Common sense, no secrecy and a direct telephone line - three promises from Paul Bullen if he is elected as the first mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
The UKIP county councillor has no qualms about spilling the details on commercial deals in the name of transparency, and he is guaranteeing that he will make himself available to all residents across the county who fancy giving him a call when they want to make their point known to the mayor.
Mr Bullen, of St Ives, said: “When I first got elected into local government I was told by established politicians that I was mad to give all my personal details out to the public, that I’d be inundated with idiots with their own projects.
“You know what, I haven’t had one contact from one person who I would say did not have a legitimate concern that I could help with.
“And yes, if I get elected mayor, I’m going to represent 600,000 plus people rather than the eight or nine thousand I currently represent, but I don’t believe they will abuse the position by me being contactable at any time.
“They can call me and speak to me direct. I will answer the telephone. If, however, I’m in a meeting or I’m doing something else, or I’m on holiday, then that call will be diverted to somebody else who will take it.
“Most of the problems I get are a blight on the person who calls me. It’s really upsetting their life, and nine times out of 10 I can solve that problem with one phone call or email.
“And I envisage that even as a mayor I will be able to do that.”
Reasons for contacting the mayor will not be to sort out a bus pass, said Mr Bullen.
Instead, he explained: “Let’s say I as a mayor, having done all of my consultation and due diligence, have decided to put 20 houses facing your back garden.
“You missed the consultation - for some reason you were missed out - pick the phone up and talk to me. I’ll listen to them.”
Mr Bullen also wants to diverge from keeping any information which others would call “commercially sensitive” out of the public domain.
Promising total transparency, with the press and public never excluded from meetings, he said: “As far as I’m concerned there will be nothing that I will do which will be commercially in confidence.
“I’ve got no problems with saying ‘I’ve got a bid for ‘n’ million from this company’, because I’ve found it will bring other companies up which will say, ‘hang on Mr Mayor, I can do that same job for less than that’.
“There will be no secrecy and my door will be open, exactly as it is now.”
Liverpool-born Mr Bullen has had an interesting career, spending 20 years in the RAF which included service during the Falklands and Gulf War conflicts and in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
He then set up his own company HPC Marine Ltd which carries out marine surveys, and he has served as a magistrate in Peterborough.
Based on that insight, he said: “I know the deprivation here, I know the crime and why it’s committed.”
On a lighter note, he confessed to preferring Peterborough as a shopping destination than Cambridge, citing cheaper parking and shops being concentrated in a smaller area. But he is confident he can bring more to the city than topping up the tills of various retail outlets.
He added: “People will get common sense. I’m a common sense individual. I’ve got a wealth of knowledge, a wealth of experience - both commercially and in public service - but the one thing is common sense.”
Social housing is a key pledge
The Cambridgeshire county councillor said every penny of the new mayor’s £100 million housing budget (on top of Cambridge’s separate £70 million fund) should be spent on homes for people who are already living in Cambridgeshire but cannot afford to get on the ladder.
Mr Bullen made reference to the saga at St Michael’s Gate in Parnwell, where 72
residents are being evicted and replaced by homeless people, as proof that Peterborough needs more social housing.
But there will be no special deals for the city which will have to compete for its share of the money with the rest of Cambridgeshire.
He said: “We should not be using that money to build homes for people to come into the county. We should be using that money to provide housing for our residents who at the moment can’t afford to get on the housing ladder or are unable to find rented accommodation.”
Mr Bullen, who said he will not have a mayor’s office if elected, was quick to reference St Michael’s Gate which has seen two private firms begin evicting tenants before agreeing a three year deal worth nearly £1 million a year for Peterborough City Council to use the empty homes as temporary accommodation for homeless families.
He said: “I personally don’t know all the details, but from what I’ve read and what I’ve seen I think it was an absolute catastrophe for those people involved.”
Aside from housing, the elected mayor will have a vast remit over the county’s transport when he or she is elected in early May.
A combined authority headed by the mayor will have £600 million over 30 years to spend on infrastructure, but Mr Bullen is wary about blowing all of that at once.
He said: “We’ve got to use it not on vanity projects that won’t work. It has to be used on projects that are needed, that are deliverable and that are cost-effective.
“Other candidates will tell you they have oven-ready projects and are going to hit the ground running and spend the money straight away.
“No, I would not do that. I would take a step back, I’d look at what’s needed, and then I’d take a decision having done a reasonable analysis.
“My gut feeling at the moment is, if we have extra money for transport and infrastructure, let’s use it initially to put right what we currently have. Because it’s no good, say, dualling the A428 or A47 if all the roads leading to those roads are full of potholes.”
On transport in Peterborough, Mr Bullen notes: “I will admit straight off I don’t know a great deal about Peterborough city because I don’t live there. I will find out.
“My impression from people I’ve spoken to at the moment is actually Peterborough out of the whole county is probably one of the best served for transport infrastructure.”
One policy which the St Ives resident wants to look at is community transport which, he explains, “is more or less dial-a-ride. You can ring up, you can book it, and they turn up with a 16 seat minibus. Some of them run semi-scheduled services.”
The thinking behind it is: “It gives the elderly the ability to get out, to meet people, to be more independent and therefore to stay healthy longer.
“There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a house on your own with nobody to talk to.”