St Neots the Poor Relation of Huntingdon

the_dashwoods08:40 Friday 11th April 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Earlier in the show we heard how two of our districts are going to start sharing services. South Cambridgeshire and Hunts District Councils are to form a strategic partnership to share services and help the authorities to save money. So this got us thinking. Is this the start of a transformation, a revolution? Will we soon have one big council for Cambridgeshire, and would it save us a pot of cash? Well we’ve been called by a Hunts District councillor for St Neots, who wants the town to leave Huntingdon District Council and join South Cambridgeshire. His name is Steve Van De Kerkhove. Steve, good morning.
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: What’s the matter with you?
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Well I’ll tell you what. Pretty much everyone I speak to in this town is sick to death of Huntingdonshire District Council.

PAUL STAINTON: Why?
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Well I’ll tell you why. We sit on our market square, and we look at a lamp post that can’t be repaired for two years.We’ve got a crumbling hotel. It takes us hours to get anywhere. The 428 is unfit for purpose. And all of the development we’re getting, which is the lion’s share of that for the district it seems, is creating a lot of money in New Homes Bonus, Community Infrastructure Levy. We see that we’re getting very little, apart from the odd scraps off the table which we have to fight for for years and years. And we open our papers and we see that millions is being spent in Huntingdon, on link roads and town centre redevelopments. And quite honestly I think a lot of us in St Neots feel that we’re not being treated fairly by the District Council, and we’d perhaps be better off without them.
PAUL STAINTON: You feel like the runts of the litter.
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Yes. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you suggested this? Would you be any better off? Would you get treated any differently or more sympathetically at South Cambs?
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: I would hope that things would be a bit more equitable. Because I think the problem we have here in Huntingdonshire is that everything is very Huntingdon-centric. We are the biggest town in the district, and it seems that OK, we’ve had a new cinema, we’ve got a bridge over the railway, but these are all things that should have been in years ago, and we’ve had to fight for. It seems whenever Huntingdon wants something, fingers are clicked, and magically money is found. And people in St Neots are pig sick of it.
PAUL STAINTON: Is there a general negative feeling towards Huntingdon in St Neots then?
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Yes. I would say there is. Everyone I speak to doesn’t speak highly of the District Council.
PAUL STAINTON: You’re putting yourself out there as the Alex Salmond of St Neots.
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: I’m an independent councillor, so I don’t have any political axe to grind. I will always speak up for the residents of St Neots. And I’m more than ready to throw a curve-ball into the debate, if it gets people talking. Because I really do feel, as a St Neots resident, that we are not being treated fairly by the District Council.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you spoken to Ray Manning about joining up?
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Well no, but it might be a conversation I’ll have, because there are a few people I know on that council, so it’s certainly something worth debating, certainly for us in St Neots.
PAUL STAINTON: That’s Steve Van De Kerkhove. He wants to pull out of Hunts District Council and breakaway with the rest of St Neots. Maybe a referendum is the way to go Steve. What do you think?
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Well, it could well be. A referendum, will cost money, but I think it’s democracy, isn’t it? Let the people speak and let them go which way they want.

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17:18 Friday 11th April 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Yesterday I shared the news with you that South Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire District Councils are going to start sharing some of their services in a bid to save money. Well that prompted an independent councillor from St Neots to say he’d like to go one step further and for the town to leave Huntingdonshire District Council, and to join South Cambridgeshire District Council instead. He’s Steve Van De Kerkhove, in conversation with our Breakfast presenter Paul Stainton.
(TAPE)
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Well I’ll tell you what. Pretty much everyone I speak to in this town is sick to death of Huntingdonshire District Council… I’ll tell you why. We sit on our market square, and we look at a lamp post that can’t be repaired for two years. We’ve got a crumbling hotel. It takes us hours to get anywhere. The 428 is unfit for purpose. And all of the development we’re getting, which is the lion’s share of that for the district it seems, is creating a lot of money in New Homes Bonus, Community Infrastructure Levy. We see that we’re getting very little, apart from the odd scraps off the table which we have to fight for for years and years. And we open our papers and we see that millions is being spent in Huntingdon, on link roads and town centre redevelopments. And quite honestly I think a lot of us in St Neots feel that we’re not being treated fairly by the District Council, and we’d perhaps be better off without them.
PAUL STAINTON: Would you get treated any differently or more sympathetically at South Cambs?
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: I would hope that things would be a bit more equitable. Because I think the problem we have here in Huntingdonshire is that everything is very Huntingdon-centric. We are the biggest town in the district, and it seems that OK, we’ve had a new cinema, we’ve got a bridge over the railway, but these are all things that should have been in years ago, and we’ve had to fight for. It seems whenever Huntingdon wants something, fingers are clicked, and magically money is found. And people in St Neots are pig sick of it.
PAUL STAINTON: Is there a general negative feeling towards Huntingdon in St Neots then?
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Yes. I would say there is. Everyone I speak to doesn’t speak highly of the District Council.
PAUL STAINTON: You’re putting yourself out there as the Alex Salmond of St Neots.
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: I’m an independent councillor, so I don’t have any political axe to grind. I will always speak up for the residents of St Neots. And I’m more than ready to throw a curve-ball into the debate, if it gets people talking. Because I really do feel, as a St Neots resident, that we are not being treated fairly by the District Council.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you spoken to Ray Manning about joining up?
STEVE VAN DE KERKHOVE: Well no, but it might be a conversation I’ll have, because there are a few people I know on that council, so it’s certainly something worth debating, certainly for us in St Neots.
(LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Well that’s Steve Van De Kerkhove, an independent councillor from St neots in conversation with the Bigger Breakfast Paul Stainton this morning. Well let’s bring in Jason Ablewhite, the Conservative Executive Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council. Jason, hello to you.
JASON ABLEWHITE: Good evening Paul.
(CONFUSON OVER NAMES RESOLVED)
CHRIS MANN: Anyway, St Neots. It looks like they’re going to declare UDI, according to Steve there, not happy at all.
JASON ABLEWHITE: Yes. To be honest it’s totally and utterly unfounded. I frequent St Neots both on business and pleasure. I’ve many members of my family there, that live there. And it is a great place. You would think that there’s an election coming up and the councillor was standing in it. And I think the answer to that is yes. But I would say to the councillor that people tire of politicians that only become vocal at elections.
CHRIS MANN: Let’s look at some of the charges. The lamp post on Market Square that can’t be mended for two years, the crumbling hotel.
JASON ABLEWHITE: The lamp post on the Market Square, we had officers out there again this afternoon. There’s conflict across agencies. There’s the Town Council that own it that are desperate to get it up and running again. But of course the councillor didn’t mention that this was vandalised, and that was the main reason it had to be closed off in the first place. There are issues in terms of its historical value, and how you can actually repair it so that it is safe in the future. And some of these things do take an inordinate amount of time. It’s hugely frustrating. But of course that is moving on, and that will be sorted out very soon.
CHRIS MANN: What about the idea that everything’s going to Huntingdon, the new housing, the investment.
JASON ABLEWHITE: What an absolute nonsense. I’m not being funny. The councillor in qiuestion has missed over a third of the scheduled Council meetings in the last quarter, and more even before that.
CHRIS MANN: He’s not here to defend himself on that charge.
JASON ABLEWHITE: At the end of the day, if you’re going to be part of the process, you want to know what’s going on, you’ve got to attend, so you know what’s going on. And if he did, he would realise that ..
CHRIS MANN: I will repeat, he’s not here to defend himself on that, so can we just stick please to the question. Are houses going to Huntingdon or St Neots?
JASON ABLEWHITE: £3.5 million investment in HDC’s leisure centre in St Neots. Hundreds of thousands on a new Love’s Farm crossing. A million pounds on a new (UNCLEAR) industry centre that is set to start very soon, in fact over the next few months. The maintained HDC Riverside car park, which is the envy of the whole district, is enjoyed by thousands of people. I can go on and on and on about the befits that HDC brings to that town. It hugely infuriates me when you get people that just stand on a political bandwagon that it just happens to be an election coming up.
CHRIS MANN: We can hear the anger in your voice.He said that people generally are “pig sick” of Huntingdonshire. Do you get complaints? Do you monitor them.
JASON ABLEWHITE: He clearly talks for everyone, because he knows everyone in the town. I’ve got many family that live in St Neots and they love living there and they do nothing but praise it. They love going to a lot of the great facilities that are in the town. It has a vibrant town centre.
CHRIS MANN: St Neots is the biggest town in Cambridgeshire.
JASON ABLEWHITE: It is indeed. It is indeed.
CHRIS MANN: Would it be better off in South Cambs?
JASON ABLEWHITE: South Cambs that doesn’t have a market town at all. As a district council we understand market town economies. We’re investing in our market town economies. And what you’ve got to remember in Huntingdon (is) that they talk about millions of pounds worth of investment, which is great, because it’s not only an investment in the town, but something that everyone across the whole district can benefit from, in terms of jobs and prosperity. You’ve got to remember £20 million of that is private investment. It’s not council investment.
CHRIS MANN: Jason Ablewhite, we’ll leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us.
JASON ABLEWHITE: Thank you.

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