Wednesday, April 30, 2008


A couple of errors have crept into my election literature of the last few days. Unfortunately a newsletter has a typo in my email address - it isn't, is should be moufflon in the address!

The other problem I have less responsibility for. I have written some letters describing the postcode of the Lichfield Hall polling station as CB1 7BS - this appears to be the postcode for City Homes South on Cherry Hinton Road. A more relevant postcode is CB1 3SJ if you are trying to find the polling station on streetmap or google maps. It looks like the postcode on the City Council website list of polling stations where I got the information from is wrong, which is a bit worrying - I'm waiting for Electoral Services to get back to me to confirm.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Declarations of Interest

I had to take some time out of the Coleridge campaign yesterday to help at a rowing event - I'm treasurer of a boat club in the City, so was on entries secretary duties yesterday. This has delayed my final newsletter slightly, but the presses are now rolling!

As a Councillor I would have to make declarations of interest. Not sure being treasurer of a boat club is ever going to be relevant, but I am a member of several other campaign groups:

I'm a member of No2ID nationally, and help them campaign in Cambridge. The thought of having to carry a compulsory ID card is not something I would wish to entertain, but particularly not when it would be attached to a national database that would seek to track my every move as I access all manner of public and private sector services - i.e. a one stop shop for the identity thief and and toolkit to help the state harass the generally law abiding whilst ignoring the seriously dangerous who will obviously operate outside the system - thats in the unlikely event that they will ever getting it working, despite the millions it will cost to try.

I'm a member of Cambridge Cycle Campaign, and want to see cyclists get a better deal - but don't think it is necessary for them to be quite so anti-car in the process.

Finally, I am a member of CAMRA, the campaign for real ale. I think a key part of CAMRA campaigning it to protect pubs, particularly those in isolated rural areas, and to encourage responsible behaviour in pubs, both of which aims I wholeheartedly agree with.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Down the Drain

It rained for about 3 hours solidly in Coleridge yesterday - I know because I spent most of that time out delivering newsletters. But it did highlight a problem that the Council(s) have known about for months when a local resident first started complaining, and I followed up this complaint a couple of weeks ago but nothing seems to have happened.

Some of the drains, like this one on Cherry Hinton Road just don't seem to be working properly. There are similar problems on the pavement on Radegund Road. Looks like another issue to chase up if I am elected on May 1st, as ordinary requests from local residents don't seem to be getting anywhere.

Europe and the cost of living

One of the reasons why so many people I'm speaking to are not going to vote Labour at this election is that they are fed up with the way prices for fuel, food, council tax, electricity, gas etc etc are rocketing up, whilst the Government continues to insist everything is fine and inflation is only around 2%.

I was discussing the huge rises in just about every type of foodstuff with a voter on the doorstep yesterday and had a thought:

Is the EU spending taxpayers money providing farming subsidies to farmers who are or could be growing these crops that are now being priced so highly on the world markets?

If so, is there any justification for this, or should now not be the ideal time to stop all forms of agricultural subsidy in the EU, as it would remove the burden of subsidies on the taxpayer once and for all, which could then be used to help people suffering from higher prices on just about everything...

So I've just written to Robert Sturdy MEP, one of Eastern Region's excellent Conservative MEPs and farming expert to ask this very question!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Postal Votes are arriving

My postal vote arrived today, and has now been returned.

The instructions may look complicated, but this is the summary:

Put a cross on the ballot paper and put (just) this into the ballot paper envelope.

Complete the declaration with your date of birth and signature. (This is needed to try to prevent postal vote fraud - they are both checked when the ballot is returned so the vote won't count if the declaration isn't returned including these bits of information.)

The ballot paper and the declaration are then returned in the main envelope (the one addressed to the Returning Officer at the Guildhall!)

If you think it is getting too late to return your postal ballot by post, then the completed package (including the declaration) can be delivered to a polling station in your ward on polling day.

For more information or advice, see the City Council website.

Friday, April 18, 2008

New Cycle Route?

Cambridge Cycle Campaign has written to all City Council election candidates to ask their views on a number of cycling issues. My replies will be on their website shortly, but one of the questions was if I supported opening an official cycling route between Ashbury Close and Golding Road. This particular bit of 'cyclists dismount' journey has been annoying me for a while, but I was interested to know what residents in the area think.
As it happens, I was with the team in Golding Road this evening, and took the opportunity to ask what people thought. I was slightly surprised about the level of support - most people were very positive about such a change, and with those more ambivalent it was usually because there was no point as everyone ignored the no cycling signs anyway (except me of course as I am on best cycling behaviour!) With nobody even slightly against that I spoke to, I think they the Councils should be looking to put in a proper cycle route as soon as possible!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hills Road Roadworks Announced

Further to my previous post, the Guided Bus team have now made arrangements for Hills Road roadworks required for the Guided Bus and Cycleway from Trumpington/Addenbrokes to the station.

This closure has been planned to minimise disruption, it has been widely reported in the local press, and the now the details have been finalised, there is a warning notice on the bridge nearly a month in advance, so its good to see that people have been kept informed in a timely manner!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Another Boost to Coleridge Campaign

The Conservative campaign in Coleridge received another boost today with a visit from David Willetts MP. David is Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and has been the Member of Parliament for Havant since 1992. He came to support our campaigning in Cambridge, and we spent time speaking to residents on Lichfield Road.

We spoke to yet more people who are very fed up with Labour. It was difficult to pin down what exactly was causing the discontent - the dithering and weak leadership from Gordon Brown, the huge tax rises, mismanaged public services, more expensive mortgages or the rampant inflation in most key bills, or the fact that the Government continues to insist everything is fine. It will be interesting to see what happens on May 1st!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Station Area Redevelopment

I've been out taking some photos for my next campaign newsletter that should be hot off the press very soon. Walking around the station site, I was amazed at the shear scale of the site and what is being proposed - which includes amongst other things 1,250 units of student accommodation. More details through the rose tinted spectacles of Ashwells, the developer involved are here. The application is currently being considered, and will require careful scrutiny of the detail. My worry as ever is that they trying to pack too much into the space, and the effects will be chaos on the local transport system. Good to see the Guided Bus works progressing apace though:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mindless vandalism

I came across another another bit of mindless anti-social behaviour whilst out campaigning this morning:

Reported to the Council via FixMyStreet, but I can't help wondering - how many people have been prosecuted for vandalism to bus stops over the last few years, and will this damage ever feature on any crime statistics...

Campaign Pledges

All Coleridge residents should have received a copy of my first campaign newsletter - if you are a Coleridge resident who hasn't received it, be in touch and I'll dig out a spare.

As is tradition with these things, I have some campaign pledges. The Conservatives aren't about to take control of Cambridge City Council (we don't have any Councillors at all at the moment!), so it is difficult to promise how things will change, but these pledges describe what I think the key issues are in this election, and how having a Conservative Councillor will be able to make a difference.

1. Putting the council tax payer first
I will stand up for the Council Tax payer, continually question why our tax bills are so high and suggest cost savings where possible.
2. Planning for the future
I will fight plans that overdevelop sites around Coleridge, such as the airport and campaign to ensure all new developments are high quality and include significant transport improvements.
3. Tackling antisocial behaviour
I will work with the Council, police and management at trouble spots like the Leisure Park, looking for solutions that will reduce anti-social behaviour and make those who cause problems responsible for their actions.
4. Oppose plans for Congestion Charging in Cambridge
Labour is trying to blackmail Cambridge into agreeing to a congestion charge. I will oppose these plans.
5. Working harder for Coleridge Ward
I will fight tirelessly for local residents on ward issues. I will hold regular surgeries, and keep in touch regularly through newsletters and the internet.

I've already blogged on some of these issues, including Council Tax, Congestion Charging and Anti-social behaviour.

Planning is a huge topic - but some of the most important changes to Cambridge for centuries will be made over the next decade, with mind-boggling levels of new housing planned. Don't be mislead (particularly if you have been a keen student of some of Labour's literature in this election campaign!) - this housing is coming as a result of the Labour government attempting to force thousands of houses onto us by central dictat - the County Council was obliged to put together a structure plan that including vast levels of new housing, and the Lib Dems running the City Council (who really don't seem to care at all for Coleridge) insisted that the airport site should be chosen for thousands of high density houses. Government planning rules try to dictate in great detail how sites are developed, and as Councils demand the right to determine who lives in as many of the houses as possible, at vast cost paid for by some of those who can least afford it. The result is poor quality housing, failures to meet best environmental standards, lacking distinctive design, lacking facilities, lacking parking lacking decent transport and causing transport chaos for existing residents. Local objections to these grand plans appear to count for absolutely nothing, so we are in the crazy situation when many people desperately need housing in the area, yet every potential development is fought tooth and nail because people know it is going to be so horrible. It is hard to know what one Councillor can do, but I would like to argue the case for high quality new development, that local people will welcome, and we can be proud to look back on in a generation's time and say Cambridge is the better for it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Postal Voting Deadline

If you aren't going to be in Cambridge on 1st May, the deadline for applying for a postal vote is now very close - 5pm, 16th April.

To apply, download a form from here.

16th April is also the final deadline for registering for the elections on May 1st - the deadline for applying for a normal (non-medical emergency) proxy vote is the 23rd April.

Remember, its going to be a close two-horse race in Coleridge between the Conservatives and Labour - so getting a postal vote could make all the difference!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Graham Stuart MP visits Coleridge

I was fortunate enough to have Graham Stuart MP visit Coleridge yesterday to help with the Coleridge campaign. Graham was a Cambridge City Councillor until 2004, and in 2005 was elected as MP for Beverley and Holderness - he now serves on the Environmental Audit committee, scrutinising the climate change bill.

With a large team pictured above (Graham is in the middle, with Richard Normington, Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Cambridge), we had a good couple of hours speaking to residents on Coleridge Road about their concerns for the local area. Speeding cars appeared to be a common theme, along with issues like why it took so long for the traffic lights on Coleridge Road to be installed! I know all MPs are incredibly busy - many thanks to Graham for taking time out of his busy schedule.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New Mosque for Cambridge

I'm told that the Cambridge muslim community is interested in building a mosque on the former John Lewis warehouse site on Mill Road. I understand the site has been purchased, and there is likely to be a planning application. The main Cambridge mosque is currently squashed in to premises between Tenison Road and Mawson Road, and there have long been calls to make land available for a new purpose built mosque. The John Lewis site is much larger and currently becoming increasingly derelict:

Modern Britain can be proud of its tolerance between different faiths, and of the freedom to practice religions that is still not the case in many parts of the world. However, many residents in the area may be apprehensive about what a new mosque in the area may involve, and this would be an ideal time for the muslim community to build links with the wider community to break down barriers caused by ignorance and even fear. If I was involved in the project, I would want to be communicating with local residents and community groups immediately - and not wait until a planning application has been submitted and rumours have been allowed to get ahead of the reality.

Whilst I would support the muslim community generally in its desire to build a new mosque, any planning application should be considered on its merits. This is a large site, so any redevelopment is likely to be mixed use including housing. My usual concerns about quality of design and construction, transport, car parking and cycle parking would all apply, along with the desire not to see the distinctive mix that is Mill Road overwhelmed, and to see significant liaison and bridge building with the wider community.

Monday, April 7, 2008

On Your Bike

Living so close to most Coleridge residents, my main way of getting round the ward is on the trusty election 'battle bike', which is almost certainly the quickest way to make most journeys:

Unfortunately it will be off the road for a couple of days having a major overhaul (its first for several years), that will cost nearly £100.

At first this seems eye-watering for a bike, but it has a good frame, and nearly all the mechanical parts are worn out and need replacing. And then you compare it to other forms of transport. I have probably travelled about 3,000 miles on the bike without any major repairs, i.e. the cost of these miles is about 3p per mile. My car, by comparison costs about 15p a mile in petrol, before you even consider depreciation, insurance, car tax (lets not think about that too much or it will upset me), MOT, servicing etc. Even my marathon running shoes which need replacing reasonably frequently probably cost about 10p per mile run.

Its pretty clear cycling is a very cost effective way of getting around, as well as being environmentally friendly and keeping you fit. Not everyone can cycle, and its not suitable for all journeys, so we still need to provide other forms of transport, and the motorist is already taxed and harassed too much. But when we plan the future development of Cambridge, I think much more needs to be done to make cycling quicker and more convenient wherever possible.

UPDATE: The bike is now back and running very well after its complete rebuild. Many thanks to Blazing Saddles on Cherry Hinton Road!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Full list of candidates

The full list of candidates at the City Council elections is now available here. The usual suspects are standing in Coleridge, and it is a re-run of last year's contest between myself and Labour's sitting Councillor who was 18 votes ahead last year.

UKIP are also standing again. It was very frustrating watching where UKIP voters second votes went last year, as it is quite clear that they cost the Conservatives the chance of getting a Councillor elected. It will be the same for potential UKIP voters again this year - if you want to help the fanatically pro-EU Labour party stay in power, even after they broke their promises of a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, then carry on voting UKIP - I can't think of any other reason to vote for them!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Empty Properties

I've been on the campaign trail from one end of the ward to the other today.

A common theme was empty properties. When it comes to posh flats, you can get some idea from the electoral register how many properties are likely to be unoccupied. The Belvedere has a relatively high occupancy rate, the Levels next door apparantly less so. Rumours abound of investors leaving property empty to maximise returns. To my Labour opponent, I dare say this is a terrible situation, and the state should step in as soon as possible to try forcing landlords to accept tenants or otherwise take control of the property. I say not so quick - people should have the right to do what they want with their own property, and as long the owner behaves lawfully and responsibly, the state should be very reluctant to intervene - its not as if the state's record in manipulating housing markets is something to be proud of. Personally I think this is a temporary situation, led by landlords who have come unstuck with a lack of tenants for their flats, and are being overoptimistic about the levels of rent or sale price they will be able to get in future (is a banner proclaiming prices from £425k really helping generate sales leads?). But if burnt fingers are the result (and that is by no means certain), these professional investors will be more careful about how they allocate their resources in future, and everyone will benefit.

At the other end of the ward, residents have to put up with this:

This is no longer a case of a property owner harmlessly holding on to their property - residents are suffering from this eyesore, which is encouraging criminal behaviour. This site needs redevelopment as soon as possible. When I was a Councillor previously, the Council had the power to force residential property owners in high demand areas like Cambridge to bring residential property back into use, or face compulsory purchase. I think it is time for the Council to write to the owners of all empty properties in the ward and remind them of this power, but be much more willing and swift to use these powers in the case of the block pictured on Perne Road.

Another complaint heard more than once is that the Council is apparantly leaving its own properties empty unnecessarily long - it is going to be really difficult to investigate to what extent this is the situation before I am elected as a Councillor - this really would make it much easier to get answers to the relevant questions...

Officially a candidate!

I've received confirmation from the returning officer that my nomination papers have been declared valid - this should guarantee me a slot on the ballot papers come May 1st. The full list of candidates will be available on the 8th April, which will provide confirmation of which current Councillors are not seeking re-election.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pavement Politics

Had another interesting evening speaking to local residents this evening. Pavements are the type of problem Councillors like to fix. In reality there is a limited amount of money available each year for the purpose, so how it used to work when I was a Councillor was that Councillors are asked to nominate the worst areas in the ward, and footpaths were fixed in order. Everyone would like perfect pavements (but almost certainly wouldn't want to pay for them), and sometimes complaints are about streets that are a long way from worst in the ward. But when you get complaints about footpaths 3 times in 50 yards of canvassing, something has gone wrong. Some of the pavements in the area were merely bad. In parts they were downright dangerous.

This has been reported to the Council via FixMyStreet - be interesting to know if this is just something that inexplicably hadn't been reported before, or is something that is thought to be an acceptable state of repair for the time being.

Another big issue in this area is the Council's closure of Tiverton House. As a non-Councillor, it is hard to keep on top of all the issues considered by the Council, so where better to find information than on the Council's website. Typing 'Tiverton House' into the search box on, and you would think this is a currently available facility (that has just had its lift refurbished!). As a Councillor, I pleaded that the Council should focus its e-government efforts on making comprehensive, reliable and relevant information available on the website - looks like there is still a way to go, but then the Lib Dems did pride themselves on putting their most IT clueless person in charge of the relevant committee (as it was felt more important to sympathise with those who are less IT able than to make competent decisions...). I digress - from a google search for "tiverton house" cambridge, (can't bear to put in a link, lets call it "Cambridge Pravda" some way down the first page of results) I can work out what has happened. Whilst Labour are bemoaning this closure, they might want to ponder the effect of targets and onerous standards from government on the provision of sheltered housing. Anyway, I still can't find out what is likely to happen to the site now - and local residents are concerned about the effects of possibly living next to a large building site...

Post Offices: 'Nothing to do with me'

As reported in todays CEN, Gordon Brown has claimed that closures threatening Cambridge post offices are 'nothing to do with me'.

Politicians have a bad enough name as it is - it really doesn't help that when Labour's unpopular policies are carried out, it claims it is nothing to do with them. In this case the Royal Mail is blamed - despite it being Labour policy to carry out the closures, and the government recently turned down Conservative plans to save them in the House of Commons. They do this with the NHS - if a Primary Care Trust announces cuts, it is always the fault of the PCT, a quango run by government appointees. As an ordinary voter, how are the boards of these organisations controlled - where is the democracy in their decision making?

Answer, the only democratic control is via the Government, and they implement the Government's policies. When those policies are unpopular, it is the Government who is to blame. Gordon Brown likes to announce and re-announce things he thinks will be popular - he should have some bottle and take responsibility for his ever increasing number of unpopular decisions.