Thursday May 6th was a significant day, as we held four separate local elections – for Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and the Police and Crime Commissioner.
It was also exceptional because in Cambridge, where council elections had been cancelled in 2020, it was an ‘all-up’ election for three councillors in every ward after the boundary review had changed the way the city was divided into council wards.
For me, it was both exciting and sad. Trumpington Ward, where I’d been elected by only four votes in May 2018, had been broken up in the review, and one-third of its electorate had been allocated to other wards, and I was standing in Petersfield, where many of them had gone. It was sad to say goodbye to Trumpington, but I was also pleased to be standing with my good friends and fellow councillors Richard Robertson and Mike Davey.
Because of the number of votes to be counted, and with Covid-19 affecting so many aspects of our lives, the votes on May 6th weren’t counted until the Friday and Saturday, and there was no opportunity for all the candidates to gather in The Guildhall and watch the piles accumulate as we tried to decide whether we had won or not.
As someone who had gone through two recounts in 2018, I knew just how nail-biting it could be, but it wasn’t an option. However I also felt that it would be no fun at all to sit at home waiting for a text message or watching the online stream from the count, and so for all of Friday and Saturday I hosted a Zoom call for candidates, where we could hang out, wait for results, chat, and celebrate or commiserate with our comrades.
There has been some criticism of Labour councillors for the way we voted on a motion at the Council meeting on Thursday 27 May. A motion of support for the Climate and Ecology Bill, which had been laid before Parliament by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and a group of other MPs in September 2020 came to the Council. Labour proposed an amendment which welcomed the Bill, but laid the emphasis on attempting to deliver change through the Environment Bill which is currently being debated. This amendment was passed, and the amended motion was then passed by the council
What that means is that the City Council supports the ambitions of the CEE Bill, but believes those ambitions need to be achieved in a different way, because not even the CEE Bill’s most ardent supporters believe it will become law when we have an anti-environment Tory government with an eighty-seat majority led by a man who has betrayed every promise on the green agenda he has ever made.
Being a councillor is an important job, and each of us has to decide how much time we spend each day or week in our role, especially those who have caring responsibilities, full time jobs, or other voluntary commitments. I’m fortunate to be able to devote a lot of my time to it, and I really admire my colleagues who manage to fit in their work as a councillor with other obligations.
Now that things have settled down after the May elections, I thought it might be useful to share a typical day.
I usually start the day catching up with emails and checking out what’s being said on social media. I know they say you shouldn’t read what they say about you on Twitter and Facebook, but I’m afraid I can’t resist. Today I spent a productive couple of hours dealing with email, answering the pressing stuff and flagging the things that could wait, and found time to like and retweet some comments that resonated with me.
I helped out a couple of fellow councillors deal with a biodiversity issue and a road closure issue – because we work as a team. I’m always calling or WhatsApping (is that a word? I think it is now..) others to discuss issues outside my area of expertise where I need guidance, and I’m happy to do the same.
A lot of time goes into coordination. It’s a lot easier now that we can meet virtually – at least for most things (let’s not forget that the Conservative government refused to extend the provisions to let us hold council meetings online, forcing us to sit at suitably distanced school desks in the Corn Exchange for last week’s full council meeting).
When it was announced that this year’s local elections would be going ahead everyone active in local politics was relieved that we would get a chance to speak to people, discover their concerns, share our vision and campaign for your votes.
For the last few weeks we’ve been doing that through phone canvassing, but now we’re actually going out onto the doorstep again. Or rather, we’re knocking on doors and then standing a safe distance away from the doorstep, wearing a mask and following the guidance we’ve been given!
I have always enjoyed this part of the campaign the most, as it gives me a chance to meet people and find out what matters to them, to hear about any problems they may be having, and to explain why I believe that voting for a Labour councilor is the way to make sure that Cambridge can thrive.
A lot of the concerns are about local issues, but we can also talk about bigger things. I believe we need find ways to live that balance people’s needs for a good quality of life with the planet’s need for us to live sustainably, and that the city council has a key role to play, and I’m always happy to talk about our support for the environment, food supply, and biodiversity.
Today I was in Accordia, off Brooklands Avenue, an area I know very well as it is one of the sizeable parts of Trumpington Ward that has been moved into Petersfield as part of this year’s boundary changes. It was hard to decide which part of Trumpington to stay with when everything was moved, but having lived in Petersfield in the past I felt that I had most to offer there.
I hope I’ll get a chance to see lots of Petersfield residents between now and election day on May 6, but if I don’t please get in touch – you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call or message me on 07480 246939.
I was elected to Cambridge City Council in 2018, when I won Trumpington ward by four votes and became the first Labour councillor there for seventy-three years, when Edward Andrews won in 1945-46. However in the forthcoming election I will be standing for Petersfield ward, and I wanted to explain why.
It’s all to do with the way Cambridge has grown, and the resulting changes in the number of voters in each ward. In 2018 Trumpington had 8940 registered voters,compared to 5,364 for Petersfield and 5,724 for Market. It was projected that in 2024 Trumpington would have nearly 10,100 voters – while Petersfield would still be less than 6,000.
As a result the government decided to review the ward boundaries in Cambridge, a formal process that concluded in 2019 with significant changes across the city and meant that every councillor would have to stand for election in new wards with new boundaries – but the same names, as the number of wards didn’t change.
Most of the changes are small, but Market, Petersfield and Trumpington have changed substantially as the north of the Trumpington ward has been reallocated to Market and Petersfield. This means that the numbers of electors for all three will be around 7,000 per ward by 2024, but in order to achieve this over 2,500 resident have been moved out of Trumpington. There are other substantial changes in the north of Cambridge.
Because of the changes I was faced with a decision as to which part of the ward I would stay with, and after talking to ward members who are in the newly expanded Petersfield ward, I decided to seek selection there. I know the area well, having lived Petersfield three times during my three decades in Cambridge, most recently on Sturton Street.
I also understand the issues it faces. I had been attending meetings of the Petersfield councillors to discuss shared issues, and as a result I knew about the things that concern the ward, like traffic congestion, community facilities and homes for older people. These are all issues I am working on as an executive councillor and I will continue to press them as councillor for Petersfield.
The 2020 election would have been fought on those new boundaries, but it was suspended, so this year we have elections for all City Councillors in the new wards, as well as the normal four-yearly County Council elections. And the Combined Authority Mayor. And the Police and Crime Commissioner…
I am really pleased to be one of your three City Council candidates for Labour in Petersfield, and I hope you’ll vote for me and my brilliant fellow candidates, Cllr Mike Davey and Cllr Richard Robertson, so that we can continue to deliver for Petersfield and Cambridge.
Over the last few months your Labour councillors have been talking a lot about an idea called Doughnut Economics. Developed by economist Kate Raworth, it is a way to think about how we live that balances people’s needs for a good quality of life with the planet’s need for us to live sustainably.
It is a really interesting model, and I think it offers a way for us as a Labour council to think about how our policies affect residents and the world, and how to make the necessary tradeoffs that ensure we will be able to support people and the environment, and begin to undo some of the damage that has already been done.
One way we’re getting the message across is by holding public meetings, but this is very different in this time of social distancing and staying at home. When I ran the Water Crisis Forum in 2019 I started by booking a room in The Guildhall, and had to think about seating arrangements, catering, and how to make sure the PowerPoint presentations were visible from the back of the room.
It was rather different on Wednesday 17 March, when we held our online event on Doughnut and Cambridge, organised via the ticketing website Eventbrite, advertised on Twitter and Facebook, and run on the Zoom videoconferencing service.
I was invited on because of proposals by telecoms companies EE and Hutchison to relocate an existing base station from Park Street Car Park to Jesus Green. The relocation would make use of Permitted Development powers to allow for a temporary installation, and overrule City Council requests not to locate it on common land. There are concerns about the site and whether it might end up being a permanent location.
I was able to provide more information about the emergency notice under which the mast is being built, and talk more about this complex situation.