17:07 Friday 10th May 2013
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: So the man most likely to be Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, we now know, is Cllr Martin Curtis of North Whittlesea. This afternoon he was elected to lead the Conservatives, the largest group on the Council, in place of Nick Clarke who lost his seat at last week’s elections. Martin Curtis joins me in the studio. Hello.
MARTIN CURTIS: Good afternoon Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Congratulations.
MARTIN CURTIS: Thank you very much.
CHRIS MANN: Of course you lost out to Nick Clarke before, so finally you’ve reached the top in the County.
MARTIN CURTIS: Absolutely. But I reached the top having learned a huge amount over the last two years from Nick as well.
CHRIS MANN: What’s going to change?
MARTIN CURTIS: Well I think a lot has got to change. We know that even though we’re by far and away the largest group on the County Council, we know we’re in a minority. We can only form a minority administration. And so we know that things have got to change. And it is a different style of leadership that we need, and a more collaborative one. We know that.
CHRIS MANN: Well we’ll talk some more about that in just a moment or two, but reaction to your election has come first from the most senior politician in the County, that’s the South Cambridgeshire MP and Leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley. This is what he told me.(TAPE)
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well congratulations to Martin. I think he’s been a very successful Cabinet Member in the County Council for Adult Social Care, and indeed I think a lot of people will have felt he actually contributed a great deal in relation to Children, Schools and Young People over the years as well. And he clearly has secured a very good majority in his division in the election, so he got a lot of support from his local people. Mainly I think many of us feel very strongly how disappointed we were about losing Nick Clarke as Leader of the Council, and I think in Martin he will be somebody who will recognise that the County Council is making a lot of really important progress, not least in building the infrastructure for Cambridgeshire, but that the actually the biggest threat if anything is the overall cost of the rising numbers of older people with needs for social care support. So his ability to bring those two things together will be pretty important I think.
CHRIS MANN: That social care burden of course a big part of their budget this time and for the future. But what do you think are the biggest tasks he has to overcome in this new job? What’s he got to achieve?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well I think Martin, he’ll know very well the challenges ahead. Financially of course the biggest challenge is the rising cost of social care, and as it happens, today is the day on which the Government’s new Care Bill is being published. So that too is going to be very significant in developing support for carers, and enabling people to meet their future costs of care. But also I think, for us in Cambridgeshire, we are a place of ambitions and growth. So getting the A14 rebuilt, getting the broadband infrastructure in place, getting the whole infrastructure of Cambridge through the Local Enterprise Partnership up and running, making ourselves a very successful place for business to come from all over the world, that’s something I know Martin will feel strongly he has to push forward. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: There you are Martin Curtis. Just a few minutes in the job, here you are in your first interview, and already you’ve got the Leader of the House of Commons, not exactly telling you what to do but giving you some advice there. He talks in particular about the baton being handed over to you by Nick Clarke, on the A14, on broadband, and on opening Cambridgeshire for business as he would have put it. Are you going to continue those things?
MARTIN CURTIS: Absolutely right. And the point that Andrew makes about first of all getting the city deal right is important, and the infrastructure issue is absolutely vital. The vision Nick set forward was about us creating a county that could lead the country to recovery. And I think that’s absolutely right. And common sense tells you that if you can move people around, if you can move goods around, and if you can move data around, then you’ve got an environment in which your economy is going to thrive. So the ambition that Nick created for Cambridgeshire is absolutely right, and I hope we can find ways of delivering and making that happen..
CHRIS MANN: OK. Well you have to negotiate with the other groups on what is a hung council. Just to remind people, after the elections of last week, it’s 32 Conservatives, 14 LibDems, 12 UKIP councillors, 7 from Labour and 4 Independents. So you need at least 4 others do you not to get elected and to get your policies through.
MARTIN CURTIS: That’s right. And even beyond that, because we’ll have votes in the Chamber and lots of things, we know that we’re in an environment where we can’t just command a majority through numbers. So we are going to have to work with others.
CHRIS MANN: So can you rule the group, and can you win the vote? LibDem MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert spoke to me a short while ago. He’s not so sure. (TAPE)
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well I mean obviously congratulations to him for winning the Conservative one. We don’t yet know whether or not he will be Leader of the Council. It’s now no overall control, so we’ll have to see what happens. But I hope he’ll take a good approach to how the County Council works, understanding for example climate change is important, and we know that the Government is saying that. Hope he’ll change direction for the County Council is he’s there on that, and things like buses. I hope if he is Leader, or even if he’s not, to work with him on schemes which I’ve been championing like the Cambridge Science Park Station, the Chisholm Trail, getting more money into schools in the county. And I hope we can actually do some good things for the people of Cambridge and Cambridgeshire. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Just before you reply to that Martin, let’s hear from another LibDem, and this is the Leader of the second biggest party on the Council, Kilian Bourke. He’s still in a meeting at the moment, but he nipped out very briefly to give me his reaction. And I asked him first of all if you can get enough votes to be elected. Here’s what he said. (TAPE)
KILIAN BOURKE: I think it’s extremely likely. That said, you never know what might happen.
CHRIS MANN: Such as, would you do a deal with somebody else?
KILIAN BOURKE: Oh we’re not planning to do any deals. We’re the main opposition to the Conservatives. And it’s very hard to see enough middle ground between the four opposition parties. So I can’t see us doing a policy agreement there. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: OK. Let’s bring in another of the party leaders. This is Peter Reeve. He is with us live. He is Leader of UKIP of course, who to many people’s surprise, perhaps even their own, won 12 councillors in the election last week. Peter, hello to you.
PETER REEVE: Good afternoon Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Your reaction to the election this afternoon of Martin Curtis to lead the Conservatives?
PETER REEVE: I wish Martin all the best. He clearly was head and shoulders the best candidate of the two the Conservatives put forward. We’re very happy and pleased that the Conservatives have finally got their house in order. It’s been a struggle on the Council, not being able to speak properly to the Conservatives because they didn’t even know who was the Council Leader at one point. But we’re pleased it’s Martin. We wish him all the best with holding his group together, remembering the Conservatives outside of Cambridgeshire are already having since the election quite a number of defections to UKIP.
CHRIS MANN: Let me ask you Peter, will you vote for him to be Leader of the Council?
PETER REEVE: Now that’s a debate to be had, and over the weekend we’ll be speaking to a lot of the other parties. Looking at what the options are, there’s obviously a clash between Labour and the Liberal Democrats over a number of issues, largely to do with Cambridge city politics. Martin is the Leader of the Conservatives. We’re glad they’ve cleared that up. It’s still to be decided who’s the Leader of the Council.
CHRIS MANN: OK. Peter Reeve, thank you very much indeed. So Martin Curtis, you may have your work cut out, and you’re planning to make calls over the weekend, are you not?
MARTIN CURTIS: Absolutely right. I made it quite clear that the first thing we’ve got to do is have some conversations over the weekend. I think we’ve got a meeting set up on Monday afternoon of all the group Leaders, and what I hope is really important is that people understand that the structures at the Council are one thing. Actually what matters about Cambridgeshire County Council is the people we serve, and also the employees of the County Council. And the sooner we can come to a deal and provide some clarity to people about what the future of the Council is going to look like .. It’s also important we understand that more than half of our councillors are new and have no experience within Cambridgeshire County Council.
CHRIS MANN: Is there a danger here that the Council could get bogged down in politics, and we all may suffer as a result? Because we need leadership, we need direction. And you could end up just fighting party politics all the time.
MARTIN CURTIS: No. I think that’s absolutely right. Our focus has to be on delivering our ambitions for Cambridgeshire, and also making sure that we continue to do the important work that we’re good at, which is about protecting vulnerable people, looking after vulnerable people. And the sooner we get clarity, the sooner we can move forward on that.
CHRIS MANN: Couple of comments that have been made. The LibDems say the Conservatives have lurched to the right, and that’s why you’re talking to people like UKIP.
MARTIN CURTIS: No that’s not true. And one of the points I’ve made a couple of times over the last few days is that actually the situation with UKIP is that we don’t know where they’re going to position themselves within the Council. And very often political groups at county level position themselves differently to what they do at national level. So we don’t know where UKIP are. There’s no lurch from us. As far as we’re concerned it’s business as usual.
CHRIS MANN: What does Martin Curtis stand for?
MARTIN CURTIS: Well people know me. The two portfolios I’ve had at the County Council are Adult Social Care and Children’s Services. The thing for me, the most important thing is that the most vulnerable in our society are looked after. Those things are very very important. But on top of that what I stand for is making sure that we deliver an infrastructure that means our economy in Cambridgeshire can boom.
CHRIS MANN: Martin Curtis. Thank you for joining me.