Lib Dem hopeful wants to provide a '˜strong voice' for the region

It's hard to think what is worse - getting up at 4.30am every Saturday to go for long-distance runs or standing for public office.

Sunday, 2nd April 2017, 3:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:31 pm
Cambs and Peterborough mayoral candidate Rod Cantrill EMN-170313-180101009
Cambs and Peterborough mayoral candidate Rod Cantrill EMN-170313-180101009

Clearly the Liberal Democrat candidate to become Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has no qualms putting the hard yards in both professionally and during his spare time, but he insists keeping the county on a strong footing will require getting a real sweat on.

“I think Brexit will result in some major material economic volatility for this country, and what one saw in Cambridge when the financial crisis happened is that commercial developers just stopped building full stop,” he says.

It would make a nice break to never hear the word ‘Brexit’ again, with so much of the news dominated by something which is only just about to start.

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But Mr Cantrill’s prediction of a big economic shock stirs memories of the bitter referendum campaign, when financial oblivion was the experts’ views on a Leave win.

Quizzed further on the subject, the Cambridge city councillor adds: “I was a keen Remain campaigner, very heavily involved in a cross-party Remain campaign in Cambridge called Cambridge for Europe.

“People have voted, you have to respect the vote. I understand why people voted [as they did], but the reality is if we have a hard Brexit this region’s going to be impacted just like every other region.

“And the role of the mayor is to basically fight for the region. What the mayor should be doing is lobbying the Government and engaging with the Government to protect the region from the harshness of that Brexit.

“Nobody voted to have less money in their pocket, but that’s precisely what will happen, so the role of the mayor should be about protecting the region from that hard Brexit.

“And that’s not about having a second referendum, it’s about making sure we have the funds to preserve, maintain and grow the economy in the region during this very volatile period.”

Mr Cantrill’s idea as mayor is to put together a Brexit advisory panel with “key stakeholders” across the region. After explaining his Brexit strategy he then takes a dig at his Conservative rival for mayor, James Palmer, who has used his Twitter account to name-drop Conservative ministers and MPs he has met during his campaign.

He says: “I know certain candidates will say ‘well actually I have a relationship with everybody in national government and isn’t that great, right’.

“Well, I have a reputation for actually standing up - and it doesn’t matter whether it’s people in my own party or people elsewhere -and trying to do the best for the people who elect me. And that’s what the mayor should be - a strong voice, a strong beacon for the region.”

Mr Cantrill founded Millington Advisory Partners, an “independent mergers and acquisitions company” according to its website, and he is a trustee at Wintercomfort for the homeless in Cambridge.

Add in 13 years as a councillor, some of which were spent as executive councillor for finance and commercial, and the miner’s son feels he has the perfect experience to be voted in as mayor on May 4.

He added: “I have a background in business, but I also have strong experience in local government, both in an executive role and in terms of an opposition role.

“In addition to that I think I live a normal life as well, I’m not in a political bubble. I do other things outside those two roles.”

Candidate bids to keep his campaign on the right tracks

Putting in new train stations in the north and south of Peterborough is a key aim for Rod Cantrill.

The Liberal Democrat says he wants to speak to the city council about the ambition if he is elected as Cambridgeshire’s first mayor.

Asked if a station in Hampton is a priority for him, he replied: “I think so, looking at where the growth is in the south of the city. I see that as a major opportunity to build in some material infrastructure.”

Aside from trains, the keen cyclist wants to build fewer roads (partly to improve air quality) and focus more on improving public transport.

He said: “We could continue tarmacking, but tarmacking will only get you so far, and in three years or five years you will be in the same position again.”

Mr Cantrill was unaware of Peterborough’s Bridge Street cycling ban, but asked about cycling in the city he said: “The impression I get is the cycling provision is pretty good. If you look at Sustrans’ analysis of Peterborough from a cycling perspective, it sits up there out of 380 odd councils for people cycling once a month.

“I think there’s a major opportunity to enhance that cycling infrastructure as part of being mayor, because I think the more you can get people out of cars and cycling or on public transport will help.”

Housing is another key area of the mayor’s portfolio, with £100 million to spend outside of Cambridge on homes.

Mr Cantrill, who grew up in the Nottinghamshire mining village of Annesley, wants to help the people who are at the “bottom of the pile”.

He said: “The affordable housing opportunity is to look at joint equity, to look at rent to buy, to look at discounted market rent, and maybe look at some of these things around a living rent type of concept which some cities around the world have, where you are putting some cap on the rental market.” But Mr Cantrill also warned: “If we’re not careful we’re going to run like mad to deliver lots of houses, but at the end of the day we’re building communities. It’s schools, shops and transport.”

The Liberal Democrat’s aim is to put “jobs in those places where houses are being built and where you can then put in public transport.”

Asked if that means Peterborough will benefit more than other parts of the county because of its strong growth, he replied: “I’m not going to be the candidate that promises everything to everybody. From what I can see in some of the public articles there are candidates out there promising the world to everybody.”

Mr Cantrill says his knowledge of Peterborough is “increasing rapidly.”

He added: “I’ll be very honest with you that I don’t know all the parts of the region as well as I would like to, and one of the key roles - not just as mayor but as a candidate - that I’m keen to do is listen to people.

“That is a fundamental piece of being mayor in the initial period - to meet people and understand more of the issues that they face, and what the opportunities are as well for places like Peterborough and the surrounding area.”