10:12 Tuesday 3rd May 2011
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
ANDY BURROWS: Time now for the latest in our local election debates. Local elections of course coming up on Thursday. Today we focus on Peterborough, and in particular the ward of Stanground Central. I’m joined by four of the candidates who are standing in that particular ward. First of all, Marco Cereste is the incumbent Conservative candidate, and Leader of Peterborough City Council. He says he’s passionate about making Peterborough a city where everyone has the chance to fulfil their potential, and enjoy high-quality public services. As Leader, his priorities have included promoting and attracting new investment in the city. In the ward, it is currently the refurbishment of Stanground College. Hello to you Councillor Cereste.
MARCO CERESTE: Good morning. Hello.
ANDY BURROWS: Stephen Goldspink is the candidate for the English Democrats. Although standing in Stanground Central, he was first elected to the Council to represent East Ward in 2002, first as a Conservative, and then as an English Democrat, after switching parties. He says he decided to get involved because he wants to make a difference in the local community. Good morning to you Stephen.
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: Good morning Andy.
ANDY BURROWS: John Swallow is standing as an Independent candidate. He’s a bus driver. He hit the headlines last year when he stood against MP Stewart Jackson at the General Election. He began in politics as a Member of the Labour Party, but left after becoming disillusioned. Good morning John Swallow.
JOHN SWALLOW: Good morning Andy.
ANDY BURROWS: And Chris York is the Labour candidate. Chris lives in Stanground, and has been active in the community for several years, currently working on setting up youth projects to tackle anti-social behaviour. He says the difference between him and the other candidates is that he’s the only one who lives in the ward, working all year round for the people of Stanground. Hello Chris.
CHRIS YORK:Yes. Hi. Good morning.
ANDY BURROWS: Gentlemen, thank you for joining me. We’ve got lots to be talking about between now and 11 o’clock. That’s for sure. And what I’m going to do in the next few moments is give you all a chance to sell yourselves. You’ll have 30 seconds each to tell us what you’re standing for, before we get into the debate about Stanground, and of course Peterborough in general. We’ll be back with you in just a moment
ANDY BURROWS: 16 minutes past 10. It’s Tuesday morning. On Thursday Peterborough and everywhere else goes to the polls for the local elections. In the latest debate we’re having on the local elections across Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, we’re focusing on the Peterborough ward of Stanground Central. It’s a key-battleground, not least of all because the Leader of Peterborough City Council is trying to hold on to his seat. He joins me this morning, alongside Stephen Goldspink, candidate for the English Democrats, John Swallow, the Independent candidate, and Chris York, the Labour candidate. Mark Williamson is here as well in the studio, because gentlemen, I’m going to give y ou 30 seconds each to sell yourselves, and your policies. We’ll go in alphabetical order, so Marco Cereste .. we’re doing it on surnames, before you start arguing between yourselves. We’re doing it on surnames, so Marco Cereste, you get to go first. Mark’s got the stopwatch. In your own time Marco, off you go.
MARCO CERESTE: Well I’ve .. part of my ward as you know includes Fletton. I lived and worked in Fletton and Stanground for the first thirty years of my life. I then got very very involved with the Fleet community centre, and as most people know, I’ve been Chairman there for twenty six years. I know the ward very very well. I probably can count three to four hundred personal friends who live in the ward. I think it’s a really great place to be. It’s got ..
ANDY BURROWS: Well that’s your 30 seconds. It’s not long. Stephen Goldspink, your 30 seconds start now.
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: Thank you very much. Well first about the English Democrats. We say that England ought to have its own Parliament, because at the moment the English, all those who live in England, are hard done by. We have to pay for prescriptions, we have to pay for tuition fees, and various other things. So that’s national background. We also think there should be a referendum on the EU membership. Locally I’m known as a hard-working and campaigning councillor who gets things done, particularly things that other councillors can’t solve. And I always put my back into anything that I do.
ANDY BURROWS: Stop! John Swallow, Independent.
JOHN SWALLOW: Hi there. I stood against Stewart Jackson last year, just really to prove that ordinary people can do more than just ordinary things. I am frustrated with Westminster parties, the party lines, and the party puppetry that goes on. And I’m angered at the waste of our money, when the axe is falling on so many people who need that money in our communities, and it’s being wasted in other areas. Big issues for me are youth, environment locally, and housing. Working with the team of Leccy Swift over in Ravensthorpe and Marcus Parry in Paston.
ANDY BURROWS: Stop! There you go. It doesn’t last long. And Chris York, Labour candidate.
CHRIS YORK: Yes. Hi. Good morning. I’ve lived in Stanground for 17 years now. I’ve been actively involved in the community for a number of years. I work with the police. In fact I’m Chair of the Neighbourhood Police Panel. I’m a governor at Stanground College. I sit on several committees, one of them is a pre-school which imvolves getting funding for. I actively campaign all year round in Stanground as an unpaid volunteer, and if I’m not successful in this election, I’ll just continue to do the work that I’m doing. I won’t work for you, but I guarantee to work with you.
ANDY BURROWS: Stop! There you go. Just a little snapshot then of who you are, and what you stand for. Let’s start with Stephen Goldspink, if we can, candidate for the English Democrats. Because with Stanground and your particular ward, it’s rather a bloody battle, isn’t it? First of all, you decided to stand against Marco Cereste, even though you’re a councillor elsewhere. And then you’re rather furious at the fact that the City Council found money to rebuild Stanground College. Why so Stephen Goldspink?
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: Well I was very happy that they found money to rebuild the College. But, the fact was that we were told initially we needed Government money to do it, and then we were able to do it with our own money. So I’m just a bit dubious, and the timing of that announcement worried me as well. But in terms of my personal agenda with Marco, we have been jousting for the last two years in the Council chamber. And a number of times he’s said to me, you need your own mandate. So having a bit of a sense of mischief, I’m afraid, I decided it might be a good idea to seek it in his ward.
ANDY BURROWS: “Sense of michief” Marco Cereste. Do you welcome a sense of mischief?
MARCO CERESTE: Oh yeah. I don’t have any problem with mischief or otherwise, especially if it’s directed at me. But of course the reality of it is that there is no mandate, because Councillor Goldspink has not resigned from his ward. He’s still an active member. And he’s going to go back into his ward. He’s made no comment about going back to his ward if he loses in Stanground. And if he does win in Stanground, he’s going to force a by-election, which is going to cost this city money, money that we could ill afford.
ANDY BURROWS: Was your timing, or rather the Council’s announcement of the money for Stanground College though, rather good news for you? Are you sure you didn’t have anuthing to do with that?
MARCO CERESTE: Well actually if you look at the .. the budget speaks for itself. We’ve been preparing the budget since last September. If you look at the budget announcements, even in February, there was money in there for the schools. And the reason for the announcement as far as I am aware, because I obviously went .. looked into why the amount was made at the time that it was .. is to do with the contract that the local authority had with the builders, so that we could get the really fantastic favourable building rates that we got, which enabled us to find enough money to build a proper school, senior school, in Stanground, as well as the primary school we’re going to build.
ANDY BURROWS: OK. Well Chris York, you’re a governor at Stanground College, aren’t you?
CHRIS YORK: I am, but I’d like to just point out that I’m going to be speaking in the capacity of a Labour candidate, and not as a school governor for Stanground College.
ANDY BURROWS: So you’re in a slightly difficult position though, aren’t you, because rather you welcome this money that’s come from effectively a Tory-led Council, but at the same time you’d like to boot them out and you’d like to represent the area.?
CHRIS YORK: Well I was absolutely delighted that the Council found £34 million. It’s absolutely brilliant news for the College, students, you know. My only concern that I picked up on from a lot of parents and residents, was the fact that in the budget document on page 89, it clearly states that the works can only be completed with the additional £39 million from central Government. So that has caused a concern, and raised a few eyebrows.
ANDY BURROWS: Is he correct, Marco Cereste?
MARCO CERESTE: Well, I mean, look, we all …
ANDY BURROWS: But you’re short of money still.
MARCO CERESTE: We’re not short of money. I can guarantee the people of Stanground that the funding that we have available to us at this moment in time will complete the school that they want, and deliver the services and facilities they want. I can guarantee that. Now, clearly, we are still trying to pitch for money from the Government, because if we can get Government money, it means that we can spend our, the people’s money, the people of .. the citizens’ money, of our you know the people of our city, on something else. And it’s the sort of good administration, and efficiencies and the sort of thing that you’d expect from a businessman like me. If I can get the Government to pay for it, fantastic. Well if I can’t, the money’s there. It’s guaranteed. We will build a school. The people of Stanground will get what they want within a cost envelope that we have.
ANDY BURROWS: John Swallow. Is this kind of in-fighting if you like between say Stephen Goldspink and Marco Cereste here, the reason why you quit from mainstream politics?
JOHN SWALLOW: No. I was actually forced out of mainstream politics when I took a stand. I actually stood with Conservatives over an issue. I was a member of the Labour Party at the time. And that wasn’t welcome. So I was then pushed out from one side for standing up, actually, and that was over a school issue as well. And I think really the thing that we’re looking at here is open democracy, all of the decisions being made behind closed doors, and ordinary people being told all the time what’s best for them. It’s about time really that democracy was opened up in this city, and we were involved in these decisions, rather than these big surprises coming out of hats. And when people on the Council start talking about spending our money wisely, I’ve got a list of projects which I don’t think they’ve spent their money wisely on.
ANDY BURROWS: Like what?
JOHN SWALLOW: Cathedral Square. The Football Ground. Neighbourhood Councils. You’ve got Neighbourhood Councils out there with a budget of about £30,000, and Chairmen on the Council, they’re getting expenses of £7,500. As a business person, if you’ve got a business that’s got a £30,000 income, and you’ve spent £7,500 on paying for a Chairman, you’d be out of business pretty quick.
ANDY BURROWS: Almost inevitably do you ..
MARCO CERESTE: (INTERRUPTS) That doesn’t show the full picture. I mean I accept that if you listen to what’s just been said, it’s out of skew. But the reality of Neighbourhood Councils is that we are going to devolve, and are in the process of doing so, decision making and executive decision making, and budget decisions, to local Neighbourhood Councils, in order for them to have a say on a huge amount of spend that goes on in their community. So whilst at the moment the budget appears to be about £30,000, the local Neighbourhood Council and the people who attend it will have the ability to have a say about a huge number of issues in their own wards. It’s never been done before in Peterborough, and it’s an experiment worth having, because it gives accountability to the local people.
ANDY BURROWS: Right. Neighbourhood Councils. On that particular subject then Chris York. If Labour was in control of Peterborough City Council, would you have Neighbourhood Councils?
CHRIS YORK: I don’t believe we would, but I’d just like to highlight that three years ago now, we had what we called the Sustainable Communities Act. Now Marco did agree that he would like to sign up to this Act, and I’m hoping, I’d like to think that if he’s relelected, that we could go ahead with it.
ANDY BURROWS: Let’s just stay on the subject of Neighbourhood Councils, because it’s an interesting one. Because, Stephen Goldspink, I don’t know how many meetings you’ve ever been to for Neighbourhood Councils, but does anybody go? Stephen Goldspink.
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: Well at my Neighbourhood Council we get an average attendance of ordinary members of the public of about 4. And I have been to quite a few neighbourhood Councils, probably 75% of them. And the reason is because what Marco has been talking about hasn’t happened yet, ie the decisions have not been devolved. Now I can accept that he might want to do that, but the problem is we’ve been running this as an experiment for two years, costing money, and it hasn’t happened yet.
ANDY BURROWS: But are they necessarily a bad idea, in terms of the fact that people can go along if they want? Rather than meetings just being held at the Town Hall all the time, then people can actually get involved in their community.
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: Yes but unfortunately they don’t. You can’t drag them out from their televisions.
MARCO CERESTE: That’s Councillor Goldspink in his area, where I agree it has been, in the past, poorly attended. There have been more recent meetings which were extremely well attended. And actually if you look at the other areas, you’ll get at least 20, and in some cases over 50 members of the public attending. And quite frankly, we don’t get 50 members of the public attend in a full year at Council meetings. So that’s a huge bonus on what we have at the moment. And again, it’s about the local people getting involved, and very shortly they’ll be able to make really serious decisions about what affects them. And I think you’ll find that a lot more people will get involved when they can decide about their own personal local issues.
ANDY BURROWS: OK. On that general theme then, moving away slightly from the Neighbourhood Councils, and just generally trying to get people interested in local politics John Swallow, what do you find on the doorstep?
JOHN SWALLOW: On the doorstep, people, as soon as you mention politics and politicians, the body language changes. As soon as you start to talk about not a member of the main political parties, then they actually will lift up and they’ll talk to you. And what’s actually happened, I started out myself and a couple of helpers last year on the big election trail. This time, we’re up to about a dozen people who are actually out there doing work. I’ve had three people approach me who say, what do you have to do to become a councillor. what’s involved and things. And then we’ve had other people …
ANDY BURROWS: You never have! (LAUGHS)
JOHN SWALLOW: (LAUGHS) Right. OK. This time next year, come back to me and see if I haven’t got at least two out of those three people standing. because we’ve actually been able to get them into the position where they can stand.
ANDY BURROWS: Do you get that reaction as well Chris York, people genuinely actually want to get involved? They don’t just kind of shut the door in your face as soon as you knock it.
CHRIS YORK: In fact I’ve met a couple of people who’ve shown an interest in standing as a candidate. I’ve had a couple of new people come out on my campaign trail, that I believe are going to join the party and will perhaps be looking to stand next year. But I think it’s a good thing. I don’t care which party people are standing for, as long as we’ve got community champions in the communities wanting to represent the people’s best interests, and working together. That’s what’s important, as far as I’m concerned. It isn’t about which political party you align to, or whether you’re independent, it’s about working together. And in Stanground, over the years, we have cross-party working groups, and they work very well. And we’re getting the results that we need to achieve.
ANDY BURROWS: OK. By the way, whoever’s banging the desk, you’re not on a platform now. (LAUGHS) The difficulty is, if you start banging a desk while we’re on the air, it just sounds like there’s somebody hammering in the next door studio. So try not to bang the desk too much if you can. In terms of the ward where you’re all standing then, Stanground Central, can we talk about anti-social behaviour? Because it has been a big issue in Stanground. There’s been lots of issues over recent times. A number of people have spoken to me quite recently about .. does Lawson Avenue come into your ward, all four of you?
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: Yes.
ANDY BURROWS: You know, kids hanging round shops and that kind of thing. It’s a problem that won’t go away, will it, Marco Cereste?
MARCO CERESTE: It is a problem. But we can deal with it, and we have been doing lots of things that have helped. You know, we’ve built the skateboard park. We’ve built the youth shelter, the climbing structures. We’ve worked with the local youths and the police on a special youth project. And it has made a huge difference to the anti-social behaviour in the ward. There is still a little way to go. I absolutely agree that we have to deal with it. But a lot of this is about providing facilities and things for the youths to do in our community. And one of the things that I ..
ANDY BURROWS: You’ve just built them a skatepark.
MARCO CERESTE: Yes we’ve built them a skatepark. And we’re about, hopefully, to reuse some old Portakabins, which were on another building. We’re going to recycle them, and provide a youth centre for them, close to the skatepark. So we are trying to deal with all of these issues. And I think we’ve gone a long way to providing the sort of things that the youth need. But we still have some way to go.
ANDY BURROWS: Stephen Goldspink, does more need to be done?
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: Oh definitely. And what Marco didn’t say was that his administration has also cut money for the mainstream youth funding.And therefore there are less community workers out there, less youth clubs going on. One’s closed down in my ward, East ward. So the money is being withdrawn. But there is a problem. I had two things come up specifically. One was benches and bus shelters in Fletton High Street, where two residents separately button-holed me and said, look, the bus shelter’s been burned out, the seats have been destroyed. The police don’t do anything. We don’t know how to contact our local councillor. And then the saddest story of all was a woman who I met in the middle of Stanground, who actually came to the door and she said I’m frightened to leave my own home. And I really don’t know who to turn to. And that was terribly sad. And we’ve got to do a lot more to help people like that, so they can leave their homes safely.
ANDY BURROWS: Right. I’ll ask that question of John Swallow. Is that necessarily a City Council issue to be dealing with, in terms of people saying they’re too afraid to leave their homes? So where does the responsibility of the police end, and the local authority start?
JOHN SWALLOW: Well the police have to enforce the law. And this is one of the big problems that we have in Peterborough, the enforcement of laws. So things are allowed to slip. And if we send that message to our young people, that just because we don’t have parking attendants you can park your car anywhere that you want, and you can do whatever you want, this type of thing then goes through into our youth. Because they pick it up from parents’ behaviours and things like that. So yes, we’ve got to actually get everybody involved. But you see, when politicians push it away, and say, oh, we need to spend some money on this, we need to spend some money on that, they’re not getting involved. And if they had been involved from the first place, they wouldn’t be saying it needs to be done now. if that makes some sense. Because Marco’s had plenty of time to get Stanground sorted out. He’s the Leader of the Council. He is the main man. He is the head honcho. And he’s got people in Stanground who have nothing to do. They’ve got the wrong ideas out there. And you’ve got people who are terrified of going out on the streets after dark. And we’ve done a lot of work canvassing round Lawson Avenue shops, and even during the daytime there’s people there behaving in a manner which isn’t really acceptable. The whole community needs to come together, but it needs to be led. And I don’t feel that that leadership is actually being given.
ANDY BURROWS: Chris York. You’ve declared that you’re the only one who actually lives in the ward. So what is it like?
CHRIS YORK: Well I’d love to put John straight on that actually, because we’ve got quite a few community champions in Stanground. A couple of years ago, when I started working with the Neighbourhood Policing Team, yes we did have anti-social behaviour problems. We’ve reduced that down by up to 70% now. What I actually did was, the Council haven’t got the funding available, so using the community ward funding ..
ANDY BURROWS: Yes. The community ward funding.
CHRIS YORK: Yes, sorry I was just.
ANDY BURROWS: No. That’s OK.
CHRIS YORK: What I did was I got some funding and set up the Youth Booth in Heritage Park School. We got a street art project on the go. There’s several of those happening. I’m Chair of the Stanground Youth Project, so we’ve got lots of …
ANDY BURROWS: This is the Big Society, isn’t it, hearing about what’s effectively a Tory policy?
CHRIS YORK: I’ve been doing the Big Society for years mate. And there’s a lot of people in Stanground doing the Big Society. And I think the candidates that have come in from outside, no disrespect to them, but if they’d come and spend a couple of days with us, that they’ll actually see the good work we’re doing in reducing anti-social behaviour. And we do have a brilliant policing team South of the river. And we all work hard together.
ANDY BURROWS: I’m talking to Marco Cereste the Conservative candidate, Stephen Goldspink the candidate for the English Democrats, John Swallow the Independent candidate, and Chris York the Labour candidate, all standing in the seat of Stanground Central in the local elections in Peterborough on Thursday. Marco Cereste is also Leader of Peterborough City Council. Inevitably, Marco Cereste, although quite clearly we’re talking about one particular area of Peterborough, your time as Leader will be judged at the ballot-box on Thursday as well. Does that also mean that if you don’t survive, then Peterborough’s plans for the future go up in smoke?
MARCO CERESTE: Well I would hope not. The Leader is the Leader, fair enough, but we’ve got a really good team. And I’m hoping that the team would, if I was unsuccessful, I would hope that the team would go on, carry on with all the vision and the things that we’ve started.
ANDY BURROWS: Because I’m right in saying you lost the seat on the Council before.
MARCO CERESTE: Yes I did, in 2001. Because everybody thought it was such a safe seat, they could take me out of my seat. And I actually went and worked in Stanground to help Councillor Rush, and Councillor Murphy to get himself re-elected. And I lost my seat by 30 votes. I can assure you I will not be doing that this time. And I would just like to pick up on some of the issues ..
ANDY BURROWS: have you got a Plan B though? I’m interested to know. Have you got a Plan B. If it does go wrong, once the people have put their cross in the box on Thursday, and you no longer retain the seat, what would happen to all the plans that you’ve put in place?
MARCO CERESTE: I’m absolutely sure. I’m absolutely sure that the Conservative group would take forward the vast majority of things that I’ve put in place, even if not all of them. Because, you know, there are some fantastic things happening in the city. We’ve actually got a developer now who wants to take on the South Bank, and completely redevelopment(sic) the bit along the river. And if you add that to the Carbon Challenge site, which is already started, you look at what’s happening. We’ve got a new railway station towards the end of the year. We’ve got more access to the city because of the road improvements that we’re making all round the city. I know it’s a pain, but when they’re completed people will be able to get in and out of the city far more easily. And I undserstand some people that are absolutely upset about the city centre, the square, about the fountains. I mean it wasn’t .. that was all started before I was Leader, but I actually hapopen to think that the city square is a great thing.
ANDY BURROWS: Do you think that’s how some people will vote on Thursday? They’ll look at the name Marco Cereste, and judge him by what’s happened in Cathedral Square, good and bad?
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: I think they probably will. And I think even worse, they might judge poor Councillor Cereste on the record of the national Government, which would be quite wrong. Because basically we’re supposed to be dealing with local issues. But even there I feel that things have not gone well. I was talking to someone this morning about Cathedral Square. They didn’t like Cathedral Square, but they just love St John’s Square. And so do I. I think that’s a real massive addition to our area. So basically I think there will be a mix of why people vote in different ways. I’m standing squarely on the fact that I’m a hard-working campaigning councillor with a record of success, and I intend to roll that out in Stanground Central, if successful.
ANDY BURROWS: Who’s already got a seat elsewhere.
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: That’s true. But I’ve had nothing but good wishes from my current ward. We’ll be sorry to see you go. Good luck for the future etcetera. So people understand that now I live nearer to Stanground Central than I do to East Ward, though my wife still has a business in East Ward, it makes more sense.
ANDY BURROWS: John Swallow, you’re competing against two relatively high profile councillors in Marco Cereste and Stephen Goldspink. Can you get any kind of bounce effectively from people rolling their eyes at both of them?
JOHN SWALLOW: I think when .. the Westminster political system is the thing that people rail against. They don’t want to .. well they can’t believe what Labour is telling them, and they can’t believe what the Conservatives are telling them. So they’re looking around for alternatives. And actually that may be where people like the English Democrats are, and it’s certainly where the Independents are. Because we are providing that alternative. We’re the way forward. And on the basis of this campaign, I might not be able to beat Marco Cereste, although I’m giving it my best hand, but what I really want to do is encourage others to believe in their communities, to believe instead of moaning and whining and getting depressed about it all, that they actually stand up, want to be counted, and get on with doing things, great things, in their communities.
ANDY BURROWS: We’ll come to levels of participation perhaps in the next few minutes. But Chris York, just finally on this particular point, to you, are you hoping to pick up some votes from people who are disillusioned perhaps about how Marco Cereste’s run the city?
CHRIS YORK: I don’t think I’m going to get any of Marco’s supporters voting Labour somehow. I’ll probably pick up disillusioned voters that aren’t aligned to any political party. There’s quite a few people now that have voted different ways in the past, that are now going to be voting for myself on Thursday. It’s difficult to say really. People say one thing on the doorstep, and do something completely different. So we’ll just have to wait and see. My attitude is may the best man win. And that’s where I’m coming from.
ANDY BURROWS: Cuts have dominated the national political debate. Is this something that the candidates, that you as candidates rather, are getting on the doorstep? Stephen Goldspink.
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: Yes it does come across. But people do understand that cuts have to be made. And to be fair, I would have supported 98% of the budget that the Conservatives put through this time. Because there isn’t much room for manoeuvre. However there is at least a half a million pounds that I’ve identified where we could have spent the money elsewhere, and what I believe would be better choices. For example, we’re subsidising translation services for those who come to this city not speaking English. The MP for Peterborough has criticised the Council for that. Councillors’ allowances went up by £60,000 per annum when Councillor Cereste came into power. We spent £125,000 last year and this year on an arts project that a cross-part group of councillors said we should cease. But it’s still going on. And there’s a proposal to spend £30,000 or more on water-taxi infrastructure. So there’s a lot of things there at the margins. But I have to say the reason I didn’t put forward an alternative budget this year was a) because it would get voted out, and b) because I have to say what the Conservative Council appear to be doing is correct in many ways.
ANDY BURROWS: Almost a supporter, Marco Cereste.
MARCO CERESTE: Yeah, Andy, yeah.
ANDY BURROWS: But it is very difficult isn’t it I suppose, to fundamentally put a budget together regardless of who’s running the Council, be it the Labour, Conservative, or Independent or English Democrats. Fundamentally you’ve got less money in the pot. But is it something that people are bringing to your attention?
MARCO CERESTE: No. I was asked about the social services, and whether or not .. how the cuts would affect social services. And the reality of it of course, the truth is that we as a Council have put more money into social services. And as you know, we’ve had to take £50 million out of our budget over the next four years. And if you look , if you were to compare Peterborough with many many many other cities, actually we’ve done quite well as a city. We as an adminsistration have taken the vast majority of money out of efficiencies, obviously unfortunately making redundancies, which I think every single person who loses a job is a tragedy. But, you know, we don’t have a choice. And we have to keep this city going. But if you look at ..
ANDY BURROWS: What does Peterborough actually run though? As Leader of the City Council, as well as a candidate in Stanground Central, you don’t run the Arts Services any more do you?
MARCO CERESTE: No.
ANDY BURROWS: You’ve farmed them out. You don’t run the Leisure Services any more, because they’ve gone as well. And you don’t even collect the bins.
MARCO CERESTE: Not any more. And that’s the whole idea. The whole idea, we will progress this even further, so that actually we as an authority become a commissioning authority. And where we possibly can, we will actually be buying services from other organisations, in order to save us money. If you look at .. if you look at the Enterprise deal, which has taken on City Services, that’s going to save us something like if I remember correctly £70 million over the life of the contract. Now when I say save us, I mean it saves the citizens of this city. And at the same time, because we’re getting it right, we’ve attracted 3,500 new jobs last year. We’re up to well over 1,000 new jobs this year. And for the last two years, the unemployment rate in Peterborough has been going down, completely against the trend in the entire country.
ANDY BURROWS: Chris York. as the Labour candidate. The way forward for Peterborough City Council to kind of effectively farm out these services. is that something that you’re particularly comfortable with?
CHRIS YORK: I tend to disagree with Marco on that point. Because I think, to give you an example, we won several awards for our recycling recently, and I was told that we’ve got one of the best facilities in Peterborough. And when I asked the question, why have we farmed it out to a private company, I’m told so they can give us a better service. So ..
ANDY BURROWS: These are 20 year contracts as well, aren’t they?
CHRIS YORK: Well, £70 million over 20 years. I haven’t got a calculator, cos I obviously can’t work that out. I don’t know what that breaks down to on an annual basis (note: it’s 23 years. £3 million a year) Obviously I can’t comment too much on that. But I don’t agree with having an administrative council. That’s just my opinion of course. But, see what the other gentlemen think.
ANDY BURROWS: What about you, John Swallow?
JOHN SWALLOW: In terms of cuts, there’s plenty of cuts that can be made. Councillors’ allowances, their expenses, and some of the high salaries. But when you’re talking about finances, we’ve got 8,000 people on a housing waiting list. We’ve got, according to the City Council’s figures, I believe it’s 14 rough sleepers in this city. How is it in the 21st century that we’ve got people who need good quality affordable housing? That to me is an absolute indictment. And if they’re going to start cutting things, they need to cut where it isn’t going to hurt ordinary working people.
ANDY BURROWS: Right. Well thank you for the time being ..
ANDY BURROWS: Gentlemen, just going back to perhaps more local issues in yourarea. The development of Magna Park is set to bring more jobs to the city. Clearly, Marco Cereste, you think that’s a good thing.
MARCO CERESTE: Well, I mean, I’ve got to think on this one on two levels, I as a local councillor have gone along with the wishes of my community, and I’ve voted against it at every opportunity. And that’s a matter of public record. Because my electors don’t want to see it there, and they’re perfectly right. I’m their elected member, and I need to represent them.in Council. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
ANDY BURROWS: A difficult position to be in though.
MARCO CERESTE: It is a very difficult position to be. But the reality of it is that you’re a ward councillor first, and a Leader second. And you have to put your ward, the interests of your ward, you have to represent the people who elect you. it’s the right thing to do, and every sensible councillor will tell you the same. You have to represent your ward, because that’s why they elected you.
ANDY BURROWS: What is the situation with Magna Park? For people that don’t know, they might be able to see what’s going on there, from the Parkway as they come through Peterborough. What’s operating out of there if anthing at the moment?
MARCO CERESTE: Well as far as .. nothing is happening at the moment. I don’t really .. I mean, whilst it’s mentioned in the Core Strategy, I don’t believe there are any plans to bring it forward at the moment, so I don’t see it happening in the reasonable medium term at all.
ANDY BURROWS: Because Stanground has obviously been affected by huge redevelopment over the last few years.
MARCO CERESTE: Yes.
ANDY BURROWS: You can think of, well, the IKEA site, and stuff like that, and not too far away the Gemini buildings or whatever they’re called these days. But Stephen Goldspink, do you find yourself in that kind of difficult position as well, in terms of the fact that you would no doubt welcome more investment and jobs into the city, but effectively it’s just, not on my doorstep, if you like, if you live in Stanground Central?
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: I’ve actually got an open mind on the issue. It is in the Core Strategy, and I would see my job as a local representative to make sure that if it happened, and there’s plenty of opportunity for people to represent their views in the planning process, if it happened, then we would have to make sure that it has as little effect on local residents as possible. We don’t want Stanground being used as a rat-run for heavy lorries. The fact is there are processes there to actually judge this through. The other thing I’m concerned about is the number of jobs that have been mentioned coming in, who are they going to go to? Because I don’t necessarily believe they’re going to go to people who are already living in Peterborough. So as far as I’m concerned, we must make sure that if that thing happens, and it’s a long way off yet, because the planning process hasn’t started, then it has the minimum effect possible on Stanground, and that local people get the work.
ANDY BURROWS: John Swallow, is Peterborough effectively full, or rather Stanground effectively full, when it comes to redevelopments of old sites, and also housing as well?
JOHN SWALLOW: I think we have to look at what we actually use the land for, and housing is a major .. is a big issue. In terms of Magna Park, I think size is the real issue there, and the impact it’s going to have on the community. If it’s going to go ahead, and it’s in the Core Strategy, then we need to fight every way that we can in order to minimise the impact on the community, and maximise the benefit of the thing. Even in terms of commercial vehicles at the moment, you’ve got the by-pass open going round Cardea Park at the moment. Heavy traffic is still coming through on the main road there, where there is a school. And Stanground College is there as well. So it’s its impact that really is the main thing.
ANDY BURROWS: Chris York?
CHRIS YORK: Yes. I actually set up a campaign group when the announcement was made three or four years ago now. And I’ve got about 500 signatures on a petition. One of the reasons that Magna Park was coming to Peterborough was that the Government at the time, they were upgrading the East Coast Main Line to deal with the freight on the roads. And they thought it would be a suitable location. The developers Gazeley have now sold it on to a Dubai company, who I believe are also in financial dire straights. So as far as I’m concerned, I can’t see Magna Park happening for a number of years, if at all.
ANDY BURROWS: Right. Maybe we’ll investigate those particular claims that you make there. Gentlemen, just a couple of issues before you go. We’ll also be asked to vote on Thursday as to AV. Can I just ask you for your own independent, or rather individual opinions on AV. Because it rather has divided parties. Chris York. I’ll start with you. Where do you stand on AV?
CHRIS YORK: Yes, I’m voting No personally. That’s my personal preference.
ANDY BURROWS: No to AV.
CHRIS YORK: Yes. OK. You’ve only got to look at Australia, for example. The last few Governments they’ve had have been coalitions. I’m not in favour of that, and I think first past the post.
ANDY BURROWS: John Swallow?
JOHN SWALLOW: No on Thursday for myself on AV. But the main concern that I’ve got there is yes, keep first past the post, but don’t let political parties, as Labour did when they were in office, and the Conservatives are now looking at doing, gerrymander the borders and the boundaries of these things, so that they can actually build in a majority into it, rather than opening it up and getting the figures set there, and a democratic process working.
ANDY BURROWS: Wouldn’t AV help you as an Independent candidate, if we had it in local elections in the future, or in the national general elections if you like? Because people wouldn’t so much switch from the Conservatives to Labour, they’d probably look for the middle ground. And as a middle ground candidate, surely you would feel the benefit there.
JOHN SWALLOW: Probably I would feel the benefit of it. But I still think it’s wrong.
ANDY BURROWS: Stephen Goldspink? Yes or no for AV?
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: I’m going to be the odd one out and say yes. As far as I’m concerned, I’m a bit of a cynic, and if all the major figures in all the major parties are saying it’s a bad thing, then as far as I’m concerned it must be a good thing. I’ve certainly seen it work in Doncaster in favour of the English Democrats. So what could I do except say yes. But I do genuinely believe it would bring to election people who have got a bigger majority support, when you take into account first, second and third preferences.
ANDY BURROWS: Marco Cereste. Surprise us all, and say you’ll be saying yes to AV.
MARCO CERESTE: No I won’t be saying yes to AV. I think it’s nuts. You could have a .. it’s like going to the horses you know. It’s a bit like going to the Newmarket horse race.
ANDY BURROWS: Oh here we go. We’ve got an AV analogy coming up. None of these ever stand up, but go on.
MARCO CERESTE: Well this one will stand up. It’s like going to Huntingdon, right, betting on the favourite, the favourite wins, the second place gets disqualified, and the third place ends up being the one that’s given the prize. That’s nonsense. (Correct). And all I would say to all of the people who live in our city, when they start thinking about AV. How many of them can tell us the names of our MEPs. Now they weren’t elected under AV, they were elected under proprtional representation.
ANDY BURROWS: Oh don’t go down the PR route for heaven’s sake. You’ll be here all day.
MARCO CERESTE: It’s not very far away.
ANDY BURROWS: Now just before I let you all go, you all face a massive issue on Thursday, and that is effectively trying to get people to vote, in whichever way they will cast their ballot. Just trying to get people out of the door on Thursday and down to the various polling booths is a massive challenge. It’s difficult enough at the General Election, let alone at the local elections. So what will you be doing on Thursdy Chris York? Will you be offering people lifts down there?
CHRIS YORK: I believe there’s already people in place offering lifts to the polling stations. But I’ll just be knocking on people’s doors that have said they’re going to be voting, to see whether they’ve actually been down and cast their vote. And I just say one thing to people, if you’re not happy with the City Council the way it’s run, then vote for a change and vote for Chris York. because I’m a local man of substance and I get things done.
ANDY BURROWS: John Swallow?
JOHN SWALLOW: I’ll be working part of it for the local bus company. But the other part of it, yes, I’ll be out on the streets.
ANDY BURROWS: Won’t be making a detour, will you, with your passengers on board? Anybody for Stanground Central?
JOHN SWALLOW: A captive audience.
ANDY BURROWS: Stephen Goldspink? How do you get people to even bother to vote on Thursday?
STEPHEN GOLDSPINK: Well I must admit I did consider changing my name by deed poll to ZZZ-None of the Above. Because I thought I might get a lot of votes. But no, at the end of the day you have to convince people that their vote makes a difference. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Convince them that their vote makes a difference. And I do believe very strongly, and I know Marco believes this as well, that we would much rather people went out and voted than didn’t, no matter who they voted for. Because it is something that people have spent a lot of time winning for us, so we shouldn’t take it for granted.
ANDY BURROWS: Marco Cereste, just finally then. You lost a seat before by what, something like 30 or 40 votes. So you had a 104 vote majority at the last elections. How do you get people to come out and vote?
MARCO CERESTE: By working very very hard.
ANDY BURROWS: Because those are small figures, aren’t they? They can make a massive difference.
MARCO CERESTE: Absolutely. I could very easily lose on Thursday. I’m not conceited enough to think that this is a one or a done deal, no way. You know. And we’re working, I will be working . My team will be working from 6 o’clock in the morning on Thursday. We’ll have tellers out in the polling stations. We’ll have a committee room. We’ll have people with cars doing .. picking people up, giving people lifts. I’ve spoken to nearly 2,000 people in my ward personally.
ANDY BURROWS: You’ll all be doing your bit. You’ll all be doing your bit come Thursday.
MARCO CERESTE: The only thing I agree with Stephen about is I would prefer that people went out and voted.
ANDY BURROWS: On that note, thank you very much for joining me.