Sam Davies

Foot down on the pro-growth accelerator?

This week my focus is obviously on the local election results.

Firstly, congratulations to Daniel Lee, who was re-elected as a Lib Dem councillor for Queen Edith’s and will now serve a three-year term. I look forward to working with him in order to achieve the best possible outcomes for local residents.

My commiserations go to the defeated candidates, Steve, Jacqui and David. It takes a lot of nerve and commitment to put yourself up for public scrutiny. And thanks to Chris Rand for once again organising the election coverage in the Queen Edith’s magazine and the hustings video, both of which I am sure contribute towards Queen Edith’s consistently being among the wards with the highest turnout in the city.

Looking across the city as a whole, we now know the composition of Cambridge City Council for the next year by political party: 29 Labour councillors (+2); 9 Lib Dems (–3); 3 Greens (+1) … and me as the sole Independent. As things currently stand, I intend to continue in the ‘administrative group’ with the Greens which has worked well for the past year.

One of the important outcomes of the Labour majority will be seen at Scrutiny committees. I have written before regarding my concerns about how much scrutiny actually goes on at these meetings, and I hope that increased Labour representation won’t compromise the Scrutiny function still further. With this in mind, it’s interesting to note how different the outcome of the election would have been under a system of proportional representation (PR), rather than first past the post (FPTP). Analysis by local commentator Phil Rodgers shows that, under PR, the 16 seats up this time would have returned 7 Labour, 4 Lib Dem, 3 Green and 2 Conservative councillors rather than the 12 Labour, 3 Lib Dem and 1 Green which we got.

Outside the city

While Queen Edith’s has the city to the north, it has South Cambs District Council to the south. This council completely surrounds the city. Here, the Lib Dems increased their majority, mainly at the expense of the Conservatives, although Labour lost their last two councillors too. This was a marked contrast to the city.

Perhaps both results are best explained in terms of their respective electorates turning to whichever party was best positioned to ‘send a message to Westminster’? It’s my firm belief that local elections should be fought on local issues, because they are the only opportunity we have to do this – but I can see why, given events on the national stage over the last several years, voters might have been influenced to take a different approach on this occasion.

Reinforcement of the Labour and Lib Dem majorities in the city and South Cambs will be interpreted by their beneficiaries as a mandate for continued aggressive pro-development strategies, as embodied in the First Proposals for the next Local Plan. It also diminishes the likelihood of any change of direction at the Greater Cambridge Partnership, so I expect to see the foot now firmly applied to the accelerator of the CSET and Cambourne to Cambridge busway schemes.

Now that the electoral dust is settling, we move into the new annual cycle with the first meeting of full Council on Thursday 26 May. In the meantime, ward casework continues to require attention, of course, plus the Green/Independent group will be setting our priorities for the year ahead. You’ll be hearing more about this in the weeks ahead. And finally, thanks to everyone who commented/emailed on last week’s video – I’m very glad to hear you think I’m on the right track!

Sam Davies

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