Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bower's Blueprint #3 - No to forcing Marshall off the airport

This is the third of a series of posts on Bower's Blueprint for Coleridge - a set of pledges to which I would work if elected as county councillor on 4th June.

No to forcing Marshall Aerospace off the airport
I will resist plans to build high density housing on the site of Cambridge Airport.

Why are we opposed to development on the airport?
Marshall is a key local employer that provides training and opportunity for people in Cambridge; we do not wish to see it go.

We are concerned about the effect on traffic in the East of Cambridge from the development. Although a cynic might suggest the Lib Dems supported the airport for development as it is a long way from their voters in West Cambridge, they claim the proximity to the centre of Cambridge would make it ideal for a car-free development, as everyone can walk, cycle or use public transport. They would wish this fantasy to be enforced by providing no new major roads, limited car parking on the development and a congestion charge in Cambridge.

This is the same type of fanciful thinking that assumes nobody living in any new development will want to own a car if you don’t provide adequate parking. However the consultant's report looking at the transport effects concluded that even if a congestion charge was introduced (which we are of course completely opposed to), the effect on East Cambridge roads would be horrific, with the dualling of Perne Road, and even more chaos on Newmarket Road. In short, a terrible deal for existing Coleridge residents.

How did the idea come about?
The proposed development on Marshall’s Airport is a direct result of the Labour Government's top-down housing targets which mandate how many homes must be built in our area. Although local authorities were involved in deciding where housing should be built, coming up with the structure plan in 2001, which became the Regional Spacial Strategy for the East of England, it was clear from the sheer numbers the Government required that many unsuitable sites would be chosen.

Conservatives were the first to warn in 1998 that Labour's targets for increased housing (in the South, while bulldozing the North) would lead to the threat of Cambridge Airport being chosen for development. These warnings were dismissed by Labour initially as scaremongering but David Howarth's Lib Dems in Cambridge soon requested that the airport be used for 12,000 homes!

How likely is it to happen?
Marshall has tried to find a site to which to relocate its business, but has so far failed to do so. This is a major barrier as to date management have indicated they would like to keep the aerospace business close enough to Cambridge for most staff to transfer to the new site.

'Cambridge East' is the last of the fringe areas intended to be developed and with other fringe sites around Cambridge stalled due to the spectacular collective misjudgement about the housing market it seems unlikely that it will be built any time soon.

Who is driving it now?
Cambridge Horizons, which is a 'partnership' quango, has been bullying Marshall to hurry up plans to find a new site for its business with the threat that the land would be put back in the greenbelt and therefore not available for Marshall to develop itself at some point if it should want to. There seems to be a last ditch effort going on to force through the development.

What can Conservatives do?
The Conservative Party has pledged to scrap Regional Spatial Strategies and allow councils to rewrite their Structure Plans so that developments can reflect local needs and priorities. When Coleridge Conservatives discovered this policy we were ecstatic, as this really would save Cambridge!

This is only one part of radical plans by David Cameron to redistribute power from the centre back to local areas. It will help to end the culture in elected local government representatives of blaming other levels of government for all their woes instead of taking responsibility.

While we wait for what I hope will turn out to be a Conservative government I pledge to resist the existing plans for Cambridge East.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Police Raid Golding Road Address

I've had the following from the police via ecops:

"Yesterday a warrant was carried out at an address in Golding road. As a result of this a large amount of what is believd to be class A drugs were discovered and five people were arrested. Class A drugs include Heroin and Crack Cocaine. This warrant was carried out because of information received from local residents and your local officers. If this is proved to be Class A then the total value would be in the thousands of pounds, a significant amount. I would like to thank all the people that gave me information and please continue to do so. Sometimes it may seem we are not acting fast enough but we have to make sure these things are carried out at the right time."

If this is the address I am thinking of, then the police have known about it for ages - I certainly passed on resident concerns over a year ago, and I will be interested to know the outcome. If the people arrested are found guilty of serious drug offences, I will have questions for several authorities about why this was allowed to go on so long.

However, incidents of this type are relatively rare in Coleridge, and with the support of local residents, we can make sure dealing in illegal drugs is stamped on very hard and as quickly as possible.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Speeding priority moves forward

Following our victory at East Area committee on police speeding enforcement, I have been trying to help move forward this priority, and suggested the following action plan:
  • Ask Councillors in East Area what the key problem roads are that they would like to see tackled. (For Coleridge I suggest Coleridge Road and Birdwood Road top priorities, then Rustat Road and Cherry Hinton Road).
  • Prioritise Roads for consideration.
  • Use speed monitoring equipment (as used in Queen Ediths Way to assess situation prior to action)
  • Police enforcement action, backed up with local publicity, press, Speedwatch etc. over a period of time.
  • Use speed monitoring equipment again to determine if actions have had an effect even when enforcement patrols not present.
  • Evaluate if we have learnt anything useful for tackling this problem going forwards
These suggestions have now been considered by the officers Neighbourhood Action Group and they will come up with their version of the plan - we will be taking a close interest in this to ensure it reflects the priority adopted by the committee.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Postal Votes being received

Postal ballot papers for the County and Euro elections should have been posted late last week, and will be arriving imminently if not already.

We would encourage everyone to return them promptly, but if it does get too late to post, they can be returned (fully completed per the instructions) to your usual polling station on polling day, June 4th. The instructions need to be followed very carefully, especially the declaration, or the vote won't count (I understand that if the signature or date of birth is missing/wrong, the ballot papers aren't even opened...). If you need to be issued with a new ballot paper, or need any help, please ring electoral services at the City Council on 01223 457048.

The Euro ballot paper is a bit of a monster - 14 parties. I would urge everyone to vote Conservative obviously, but I was having chat in the pub last week with a friend who works for Labour's Eastern region MEP. 

We disagree on many things, but the one thing we did agree on was what a bizarre reaction to the expenses problems of MPs a UKIP vote would be. They really do win hands down when it comes to dreadful behaviour or failing to stand up for their constituents. Of the 12 elected at the last European elections, one-third have left or been expelled since. 1, Ashley Mote was found guilty of 21 counts of fraud and sent to jail. Another, the Eastern region's Tom Wise has been charged with false accounting and money laundering. And the ones that do remain have failed to stick up for British interests in Europe - voting to let French and Spanish trawlors fish in British waters, voting against laws to cut down on red tape, and voting against free trade to open up markets and help developing countries. No wonder former leader Robert Kilroy-Silk said "Frankly I don't rate any [of UKIP's MEPs]... I was embarassed at their behaviour, their naivety and their immaturity and their stupidity"

If a protest vote now allows a hard working Conservative MEP, who would stand up for Britain to be replaced by another UKIP waste of space (or worse), it would be very bad news for Britain.

I've already posted my ballot paper!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bower's Blueprint #2 - No to a Cambridge Congestion Charge

This is the second of a series of posts on Bower's Blueprint for Coleridge - a set of pledges to which I would work if elected as county councillor on 4th June.

No to a Cambridge Congestion Charge!
I fully oppose congestion charging for Cambridge. We do not need another Labour stealth tax and particularly not one so inequitable that it would tax the poor off the roads. I have been campaigning against the idea ever since it was first floated and will continue to do so.

How did it get to be on the cards?
Having been forced by the government to build unimaginable numbers of housing in the "Cambridge sub region" Cambridgeshire County Council needs funding to put in place the transport infrastructure that the developments require.

Unfortunately the government compounded the problems by offering the requisite funding with the blackmail condition that the county must implement congestion charging in return.

Our record
Cambridge Conservatives have had some successes in opposing congestion charging:

1. Under our pressure the county council decided to set up a transport commission to look at all the options for transport in the county, meaning that congestion charging was not an inevitable outcome.

2. Richard Normington, the Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman for Cambridge, wrote to Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Transport, asking him to follow Conservative Party policy and drop the link between TIF and congestion charging. Cambridgeshire County Council then followed our lead. (There are signs that this could be successful - see below.)

Also to be congratulated are our neighbours, the Conservatives running South Cambridgeshire District Council, who have formally rejected the tax.

The other great development in the battle against congestion charging was the decisive rejection of a TIF bid for Manchester that would have included congestion charging. It was rejected by 84% of voters including a majority in every district.

Despite scaremongering from pro-TIF groups, i.e. all the other parties, recent news reveals that Manchester has been given £1.4bn of extra transport funding in place of the abandoned TIF bid.

Where do the other parties stand?
Labour - the government is blackmailing us with the charge and locally Labour have been in favour of road pricing in the past although at the moment they are appearing to oppose the charge, so we can't be sure exactly what they think. The Labour PPC was several months late making up his mind - sort of.

Lib Dems - in favour in principle. Not that you would have thought it from some of the literature they have put out. They are not known as the 'all things to all men' party for no reason... They are of course trying to get the best of both worlds by opposing specifics and stoking up the worst kind of nimbyism with irresponsible suggestions that their audience is not responsible for congestion and should somehow be exempt. This is a completely unworkable solution of course - even without a discount/exemption the charge would cost more to run than it would raise - with one it would be a complete financial disaster!

Green Party - in favour in principle and practice.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spot the camera

The problems are continuing on Hills Road bridge. The hope of the single lane working finishing by Mon 18th has been dashed by technical problems and the weather. The hope had been to place 10 piles into the bridge in 5 days. Unfortunately the first pile took four days, after the steel reinforcement cage got stuck in the concrete and had to be drilled out. There was more progress last weekend with 4 piles placed, but high winds stopped the rig being used on Monday (so the road stayed open in both directions). The work may be finished by the end of the week, subject to no further delays.

The mobile CCTV that had been asked for for the duration of single lane working has been even more of a Saga. The intention when I requested this was to deter dangerous driving, and look out for dangerous traffic infringements to encourage more effective policing of the situation. 

On Monday 11th, the promised CCTV hadn't been put in place. Despite months of reminders and specific assurances I received only a week earlier that is was in hand, nobody from the County Council had spoken to CCTV at the City Council. A few phone calls later and this was fixed. Its tempting to say they shouldn't have bothered. In terms of deterrent, here is the photo from a similar angle to that for a driver from Cherry Hinton Road, about to turn right and mow down a bike on the bridge. The little yellow sign is the only warning that they are caught on camera (assuming they hadn't noticed the camera itself higher up the lamppost).

There are two cameras, at each end of the bridge. These may or may not be able to spot problems on the bridge - we may never know. The City Council CCTV operators don't believe that dangerous overtaking (or doubtless anything short of a serious injury accident) is a problem worthy of police involvement, and they are currently refusing to allow anyone to look at the tapes to understand what incidents of a lesser nature are occurring, so there is no prospect of using the cameras to help drive an enhanced police response to the problems. Not impressed, I just hope nobody is seriously injured during the rest of these works...

European Team Supports Coleridge

The Conservative European team for our region (East of England) was supporting Coleridge tonight, knocking on doors. We have a strong team going into the elections for the European Parliament, determined to stand up for British interests in Europe.

Conservatives have a track record of getting good deals out of Europe - sadly many of these have needlessly been trashed by Labour in the hope of being 'good Europeans', such as the rebate and opt-outs on various bits of legislation.

Pictured above are Vicky Ford (left), who is third-placed candidate on the Conservative list and Robert Sturdy MEP (right), both of whom take a special interest in Cambridge.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Perne Road Shops

Finally some signs of movement on redevelopment of the Perne Road shops site - apparantly the owners met with planners on site in April. I have now chased the planning department to ensure they get back promptly to the agents of this site with any comments to try and get all parties moving again.

I fear we are still some way from a planning application likely to be acceptable to local residents and the planners - the onerous planning regulations from the City Council are really not helping...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bower's Blueprint #1 - Keep Down Council Tax

This is the first of a series of posts on Bower's Blueprint for Coleridge - a set of pledges to which I would work if elected as county councillor on 4th June.

Keeping down council tax
Council tax has more than doubled since 1997 when Labour came into power.

More and more obligations have been passed on to local authorities, without adequate funding (such as the 'fully-funded' concessionary bus fares scheme that is now costing city taxpayers £1.5m per year).

We also have whole areas of activity that never used to happen - or not to the same extent. 'Partnership working' between authorities and quangos is now a massively bureaucratic activity, consuming vast amounts of senior management time. The whole process is given fancy names like Comprehensive Area Assessment and Local Area Agreements, but the result is less accountability for individual authorities and greater emphasis on meeting government targets. Costs are vast and unquantifiable, benefits are almost non-existent.

Whole new areas have opened up, like community engagement as a separate exercise, rather than just an intrinsic part of what the Council does (witness the city council's area committee's costing over £100 per member of the public who attends). And the climate change agenda pursued by councils could be seen as more about feeling good and being seen to be concerned, than tackling the real issues of climate change and energy security (like how we make the major technological changes required to the production, distribution and use of energy to avoid dependence on fossil fuels at a national or international level).

Councils are governed by targets - with councils monitoring hundreds of targets, many of which are only to help meet the latest eye-catching government initiative, so that more ring-fenced cash can be 'won' as local councils become ever more like branch offices of Whitehall.

As if this wasn't bad enough, many local people are now losing their jobs (we are coming across people on the doorstep whose main concern now is how they are going to pay the mortgage). The last thing they needed was the 4.5% council tax rise from Cambridge City Council. The county council responded to economic concerns by making savings and reducing the planned council tax rise to below 4% but we need to go further. The Conservatives have promised that if councils can keep rises to 2.5%, the government will match this from cuts in central advertising and keep council tax rises to zero. Keeping council tax rises below 2.5% should be the minimum we aim for.

Enough is enough! It is time for local councils to say we do NOT need to waste our money on armies of bureaucrats ticking boxes for a dying government’s targets.

Our Councils need to focus on basic provision of services, like social services and direct funding of schools. We desperately need more money going into potholes and highways maintenance.

This can be achieved by acting now to reduce resources spent monitoring and meeting hundreds of government targets, that no-one wants and no-one needs, and ruthlessly finding real efficiency savings. Councils like Conservative-run Hammersmith and Fulham have proved this is possible - they have just cut council tax again.

Labour just doesn't get it. Britain cannot afford the size of the state that Labour has created. Difficult decisions need to be made both nationally and locally, to balance the books - this is the only way to get us out of the terrible economic mess that Gordon Brown's boom and bust has created.

Labour's candidate in Coleridge is also Labour's parliamentary candidate in South Cambridgeshire - his job is to support Gordon Brown and his approach to government: carry on spending regardless of the economic consequences. This is the last thing taxpayers need from the county council.

Meeting Building Control over Tiverton House

We did meet the Council Building Control officer last week to discuss building control. In the event, although we couldn't discuss the specifics of Tiverton House, it was still useful.

Where there is a 'material change of use', building control regulations apply in all the following areas:

B1 (means of warning and escape) 
B2 (internal fire spread - linings) 
B3 (internal fire spread - structure) 
B4(2) (external fire spread - roofs) 
B5 (access and facilities for the fire service) 
C2(c) (interstitial and surface condensation) 
F1 and F2 (ventilation) 
G1 (sanitary conveniences and washing facilities) 
G2 (bathrooms) 
H1 (foul water drainage) 
H6 (solid waste storage) 
J1 to J3 (combustion appliances) 
L1 (conservation of fuel and power) -dwellings 
L2 (conservation of fuel and power – buildings other than dwellings) 
P1 and P2 (electrical safety) 

Many of which could be relevant for the proposed conversion of Tiverton House into student accommodation. 

There are however two problems - firstly, depending on how the work is done, there may not be a material change of use in building control terms - we will be monitoring carefully what happens here.

However, perhaps more importantly, under the building control regulations, the new owners of Tiverton House can and have used external approved building controllers rather than the Council's own building inspectors. As a result, the building controllers only have to deposit with the Council formal notices such as an initial notice that works are about to start, and a notice indicating compliance at the end.

To make it clear, there is nothing to say the developer or building controller will do anything other than apply the building control rules correctly and comply with them, but if they don't, the options to challenge this for a member of the public appear to be limited to say the least. 

The Approved Inspector scheme is run by the Construction Industry Council, so you would need to go through their published complaints procedure (if you thought building control regulations hadn't been applied properly). Trouble is, it is hard to see how you would know the regulations hadn't been applied correctly, as none of the plans are public (in the absence of a planning application...), nor do the public have significant means of redress in this case.

In conclusion, building control doesn't sound like an effective approach to regulating the development on the site - that is what the planning system if for, but we haven't given up on this line of enquiry, and it did open up one or two others...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two of our councillors are missing!

There was much bleating from Labour after the mildest suggestion in a newsletter earlier this year that Coleridge may see rather more of the Conservatives and particular members of the local Labour team than some of our elected Labour councillors, but since then Labour have been much keener to show the names of all three of our Coleridge Labour councillors.

So we were surprised to see the following on a letter that had been distributed by Labour to parts of the ward. Can it really be true that for the two Coleridge Labour councillors that live on the other side of Cambridge, they couldn't even get hold of them to sign their names at the bottom of a letter?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Police Surgery

Coleridge PCSOs Mark Mitcham and Mike Stribling will be holding a Beat Surgery on 22nd May, and local residents are encouraged to turn up to express views or concerns about local crime and anti-social behaviour issues, and to answer questions.

The Surgery will take place on the 22nd May 2009 from 7:00pm to 8:00pm at Lichfield Community Hall.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The price of victory

While Cllr Howell and I were securing a surprise victory in the battle at the city council's East Area Committee last Thursday to have speeding dealt with by proper monitoring and police enforcement someone was busy stealing my bicycle wheels outside the Cherry Trees Day Centre.

I hadn't had a bike stolen for three or four years now so perhaps I should count myself lucky it was only the wheels - time to heed the advice of my colleague in Kings Hedges and have it security-marked.

I suspect the thieves probably weren't aware that there were four police officers/PCSOs in the building at the time, which does cause me to reflect on how it can possibly be good value for money for those four public servants to have sat through hours of unrelated business before getting to the Neighbourhood Policing agenda item... Conservative Parliamentary Spokesman Richard Normington pointed out yesterday that the cost of these meetings per head of the general population in attendance is £195!

Finally, I'd like to thank Labour Coleridge Councillor Lewis Herbert for offering me a lift home after the incident...although in the event that didn't quite fit into my plans for a quick pint!

Meeting Building Control

I've arranged to meet up with a Building Control officer at the Council today to talk about building control, its role and powers etc, along with one of our Labour ward Councillors.

We would like to be discussing Tiverton House, and what the potential building control issues are for that building, but unfortunately the City Council's legal officers have advised that because another Building Controller is already working on the project for the developer, the Council's own officer can't even discuss the specifics of Tiverton House in any way. All I am trying to do is ensure that there is some way that local residents are given a voice over the future of Tiverton House - so it is a blow that as a local Councillor I can't get proper access to the information required, but hopefully we can get something useful out of the meeting today.

When I questioned the Executive Councillor for housing over Tiverton House at last weeks Area Committee, she was completely unaware that we can't talk to Building Control about Tiverton House, nor did she seem aware at all of the chaos her decision to flog off the building to the highest bidder had caused - we did however hear that the money that was supposedly required to complete the refurbishment program for other sheltered housing may not be enough - there is still no clear plan for the redevelopment of Seymour Court... I think the message may be starting to get through though that local residents aren't happy.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Surprise victory on policing speeding in East Area

Policing priorities for Abbey, Coleridge, Petersfield and Romsey were again up for discussion at the council's East Area Committee this last Thursday.

We learnt that the Speedwatch scheme which had been kicked off at the previous opportunity to set policing priorities on 15th January had only operated two sessions in the entire four-month period, only one 34-minute session of which was in Coleridge, and issued three letters to speeding motorists, only one of which was for the Coleridge Road session. For ongoing activities, only four volunteers have been trained.

This was despite the Speedwatch scheme being publicised across the ward by Conservatives and again to hotspots, as well as being publicised by Labour and apparently also by PCSOs, although I'm not sure how that was done.

The wording accepted for the priority in January was:
Speedwatch – to assist community volunteers to administer the initiative.
Whereas the alternative to which Cllr Howell tried to amend the priority but which was rejected by all other councillors present, was:
Tackle speeding on residential roads in East Area primarily through police monitoring and enforcement and also co-ordination of other activities such as Speedwatch that may help reduce problems.
Nevertheless, Cllr Howell went on to support the unamended priority, as despite deep reservations from within the Conservative team in Coleridge about the nature of the Speedwatch scheme we were happy to support a pilot of the initiative - we have an open mind to the possibilities.

As a member of the public I questionned the effectiveneness of Speedwatch during the period, wanting to know how many police patrols would have been possible had the priority been set differently, to which the sergeant, astonishingly, could not provide an answer.

Even more bizarrely the sargeant then went on to ask if I would really have wanted them not to concentrate on proper crimes like theft. While I am very sympathetic to that point, it did not make sense to me in the context - surely these are priorities set by the councillors for the local team and therefore Speedwatch was given roughly a third of the resources available for prioritisation - if this was not the case then then what is the point of the priorities? Were the police only too pleased that a priority had been selected that didn't require much effort? I don't ever remember the councillors taking this differential attention into account in their priority-setting process.

When the priorities came up for debate, Chris Howell tried for the fourth time since his election to the city council last May to get proper police action on speeding onto the priorities list. To my astonishment, and I think to that of some of the councillors too, Chris was at last successful in this mission, supported belatedly by his fellow ward councillors and Cllr Wright from Abbey, winning the vote 4-3!

The new priority is:
Tackling speeding on residential roads in East Area to include systematic evaluation of the problems and police enforcement action.
The police sergeant present when his recommended priorities for the next quarter were ammended was taken aback and wondered how they were going to achieve this. My first thought was: if you are struggling with this level of democratic involvement just you wait until we have elected police chiefs under a Conservative government! This rather makes a mockery of the Policing Pledge presented to us at the beginning of the neighbourhood policing agenda item!

When Coleridge Conservatives recently surveyed residents on how best to tackle speeding vehicles in Coleridge we found only 1.6% of respondents supporting the Speedwatch-style approach. Police patrols (as favoured by Coleridge Conservatives) and fixed speed cameras were the preferred solutions:

One of the arguments that Speedwatch proponents keep putting is that the scheme will help to identify areas that have a speeding problem. In my view this is a bogus argument and Speedwatch will only achieve a level of information equivalent to existing anecdotal evidence as the experience of Speedwatch teams is that people slow down for their setup, so they cannot gauge the natural speeds at which people are proceeding.

In contrast, the systematic speed monitoring that occured recently on Queen Edith's Way for the South Area Committee proved very effective at getting an accurate distribution of speeds over the course of the day and will improve on the anecdotal evidence we currently have. It is hoped that some of this kind of monitoring will now be possible in the East Area.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Runners and Riders for June 4th

The City Council has just announced nominations for the elections to be held on June 4th in the City Council area – 14 County Council seats, and 1 City Council by-election in East Chesterton.

Best wishes to Martin Ballard who is standing down as Coleridge County Councillor.

As usual, the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens will contest all seats up for grabs – it is important for supporters of a (more-or-less) mainstream party to know they have a candidate to vote for, even if they are unlikely to win the seat. UKIP have local candidates in the usual wards – including Coleridge. This is very frustrating for us as they really cannot win locally in Coleridge, but tempt some of our supporters to vote for them, thus helping Labour (whose policies are completely contrary to what I think UKIP claims to stand for!) – we can but try to explain this to the electorate.

Labour nationally have plummeted in the polls, on the back of Gordon Brown’s disastrous Boom and Bust leadership. But local factors can reduce the impact of this, and many wards that would be lost on a straight national opinion poll swing may be held, or could even be gained.

Additionally, the gloss has finally come off the Lib Dems running the City Council – it is long overdue for a re-evaluation of just how well they are running things. You can’t pretend to be ‘just local people doing their best’ and ‘almost non-political’ when fighting elections, then act like ruthless and highly political automatons in Council without the electorate eventually noticing the obvious inconsistencies and treating them on their record. £9m in Icelandic banks, £650k of Folk Festival ticket sales apparently lost, mature trees chopped down in the Cambridge chainsaw massacre, Councillor disgraced at the standards committee for blockading an ambulance but still supported by his group, Council tax up 4.5% regardless of the economic situation the list goes on.

The results of the elections in the City are some of the least predictable for a long while, but here are my tips as to where the main action could be, and guide to who needs to win where to say they have had a good result.

Petersfield is a key battleground – the Lib Dems picked up one city seat in 2004 and then won again at County level in 2005 on the back of David Howarth’s parliamentary victory. Since then Labour have reclaimed many of the voters that were lent to the Lib Dems, and won the seat back at City level. But Lib Dem County Councillor Nichola ‘Focus on’ Harrison is a feisty woman (Nichola - what was that abuse at East Area committee last night all about – Andy Bower was only asking a question about Speedwatch effectiveness…I digress) – she won’t be giving up without a fight. The Conservatives also have an extremely strong candidate with popular Mill Road businessman Shapour Meftah.

Abbey saw Labour lose a rock solid seat to the Greens last year, by a surprisingly large margin – I think Labour had been half-asleep in the ward for some time, and it isn’t clear they have woken up yet. It would be an excellent result for Labour to hold the seat, but it is unclear if the Green party candidate for the ward this year has anything like the profile of the winning City Councillor last year – although he is a former Labour Councillor! Julian Huppert the retiring Lib Dem Councillor for East Chesterton is standing in the ward he now lives in - doubtless tasked with stopping the flood of votes from the Lib Dems to the Greens with one eye to the general election - lets hope they won't resort to lying about the Conservatives excellent prospects again - but knowing the Lib Dems, I somehow doubt it. The Lib Dems have come fourth in Abbey on the last two occasions, last time scoring a dismal 6.6%.

Arbury is another seat the Lib Dems won by borrowing a lot of voters from Labour (and I dare say the odd Conservative too – they’re not known as the all things to all people party for nothing). This started with a Lib Dem by-election victory in Feb 2000 (I wonder what happened to the Labour agent that told their activists not to do any campaigning in case it woke up the opposition…). But thanks to perseverance of Cllr Mike Todd-Jones, Labour seem to be regaining ground. Possible Labour gain from the Lib Dems. Look out for a strong showing for Conservative Daniel Whant!

Anything could happen in Castle, John Hipkin, the independent who won for the City last May is also standing for the County. John has previously stood as a Labour and Liberal Democrat councillor (and has just divorced from the Green-Independent group on the Council), so who knows what his politics really are, but he knows how to win local elections. Yes John, the Conservatives do put up candidates against independents - apart from some obvious common sense on some aspects of housing and planning, it is hard to see why he should appeal to Conservative voters at all on policy grounds. The Lib Dems will want to make sure it isn’t a repeat of last year, but they are going to be pushed for resources around the City, so may no longer be in control of elections in Castle. It will all come down to the student vote in Castle, which should be more accessible to mainstream political parties than independents, but possible independent gain. The Conservatives have a great chance with Eddy McNaghten, in a ward with much latent Conservative support.

Kings Hedges is a ward that had some very favourable boundary changes for the Lib Dems in 2004, and this may be a simple mopping up exercise of the County seat – gain from Labour, but watch out for local resident and Conservative candidate Matthew Adams. 

Its worth also commenting on Romsey – and how formerly ‘Red Romsey’ is now looking quite solidly Lib Dem. Labour seem to have completely lost the plot here – on a very bad night they may even be pushed back into third- the Conservative vote, with candidate and Cockburn Street resident Sam Barker has been improving rapidly in recent years - now only 250 behind Labour compared to nearly 900 behind a decade ago. Popular candidate Tom Woodcock is now standing as an independent rather than Respect or whatever the looney left call themselves these days.

Finally, interesting choice of Labour candidate in Newnham - former Lib Dem City Councillor Malcolm Schofield. Local resident and well known in the division - who knows what could happen.

So what of the Conservatives chances overall – we have some excellent candidates with a great chance of winning across the City - with a fair wind and the strong Conservative support in recent opinion polls we could win anywhere, but we haven’t won a County division in the City since 1989, so any victory this year will likely be hard fought and a good result. The Conservatives polled around 25% of the vote last time (comfortably enough to be within reach of winning the parliamentary seat), this situation is almost (I said almost Colin) enough to persuade me of the merits of proportional representation.

Coleridge is likely to be a hard fought and close battle again this year – every vote will count. We have huge amounts of support in Cherry Hinton. And with the Lib Dems pressed across the City, and the Conservatives a strong second in many places, I think we are favourite to take at least one division from the Lib Dems – but which one I think most likely, I’ll leave you to guess…

Here are the candidates:


HAIRE, Timothy J. Conservative

HUPPERT, Julian L. Liberal Democrat

SALES, Paul* Labour & Co-operative




KIDMAN, Ian C. Labour & Co-operative

MOSS-ECCARDT, Rupert W.G.* Liberal Democrat

TERRY, Catherine E. Green

WHANT, Daniel Conservative



BROOKS-GORDON, Belinda M. Liberal Democrat


HIPKIN, John Independent

LAWRENCE, Stephen R. Green

MACNAGHTEN, Edward A. Conservative



CARTER, Christine M.* Labour

EDKINS, Laurence K. Liberal Democrat

FORD, Neil A. Green

HARCOURT, Charles S. Conservative



BOWER, Andrew J. Conservative

HOPKINS, Valerie T. Green

TARIQ, Sadiq Labour


YATES, Thomas S. Liberal Democrat


EAST CHESTERTON – County Council Election


FREEMAN, Leonard A. Labour

POPE, Peter H. Green

STRACHAN, James A. Conservative

WIJSENBEEK, Siep S. Liberal Democrat


EAST CHESTERTON Ward – City By-election


FRANCIS, Kevin Conservative

KERR, Susannah Liberal Democrat

POPE, Peter H. Green

WAKEFORD, Samuel R. Labour



ADAMS, Matthew W. Conservative

HUGHES, Primrose E.* Labour

PELLEW, Andrew R. Liberal Democrat

YOUD, James C. Green



GARRETT, Keith A. Green

LAWLOR, Sheila Conservative

OWERS, George B. Labour

WHITEBREAD, Sarah C. Liberal Democrat


NETHSINGHA, Lucy K. Liberal Democrat

SCHOFIELD, Malcolm P. Labour

SHARPE, James A. Conservative

YOUNG, Robert Green



HARRISON, Nichola J.* Liberal Democrat

MAY, Jennifer Labour

MEFTAH, Shapour Conservative

MITCHELL, Shayne M. Green



DOUGLAS, Donald F. Conservative

GOODACRE, Jonathan H. Labour

HEATHCOCK, Geoffrey* Liberal Democrat

WESTCOTT, Brian Green



BARKER, Samuel J.W. Conservative

BARR, Marjorie R.H. UKIP

BOURKE, KILIAN* Liberal Democrat

FREEMAN, Christine Labour

RICHARDS, Philip Green

WOODCOCK, Thomas A. Independent



GALLOWAY, Ceri B. Green

IONIDES, John M. Conservative

SHEPHERD, Caroline Liberal Democrat

STACEY, Pamela M. Labour



COLLIS, Alexandra L.J. Green

MORLEY, Michael J. Conservative

SARGEANT, Michael G. Labour

WILKINS, Kevin* Liberal Democrat

Hills Road Single Lane working to start Monday

The Guided Bus team have confirmed that the final stage of single lane working on Hills Road bridge on Monday, saying:

"Cambridge Water Company have completed their water main diversion as planned. BAM Nuttall are now preparing for the piling which will start on Monday 11th May as previously discussed.
Single lane working will be introduced from Monday morning.  BNL will be probing to check for obstructions on Monday. The Piling rig will be delivered on Monday evening after 7pm and will be set up on Tuesday with a view to starting piling on Tuesday afternoon. BNL plan to finish on Monday 18th May and will work through the weekend if required. The traffic management will be as before albeit on the opposite side of the bridge."

Following my request, supported by other local Councillors, the City Council is making available CCTV to cover the works, so if any cyclists etc are involved in incidents on the bridge, please be in touch if you would like me to ask the Council to review tapes. Fingers crossed that this work will finish on time, and the traffic nightmare will finally be behind us.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Footpath lighting for Corrie/Brackyn Roads

Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey in March of Brackyn Road and Corrie Road with regard to signs for cyclists and pedestrians, street lighting and parking. I include a summary of the results at the end of this posting.

The latest news from the city and county councils on the project to install a new lighting column is that the county council would be able to pay the running costs and that, with the support of local residents, a safe city bid may be successful in paying for the capital costs.

The proposed new light would direct all light downwards. There are two possible locations: near the flats or by the verge. Please let us know if you have any preferences!

Signs directing pedestrians and cyclists through the roads
Every respondent supported this, although there is some concern that the scheme drawn up by the council is bigger than needed and may have the (unwanted to some) effect of directing people through the area who had not already intended to go through it.

Additional street lighting for connecting path
This also was fully supported, and some people were willing to put their names to a grant application. This will be useful for the next stage in the process.

Commuter parking problems
Opinion was divided on the existence and extent of the problem. Yellow lines, at least on corners, were the most popular remedy.


We sadly had to exclude one particular anonymous response from the results. Coleridge Conservatives have produced a number of surveys during the year and we use the information received to help guide our campaigning on local issues, so we were disappointed that an anonymous Labour supporter apparently using a computer where Labour's county council candidate works tried to sabotage the survey by entering a spurious on-line submission.

Just say no to ID cards

I can scarcely believe the latest headline on the BBC website.

The country is going bust - whoever wins the General Election next year is going to be facing the worst crisis in public finances since, well since the last time there was a Labour government, thanks to Gordon Browns reckless borrow and spend policies of the last decade. Yet despite all this, they are still going ahead with plans for ID cards that will cost us all an estimated £5 billion pounds. From the BBC article:

At a series of meetings on Wednesday, Ms Smith will say post offices and pharmacies can play an important role in the success of the ID scheme, allowing people to give their fingerprints and a face scan while "out doing the shopping"

Each card will cost £30 with a further £30 charge for collecting the data.

"ID cards will deliver real benefits to everyone, including increased protection against criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists," the home secretary will say.

So lets get this straight, we will be expected to hand over £60, and our vital biometric information to the government, who will put it all in one place, a one stop shop for identity thieves.

From there it can be accessed by thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of government officials, from the same government that has a track record of catastrophic losses of personal data.

Having done this, the Government will then setup systems to protect national security that assumes the data on this database is always correct, and so foolproof that it will never be lost and cloned by anyone, such that when checking your identity, a simple match between your biometric information and that on the database record will be enough to confirm it is you. Even though your identity is actually only really defined by a vast and complex array of information starting with your genetic makeup, moulded by your experiences in life to date, and corroborated only by your whole current life circumstances and network of personal relationships.

As if this wasn't bad enough, by telling everyone the system is a foolproof way of determining someone's identity, either every organisation imaginable will have a live link to the database, or many people will accept a little bit of plastic saying 'ID card' as a foolproof way of assessing your identity. And this assessment may determine your right to access Government services that you have already paid for (several times over in the case of most full time employees not on means tested benefits).

And then the Government tells you that this system in some way protects or even benefits you.

You couldn't make up - the fact is the ID database will never be completely secure, it will always lose data, and it will always be possible to create fake records. And when that happens, innocent people will be denied access to services that are rightfully theirs, and the mad, bad or dangerous will be able to prove they are anyone they want to be, and use that information to convince the gullible (or even the sceptical) and allow them to do very damaging things.

So I say to the Labour Government, no, you will never have my biometric information - it is none of you business, and I will be a lot less safe if you take it and misuse it as you plan to do with the ID cards scheme.

There is a local politics angle - Labour's candidate in Coleridge on June 4th is also their parliamentary candidate in South Cambridgeshire, and he has a track record of defending the Government's record to the hilt - he recently spoke at a public meeting in support of Labour's lamentable record on civil liberties. When it comes to who will be co-operating locally with Labours planned ID cards scheme, as our local authorities will doubtless be called on to do in the near future, the Coleridge Labour candidate and Conservative candidate in are likely to be poles apart.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jesus Green Pool open from Saturday

Jesus Green open air pool will be open for the summer from this Saturday, 9th of May. The opening will be marked by activities during the day from 10am to 6pm such as pool games, face painting and later in the afternoon a BBQ.

The weather forcast is sunny spells, maximum temparature 17 degrees - still a bit cold for me.

So just how expensive is yellow paint?

There are a number of sites around the ward that desperately need some yellow paint - increases in the yellow lines around junctions like Corrie Rd/Davy Road, or putting in new yellow lines at junctions like Chalmers Road/Birdwood Road, and outside Ruth Bagnall court - all areas where people probably know they shouldn't park, but there currently isn't anything indicating this is the case, so people park there anyway.

County Council is claiming it has no budget for this work, and this is extremely frustrating. The problem is that the cost of putting down a bit of yellow paint seems to be out of all proportion to what you might expect. 

At St Margarets square, which has required a bit of yellow paint for years, the cost is estimated at £1,500. I simply cannot understand why it is so expensive. Yes, you have to agree and advertise a TRO (Traffic restriction order), and the contractors for this type of work seem to be as rare as reliable plumbers in the era before we discovered Poland, but even taking all this into account the costs look ridiculous. And if nothing else, the amount of time the bureacrats at the Council spend considering and shifting from one set of agenda papers to the next these various requests, you would have thought they could just get on with it.

I have asked for further details of why this costs so much, to see if the system can be streamlined - are we paying too much for statutory advertising? What are the contractual arrangements with those who will actually do the work - are we being ripped off? And finally, the County Council is extremely good at making the wholly inadequate funding from government go a long way, but in this case it is time to bite the bullet, pay to get in a job lot of yellow paint and fix all these problems in one go...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Transport commission response summary

The Cambridgeshire Transport Commission has released a summary of the responses it received from the public consultation on transport.

Coleridge Conservatives are pleased to note that the report seems to have been fair in representing the views of respondents from across the spectrum of opinions and to have aired some of the alternative ideas that people have come up with. Of course I remain completely opposed to congestion charging for Cambridge.

This is despite initial reservations by City Conservatives due to the duumvirate's history in recommending Labour's flawed TIF package in Reading.

The summary rightly starts off with some members of the public's criticisms of the premise of the questions and of the government's absurd regional housing targets.
1. With the congestion in and around Cambridge and plans to build a large number of new homes in Cambridgeshire, do you think transport improvements are needed?

Several respondents were critical of this question, which they saw as a leading question that would attract the self-evident response ‘yes’, luring respondents into then accepting the inevitability of a congestion charge.

“This is a leading question with all the subtlety of a double-glazing salesman - ask an opening question everyone… will say ‘yes’ to and leave the price (congestion charge) until question 5…” (email 9.2.2009)

Whilst indeed, many respondents did answer simply “yes”, accepting implicitly the growth agenda for Cambridgeshire and the consequent need for transport improvements, the survey found evidence of some very vocal opposition to Cambridgeshire’s development plans. There is concern that development is being pushed through despite the views of local people, and against their best interests.

“Why is Cambridge being forced into a policy of growth at all costs.” (427)

“We shouldn’t be building any more houses – the area is already ruined.” (18)

“Your first point assumes that this area is going to have thousands more houses built, because government and an unelected body (supposedly representing the Eastern Region) have deemed it to be necessary…” (email 5.3.2009)

“Building more homes should not be taken as a given but fought tooth and nail.” (737)

The commission also seems to have been perfectly willing to grill county officers in public meetings, confronting what sometimes seems like blind acceptance of the Labour Government's flawed plans for congestion charging and excessive and ineffective housing targets.

One thing missing from the summary, which various Conservative respondents had mentioned, was that it should not just be accepted that TIF requires congestion charging - the Conservatives have pledged nationally to abolish the blackmail link and the Conservative county council has asked Geoff Hoon to remove the link. Will Labour accept the challenge?

We look forward to the final report, due in June, as solutions to transport problems in Cambridge that do not involve punishing lower earning workers such as Labour's congestion charging would be highly welcome, such as the county's highly successful Park & Ride scheme.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Perne Road Shops

The Perne Road shops saga is extremely frustrating for local Councillors - the only powers that the Council has (i.e. the Council policy of compulsory purchase to bring empty property back into use) are draconian and not be be used lightly (particularly if the owner appears to be co-operating), but progress towards bringing a scheme in front of planners seems to have been dragging on for ever.

About three months ago we wrote to nearby residents about plans for the Perne Road shops that had just been presented to us by the owners and their agent/architect to bring the flats back into use - with planning discussions apparantly imminent. At the time we didn't give too much detail, as it did all seem too good to be true, and so it has been that months have passed - we have twice chased up the planning department and the owners about progress in this time. It does now however sound like they are ready to move forward with one or other plan for the site, after progress in commercial discussions.

We aren't holding our breath, and if things aren't demonstrably moving soon, it may be time to remind the owners that the Council does have powers to take action, even if we are a long way from that stage at the moment.