Peterborough Lib Dem leader believes coronavirus impacted party’s electoral chances

The leader of Peterborough’s Liberal Democrat group on the city council believes the coronavirus pandemic impacted his party’s efforts at last week’s local elections.

By Joel Lamy
Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 3:48 pm

After gains in past elections, the Lib Dems dropped from nine to eight councillors in Peterborough in contrast to Cambridgeshire where the party gained five seats compared to 2017 which helped turn the county council from Conservative to no overall control.

Reflecting on the situation in Peterborough, where the Tories gained a seat but could not quite secure a majority, Cllr Nick Sandford, who himself was elected for an eighth time, said: “It was always going to be hard for us this year. One of our brands is we work all year round, but for a three month period at the beginning of the year the Government effectively stopped us handing out any leaflets which hit us hard and the Greens.”

Cllr Sandford, member for Paston and Walton, believes the spotlight will now turn to the three Werrington First councillors whose support has enabled the previous minority Conservative administration to hold office.

Cllr Nick Sandford

He said: “Across England there has been an upsurge in Conservative support over the vaccines with people forgetting Boris Johnson’s incompetence over the previous 12 months.

“It was a fairly good result for the Conservatives (in Peterborough) but they haven’t gained overall control. One thing I’ll be expressing to chief officers is the council is under no overall control so they need to operate on that basis.

“It puts a lot of awareness on the three Werrington First councillors. In the last two years they’ve by and large supported the Conservatives.

“They say they’re independent. This now puts them on the spot to say how independent they are.

“The Lib Dems also need to do more to articulate alternatives for Peterborough we’d like to see. We had them in the manifesto but need to look at ways to communicate that much more clearly.”

Cllr Sandford also said he was encouraged by the election of Dr Nik Johnson as the new mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough after the Labour candidate defeated Conservative incumbent James Palmer, and he called on him to look at the make-up of Peterborough’s new university (ARU Peterborough) which opens next year.

He added: “There’s an issue with it not having any accommodation at the early stages. Will it be a fully fledged university with people coming from outside and the city expanding its cultural offer?

“The combined authority has now also become the strategic transport authority. One of the encouraging things I saw from his comments is he intends to push ahead with bus franchising. That model has been working in Greater London quite well.

“Labour won the mayoral election on the basis of a large number of Lib Dem transfers (in second preference votes). I hope Dr Nik will bear that in mind.”