Lib Dems, Labour and independents to take over in Cambridgeshire

Liberal Democrat, Labour and independents on Cambridgeshire County Council have hammered out an agreement for a joint administration to run the authority.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 12:00 pm
Updated Friday, 14th May 2021, 12:11 pm

The agreement - which will run for at least two years, with the option to extend - is being signed by the leaders of the three groups at Shire Hall in Cambridge at noon today (Friday) with the document including a policy framework, protocols for working arrangements between the groups and a new committee structure.

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Lucy Nethsingha will be the nominee for leader of the council, with Labour group leader Cllr Elisa Meschini as deputy leader.

Cllr Nethsingha said: “I am absolutely delighted that we have been able to come to such a comprehensive and ambitious agreement for our joint administration for Cambridgeshire County Council.

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The new joint administration

“There are huge issues facing Cambridgeshire, and rebuilding after the Covid pandemic will not be easy, but we are excited about the prospect of rebuilding a greener, fairer Cambridgeshire.

“Tackling the climate emergency will be at the heart of our administration and will be a key focus across all policy areas. We will bring in a new spirit of partnership and collaboration between the county council and all its partners, in local government and more widely, and we will fight hard for a fairer share of national government spending for Cambridgeshire.”

The Conservatives lost their outright majority on the council in the May 6 elections, taking the council back into no overall control after four years of Tory rule.

The Conservatives dropped from 36 seats won in 2017 to 28, the Lib Dems increased from 15 to 20 and Labour from seven to nine, with four independents, up from three in 2017.

Cllr Meschini said: “I am extremely excited about the opportunity we have to advance an agenda for change after decades of Conservative maladministration. This county council will be an effective partner working with Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Dr Nik Johnson to deliver a greener, fairer economy, an end to transport poverty, better infrastructure and to support Covid recovery.

“We also look forward to restoring trust in our structures and governance, making the distribution of services more equitable for all, and bringing the council closer to the heart of all our communities wherever they are. We will give more power to local people in influencing the decisions that matter most to them.”

Cllr Tom Sanderson, leader of the independent group, said: “Independent members of Cambridgeshire County Council are pleased to be working with the new administration and the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party group.

“We have worked together to provide an excellent set of policies for the next few years that will make our local communities a better place for everyone.”

Policies of the new joint administration

. Environment, sustainability, and the climate emergency

A commitment to reviewing the council’s Sustainability Strategy with the aim of moving forward the Net Zero target for Cambridgeshire County Council towards 2030.

All spending and investment decisions will be made in the context of meeting the Net Zero strategy, and social and environmental criteria will be given equal weight to financial criteria in all contracting.

A major tree-planting programme will be undertaken and the principles of Cambridgeshire ACRE’s Fens Biosphere project will be supported and fully developed.

. Communities

An anti-poverty strategy will be developed.

Place-based partnerships will be developed with district councils where possible to avoid duplication, with more of the budget devolved.

Community hubs will be developed and will offer more services, while more youth services and children’s centres is another aim.

. Health and care

A new initiative on early prevention strategies will be implemented.

Independent living will be “championed”.

A ‘health in all policies’ approach will be brought in.

There will be increased air quality monitoring across Cambridgeshire.

. Children and education

There will be a campaign to keep state nursery schools open, to keep schools in local authority control and for fair funding for Cambridgeshire schools.

Free school meals will be maintained for eligible children during school holidays, on top of work with schools and partners to widen the network of breakfast clubs in schools during term time.

The administration will “campaign hard for all children to receive the specialist help they need within state education” when it comes to SEND (special educational needs and disabilities).

. Transport

There will be a focus on encouraging more residents out of their cars, along with infrastructure development, the encouragement of sustainable travel and securing safe routes and connections for pedestrians and cyclists.

The freeze on residents’ parking schemes will end.

Work will continue to find ways to limit HGVs rat-running through villages and urban communities.

The option of 20mph zones will be made more available and easier to obtain.

. Finance, growth and commercial investment

The new administration will immediately initiate a full review of council finances, including major projects and the council’s Transformation Fund, and impose a temporary freeze on such schemes until the review has been completed.

One of the first tasks will be to work on a Covid recovery plan for the county.

There will also be a “radical overhaul or replacement” of the council’s development company ‘This Land’ with the aim of redirecting it towards building affordable housing and supported living facilities

The council will pay the Real Living Wage for all its employees.