilities. Many disabled and older people rarely leave their homes as it is so difficult to get around the county independently,” she added.

“And many older people drive because this is the only accessible, safe option available to them. We need to make other choices more desirable.”

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Cllr Howell says these other choices need to move away from the use of cars, and that it is important to start considering the health of the planet.

“When it comes to Green Party philosophy, I wholeheartedly agree that it is high time we stopped taking from the planet as if there is a back-up planet we can turn to when the resources on this one run out. There isn’t.”

She added: “There is an over-reliance on the car. I don’t drive, so I walk or get the bus or train. Cambridgeshire seems to favour the car over all other modes of transport, including feet.

“I would like other means of trans-port, including walking, to be considered before the car.”

The new mayor will be responsible for £600 million when they are elected – £20 million a year for 30 years – as well as £170 million grant for afford-able housing.

“As everyone knows, we’re in the midst of a housing crisis,” Cllr Howell added.

“We do need to build more places for people to live but these should be homes within communities with excellent transport networks - especially for travel by cycle or on foot - and community facilities such as community shops, recreation areas and community halls.

“I live on a newly-built estate in Peterborough and it has none of these things. Property developers are motivated by money and hold residents in contempt. Roads are unfinished and public bins go unemptied.

“We must stand up to developers and ensure we create communities that people are happy to live in. We also need to build homes in villages so that young people can afford to remain in the areas where they grew up.

“However, this mustn’t be at any cost to the environment. Cambridgeshire is a desirable place to live because of its green spaces and we should do all we can to protect our natural resources while providing infrastructure fit for the 21st century.”

Cllr Howell has been a member of the Green Party since March 2016, and to stand for this mayoral election had to put down a deposit of £5,000. She and her supporters raised this from scratch – taking them just 42 days to get her on the final list.

Now the only female mayoral candidate is asking for an additional £2,000 for a campaign kick-start, including travel costs, printing and publicity. Ms Howell, who used to be a disability rights campaigner for sight loss charity RNIB, is a parish councillor in Peterborough for Orton Waterville and Orton Longueville. “I believe that many residents want change and appreciate the choice of a different kind of candidate, one that is not as entrenched in local government politics,” she said.

“I’m very visible in the areas where I am a parish councillor and I would ensure that I continue to be visible if elected mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as visibility matters to residents.

“I will be a highly consultative, listening mayor and I will work very hard to seek out the voices of our many minority groups and ensure that everyone’s views are considered.”