08:25 Wednesday 28th May 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: So we are discussing the future of Peterborough City Council this morning. It’s after Marco Cereste was re-elected as the Leader of the Tory Group on Peterborough City Council. We understand he told his Conservative colleagues that he would be able to form a majority with the help of three Independent councillors, but it’s not stopped other councillors from voicing their concerns. David Sanders is the Conservative councillor for Eye and Thorney, and believes it’s time for a change in leadership.
DAVID SANDERS: Unfortunately it leaves the Conservatives very vulnerable indeed. I believe that at this stage Marco should consider his position and do the honourable thing and resign, and allow a new leader with new vision, new ideas, new focus and vision, and take the Council and Conservatives forward.
CHRIS MANN: And he isn’t alone. David Harrington leads the Peterborough Independent Forum. He’s also called on Marco to consider his position. The LibDem are thought to prefer changing to a committee system. So what does the future hold for Peterborough City Council and indeed Marco Cereste? Well the man himself joins us now. Marco, good morning.
MARCO CERESTE: Good morning. How are you?
CHRIS MANN: I’m very well thank you. Congratulations on being re-elected first of all by the Tory Group.
MARCO CERESTE: Unopposed.
CHRIS MANN: How did you convince them you should continue?
MARCO CERESTE: Well I was unopposed. So I mean you could technically say you can technically say that I was uno .. because that’s what the rules require, that the new Leader is elected every year, but it was unopposed. So there was no election.
CHRIS MANN: Should there have been one?
MARCO CERESTE: No.
CHRIS MANN: People are afraid of you? Why didn’t they challenge you?
MARCO CERESTE: Because I’m a good Leader. And clearly the vast majority of the Group also think so. And the city has done incredibly well under my leadership. Our city. Our city.
CHRIS MANN: We’ve heard differing views on that on the programme so far.
MARCO CERESTE: I’m sure you would. I’m sure you ..
CHRIS MANN: That’s what happens when you’re in public life. I’m sure you know, that some people like what you do, some people don’t.
MARCO CERESTE: Absolutely.
CHRIS MANN: But the voters gave a verdict last week where you no longer have overall control of the Council.
MARCO CERESTE: This is very true. They did that all round the country. The Liberal Democrats were completely completely annihilated.
CHRIS MANN: But what does it say about your Leadership? Is that not a vote of no confidence in what you’ve been doing?
MARCO CERESTE: No. Absolutely not. What it is is a message that we’ve got to understand, and we as a Conservative Group understand it very very well. Because we are the only party in the country that is offering a referendum on Europe. We understand the message very well. We respect the voters’ views. And we will be working .. we will be working to make sure that we listen ..
CHRIS MANN: We’re talking about Peterborough City Council, not what’s happening in Europe, and the fact that you’ve lost overall control.
MARCO CERESTE: No. No. I disagree. No. No. No.
CHRIS MANN: Is that not a vote about you Marco?
MARCO CERESTE: Listen. Listen. If you want me to continue speaking to you, then you must let me speak. If you want to listen to yourself, you don’t need me on the other end of the telephone.
CHRIS MANN: Do you not agree that this vote was about matters to do with Peterborough City Council?
MARCO CERESTE: What I’m saying to you is that whilst the vote elected local authority councillors, throughout the entire country the same thing repeated itself. So it’s a national issue. That doesn’t mean that we locally don’t need to listen to the voters, because we absolutely do need to listen to the voters. And we as a party will listen to the voters.
CHRIS MANN: So how will you be doing that? What are you going to change?
MARCO CERESTE: Well what we will do is we will continue to do what is necessary for Peterborough, and that is to deliver good services efficiently, effectively, keep the council taxes low .. as low as we possibly can, and work within our budget, which is what we’ve been doing all along. And if you look at the record of our Conservative administration, it is phenomenal. We are outperforming most of the cities in the entire country.
CHRIS MANN: But some of the criticisms we’ve heard of you today .. can I just put these criticisms so that you can reply to them? Brown bin charges, care home closures, the solar park, nothing to do with losing control. Is that what you’re saying?
MARCO CERESTE: No I’m saying it may very well have done. But if you consider ..
CHRIS MANN: So are you going to change your mind about those things?
MARCO CERESTE: Well, if you consider .. well those are all .. all .. those are all things in the past. I don’t know why .. you know, you’re listening to a record that’s been broken. And everybody keeps repeating it. And, you know, we think .. we’ve got to think about the future. You have got to understand ..
CHRIS MANN: So the brown bins are a thing of the past. Is that what you’re saying?
MARCO CERESTE: It’s done. The brown bins are things of the past. And that’s very well there are a lot of people who quite rightly feel aggrieved because they’re having to pay for the collection of brown bins. Did you know that there are thousands and thousands of people in our city who don’t have brown bins, and who were subsidising the people who do have brown them. And now we are offering extremely good service. For a start it’s for twelve months of the year not nine. Secondly they can also have a very .. a second bin very very cheaply. And if you’ve got a garden, that is an incredible valuable service which the Council is providing at an extremely low rate.
CHRIS MANN: OK. Let me ask you about the possible future for Peterborough City Council. Are you going to be able to form a majority, and if so, how?
MARCO CERESTE: Well we’re not going to be able to form a majority. We’re going to have to go forward with an administration of no overall control. And we will continue to do our duty as councillors. We were .. those of us who were elected were elected to serve our city, not to give up and run away. And if you look at what would happen, if you think carefully for a second, if we Conservatives didn’t not form an administration, this city would probably fall into total chaos.
CHRIS MANN: So you’re not going to do a deal with Independents for instance?
MARCO CERESTE: I’m not going to do a deal with anybody. But I’m prepared to work with everybody. There is a difference there. There is a difference.
CHRIS MANN: But how are you going to run it then? Practically. As a minority?
MARCO CERESTE: Practically the reality is that I think there is six groups in Peterborough. The Conservative is the largest with twenty eight. They would all have to gang up on us, and every single one of them would have to agree with every single one of them, which I don’t think has ever happened in the history of Peterborough City Council.
CHRIS MANN: So you’re going to do this vote by vote, are you, issue by issue?
MARCO CERESTE: Well we will do what we have always done. We will take our proposals to Council. They will either be approved or not approved.
CHRIS MANN: And we were told that John and Judy Fox have agreed to support you, and that’s what you tol the Tory Group last night. Is that true?
MARCO CERESTE: Well I’m not going to repeat what was said in private last night in the Tory Group. I never have. And I don’t intend to do that now.
CHRIS MANN: You’ve talked about openness and telling people what’s going on. Shouldn’t it be a matter of public record what’s going to happen? Why not tell people?
MARCO CERESTE: No. It’s got nothing .. it’s got nothing to do with you what was agreed in the Tory Group last night, or anywhere else. And there are .. you know .. people are entitled to their own privacy, in exactly the same way as I am.
CHRIS MANN: But it’s about ruling the City Council. Shouldn’t people be told what’s going on? And if there is a deal with these people, shouldn’t they be told what the price of that is?
MARCO CERESTE: Why? Why? Why is there a ..
CHRIS MANN: Because it’s democracy Marco.
MARCO CERESTE: No no.
CHRIS MANN: You’re not running Peterborough City Council for yourself. You’re running it for the people, and shouldn’t they be told what’s going on.
MARCO CERESTE: I’ve already told you. If you don’t let me answer I’ll leave you to talk to yourself.
CHRIS MANN: I’ve asked a simple question. Why won’t you tell people?
MARCO CERESTE: Ask a simple question and let me answer your .. answer your question. The answer is, and I’ll repeat it again, there’s no deal with anybody. And what happened in the Conservative Group last night is private to the Conservative Group. Now whoever leaked whatever happened last night,has obviously misled you as to what happened last night. should think about his position in the Conservative Group.
CHRIS MANN: I’m going to ask a question but I think I know the answer to it already. Marco, have you ever considered your own position after the vote of last week?
MARCO CERESTE: Of course. It would be very simple for me to just walk away from this. I don’t .. you know .. you and the L .. you need to understand that as Leader of the Council it’s a huge responsibility for no reward and constant aggravation. And we only do it .. we only do it because we want to serve the people of this city. And I only do it because I actually feel passionate about Peterborough. If I walk away and the Tory Group walks away from the administration of Peterborough today, this city will collapse tomorrow. And that’s not because I’m I’m .. (COUGHS) not because I’m conceited or because you know I’m a megalomaniac. It’s because we are the largest group. It is a duty to do the very best we can for the citizens of Peterborough. Now, we’ve listened to what they’ve got to say. And I have a great deal of sympathy for what they’ve got to say. And they’ve said it all round the country, not just in Peterborough. All round the country. We elected councillors of whatever party we happen to be need to listen to the electors. The worst thing that could happen in Peterborough is for the Conservative Group to walk away from the administration of our city and leave it headless.
CHRIS MANN: Passionate stuff Marco. I hope you agree we’ve let you have your say. Thank you for joining us.
MARCO CERESTE: Thank you very much.
CHRIS MANN: Marco Cereste there, who just re-elected as the Leader of the Tory Group on Peterbroough City Council, talking about the future of the Council, says, well he won’t reveal to us if there’s been a deal or if there’s any terms to that. But says they will go on ruling Peterborough City Council.