Monday, October 26, 2009

Richard Normington supports Cambridge at growth hustings

Richard Normington, the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Cambridge, joined representatives of the other main parties in Cambridge for a hustings on The Politics of Cambridge's Growth organised by the Federation of Cambridge Residents' Associations on Friday night. FeCRA will be publishing a record of the meeting on their website in a number of weeks.

On the disposition of power between the government and local authorities

While Labour's candidate said the balance was "broadly right", the Green party candidate focused on getting global green targets and the leader of the city council went on about Local Income Tax, Richard said that the balance was way out in favour of the government and that the Conservatives would shift large amounts back, including giving local authorities a 'general power of competence'.

Regarding the complex arrangements for local government financing, where approximately 80% of funds come from the government, Richard say we should "start with easy steps", such as to "ease back on ring-fencing".

On growth in Cambridge

Richard Normington reaffirmed his support for the Conservative policy of scrapping the Regional Spatial Strategy and allowing local authorities to form their own judgement about housing need and provision.

To a question about housing targets the Labour spokesman said that they were "not plucked from thin air" and that they had been debated and agreed. From where I was sitting in the audience I don't think this impressed anyone!

Asked whether he could be sure, as he had stated, that "the need for growth will be accepted without being forced by the government", Richard Normington pointed out that one of the reasons that housing always seems to be unwanted is that the governments rules mean it inevitably turns out to be what isn't needed, citing numbers for the massively increased proportion of new-builds that are poky flats with no gardens.

Richard also added that the Conservatives would provide incentives for communities to agree to development by allowing them to keep the proceeds of new council tax arising from it and some other revenue streams.

Richard and the Labour candidate rejected development on the Marshall site, although the Labour candidate failed to understand that the consequence of the government's targets was that if the council doesn't get on with it the government threatens "we will set up a quango" to force it through.

The Lib Dem wanted to develop the Marshall site while the Green didn't know. (The Green city councillor appears to be in favour.)

On infrastructure

The Green Party wasn't keen on the sort of infrastructure that the other candidates were - roads and utilities - he wanted everything to be with 10 minutes' walking distance. (Nice little utopia you've got there!) Richard Normington ridiculed this sort of protectionism that starts global and ends at the village boundary.

Labour's Transport Innovation Fund congestion charging blackmail was widely derided.

All the other candidates agreed that infrastructure needed to come first or at the same time as development; the current system of post-development levies was considered inadequate.

Richard Normington was scathing of the competence of the Lib Dem city councillors, citing their failure to understand their own system with respect to section 106 agreements at a recent area committee he had attended. One of the interlocutors reported that a Lib Dem had told him "we don't know where to spend it because we don't have any open space to put it!"

It was also pointed out that the developers of the Tim Brinton site in Coleridge have tried to reduce their s.106 contributions from £1.5m to £500k.

On two practical policies for green spaces, while the Green candidate put all his hope in his controversial Wicken Fen project, Richard said that he supports local "food producers not mosquito farmers" and that verges should either be "for trees and grass or cars but not both".

1 comment:

Richard Taylor said...

I have published my record of the meeting along with my own views at:

I thought Richard Normington was good at pointing out the worryingly extreme nature of the views expressed by the Green Party's Tony Juniper.

As for his own views; I was concerned he about the degree to which Richard Normington was supporting localism. I want to see strong local democracy, but there are some decisions related to growth such as energy generation such as if and where to build power stations or tidal barrages for example which are I think best decided at a national level.

I would also suggest Richard Normington sits in on a few meetings of the transport Area Joint Committee (or reviews the papers for the joint planning committees) if he thinks that the existence of such groups negate the need to redraw Cambridge City's boundaries and give Cambridge Councillors more powers. Powerless local councillors don't do anything to promote democracy.

Daniel Zeichner made very clear that a vote for him is a vote for the current Labour government continuing just as it is.