07:19 Tuesday 24th December 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: Before we launch ourselves into 2014, we thought it was time to take a little look back through the Bigger Breakfast telescope on our year in Cambridgeshire. We start with the political scene and our reporter Dotty McLeod. It’s been a busy year Dotty. Where shall we begin, do you think?
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well we begin Paul back in May, with one of the biggest stories in Cambridgeshire, which has been the change in the politics of the county itself. Elections to the County Council happened back on 2nd May, and by early evening the next day things had changed. The Council was leaderless, hung, and 20% purple, with the UK Independence Party holding a total of 12 seats. Pete Reeve, the then leader of the UKIP group in Cambridgeshire, said the other main parties needed to take them seriously.
PETER REEVE: The Government still don’t seem to get it. They’re trying to write this off as some blip, some protest, whereas people on the doorsteps are actually saying they want UKIP in government. They want to get rid of David Cameron , and they really believe in the policies that UKIP has.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well things haven’t gone quite so well for UKIP since. There have been scandals involving benefit fraud, electoral fraud and the apparent criticism of a group of young people in the care system. And Peter Reeve, the man you heard just there, has resigned from his post as leader of the party in Cambridgeshire. But I think the UK Independence Party can still chalk up 2013 as the year they became a significant political force here in this county Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes, and right across the country as well. And the Conservatives doing their best to counter that, but as you mentioned, those elections left the County Council without a Leader. Nick Clarke of course lost his seat, but one of his pet projects Dotty, the A14 upgrade, has been going pretty well without him.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes that’s right. It was in June this year that the Government pledged one and a half billon pounds to upgrading the road. Not everyone was happy though in September, when the plans for the new and supposedly improved route were published, and a toll on a long section of the road past Huntingdon was involved. These drivers told us their views.
DRIVER ONE: Everything is going to have to go up, obviously. Because someone’s going to have to pay the toll charge. So everyone is going to put their prices up. So goods are going to get dearer.
DRIVER TWO: I’ve lived here and it’s kind of a local road for me, so it could get very expensive. So yes, not altogether happy about that at all.
DRIVE THREE: It would improve congestion, but I wouldn’t use it. I’d find another route. it is too much money.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But then Paul an early Christmas present for Cambridgeshire. Just a few weeks ago that plan to toll the new road was abandoned. Cambridgeshire’s MP Julian Huppert said at the time that he was delighted.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes, a great result for the A14, it seems. (LAUGHS) Until it’s all signed sealed and delivered we won ‘t get too carried away. Not a happy ending though for another long running story that’s been going on in the North of the County, Peterborough City Council’s plans to build a renewable energy park on farmland near the city near Newborough.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes, absolutely. And .. well I wouldn’t be surprised if this was still going on next Christmas. Many residents still absolutely dead against these plans to build wind turbines, and/or solar panels, on three areas of farmland near Peterborough. This year archeological finds threw the whole project into doubt. Changes to Government subsidies to green energy led to more questions about the finances, and local Tory MP Stewart Jackson took the matter to Parliament.
STEWART JACKSON: Of course I do understand the reasons why the City Council wish to move to a position where we secure our energy source. But we’ve always said consistently that there are better ways of doing it which don’t involve putting 500,000 glass panels on an area the equivalent of 700 football pitches.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well most recently Paul the City Council’s own Scrutiny Committee of councillors asked the cabinet to put a stop to some of these plans, the ones only involving solar panels and no wind power. They say the sums for the only-solar plans just don’t add up. Peterborough City Council meanwhile, they’re maintaining that the costs of any potential delays have been factored in to the plans, that the scheme could fund vital services in the city for the next 25 years, and that they will work towards the best option for Peterborough. So it goes on. And, as always Paul, we’ll be bringing you every twist and turn, right here on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.