New MP for North East Cambridgeshire Steven Barclay reports that he gave his maiden speech in the House of Commons today in which he raised the issue of certain areas in his constituency which he says are being neglected due to the false perception of the whole region as prosperous. Broadcast at 17:27 on Wednesday July 7th 2010 in the Drivetime Show hosted by Antonia Brickell on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
ANTONIA: Now one of Cambridgeshire’s newest MPs gave his maiden speech in the House of Commons today. Steven Barclay was elected MP for North East Cambridgeshire in the last election and he has expressed concerns that wealthier parts of his constituency are masking the more deprived areas. Well he’s on the phone to tell us more. Steven good evening.
STEVEN: Good evening.
ANTONIA: Which parts of the constituency are doing very well?
STEVEN: There’s certain businesses that are doing well, and there’s certain individuals that are prospering. But often what is happening is that particularly the more prosperous areas of the South of the county mean that as an area North East Cambridgeshire misses out on much of the national funding which is based on an aggregate score for the county as a whole. And so one of the issues I was trying to draw attention to in my maiden speech is there’s other parts of the United Kingdom have been well funded and the Fens has been a bit forgotten in my view in recent years. And we’ve seen a lot of money going into Scotland, into the Northern cities, and money hasn’t been coming through to the pockets of deprivation that clearly exist in North East Cambridgeshire. After all, eighteen of the twenty five most deprived wards within the county are in Fenland alone. One in ten people have used the wonderful services of the Citizens Advice Bureau. And so what I was trying to do with my maiden speech was draw attention to this regional imbalance, and ensure that that quiet voice within many other rural areas was actually heard in Parliament.
ANTONIA: But hang on. Isn’t your Party in power?
STEVEN: Absolutely we’re in power. But I’m talking about the last thirteen years when national targeted funding has been shifted to other parts of the United Kingdom and North East Cambridgeshire has lost out. And you only need to look at the chronic lack of transport infrastructure in North East Cambridgeshire. An area like Wisbech has no train line, it has a single carriageway road in terms of the A47, it’s port is underused, and some of our villages have one bus a week. So the idea that North East Cambridgeshire has had its fair share of funding in recent years is absolutely not the case.
ANTONIA: But isn’t it the case that Cambridgeshire as a whole has been snubbed by the new Government as well? Because we don’t get the funding that other areas do, be it council or police,
STEVEN: No I think that the idea we’ve been snubbed is totally misguided. If you look at Building Schools for the Future, whereas tough decisions have been taken elsewhere in the county, Fenland has done extremely well, and I would commend the work of County Councillor Martin Curtis in particular, who has done so much to help drive this forward. And so that’s an area where Cambridgeshire will not be snubbed, and we’ll do well, and that also flows from conversation I had with the education team to put the case.
ANTONIA: So what would you like to be done, moving forward?
STEVEN: Well I think there needs to be a fresh look at the way different parts of the United Kingdom are funded, the way money is targeted. I also think on things like grants, at the moment the grants for small businesses are very bureaucratic, and they’re very time consuming, and one of the points again I was trying to bring out in my maiden speech is that in the commercial world the aim is to try and make it as easy as possible for customers to access your products.That’s what commercial firms do because they want the business. And I do think there is scope in the public sector particularly with small firms that don’t have specialist staff, to actually make it much more easy to cut through the paperwork, and actually get to the grants that will allow them to expand.
ANTONIA: Very very briefly Steven, how do you get the powers that be to listen?
STEVEN: Well by using this as an issue for your maiden speech. I think that’s a good way to start. The Treasury front bench were there. And rather than speaking on a whole range of issues, I focused in my maiden speech on my constituency, on what I perceive to be the underfunding of the Fens, to target some of the areas where there’s been huge waste under the previous government, such as the Regional Fire Headquarters, which cost over twenty three million pounds and is currently standing in Waterbeach empty, because the emergency phone lines can’t be made to work. So we need to target the money more effectively. We need to cut the waste. And we need to recognise that rural areas such as North East Cambridgeshire may well have prosperous neighbours, but that doesn’t mean that they should miss out on the funding that they need.
ANTONIA: If you get the answers you need Steven, you need to come back on the show.
STEVEN: I will look forward to as always coming on the show to chat about it more.
ANTONIA: Steven Barclay who was elected MP for North East Cambridgeshire at the last election talking to us on Drivetime. Thanks Steven.
Note: The speech itself can be read on this page.