Devolution for Cambridgeshire – Groups sets out their terms of engagement

“And fundamentally it’s up to the Government to decide whether it wants to press ahead and try and force this scheme on us, which I don’t think will be acceptable to the people, or whether or not to come back with a more viable compromise option.”

opposition_letter17:41 Wednesday 23rd March 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: Tonight an open letter has been written by the Leaders of the Liberal Democrat, UKIP, Labour and Independent Groups on Cambridgeshire County Council about the devolution negotiations. It’s in opposition to the plan by the Government and the Conservatives to put some devolution into our area. Let’s bring in live now the Leader of the Labour Group, Ashley Walsh, who joins me on the line. Ashley, hello.
ASHLEY WALSH: Hello Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Now you’ve already expressed your opposition on the County Council yesterday at this Full Council meeting to the deal. Why have you felt it necessary to put it in a letter today?
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Devolution for Cambridgeshire – Council rejects Government offer

ccc17:21 Tuesday 22nd March 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: The plan for a devolution deal for East Anglia has been dealt a severe blow this evening, as County councillors rejected the current agreement. A deal joining Cambridgeshire with Norfolk and Suffolk was announced by the Chancellor in last week’s Budget, but there’s concern about how much it would actually benefit our county. Our political reporter Hannah Olsson has been at Shire Hall watching events take place, and she joins us now. Hannah.
HANNAH OLLSSON: Good evening Chris. Yes this evening’s debate centred around a proposal from the Opposition councillors on Cambridgeshire County Council to reject this devolution deal in its current form. We had a long debate lasting more than two hours, with councillors raising concerns about the speed in which this deal has been rushed through, the amount of money that’s being promised, initially just £30 million a year, and fundamentally whether Norfolk and Suffolk are the right bedfellows for the County. There was considerable criticism of the Chancellor, with the Leader of the Labour Party on the Council Ashley Walsh saying we’re being forced into a shotgun wedding, and George Osborne hadn’t even got the decency to take us out for dinner. Now Lucy Nethsingha, who’s the Leader of the LibDems here on the CountY Council suggested this deal was dreamt up on the back of a cigar packet. Now a key part of the proposal is a regional mayor leading this joint authority. There were also questions about how much this mayor will cost, and also whether someone representing such a large area could make the right decisions for Cambridgeshire.
CHRIS MANN: So that’s those who are opposing the deal. Are there any supporting it?
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Opposing views on a rate rise for Cambridgeshire

We have the asset portfolio in my opinion to become self-sufficient a couple of years down the line.

council_tax08:20 Thursday 28th January 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Let’s return to the subject of council tax. Would you pay more of it if it meant social care services in the county faced fewer cuts? Would you be happy to pay a little bit more each year? In last year’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to let councils increase council tax by 2% if they spent that money on social care. This in the face of continuing cuts that threaten social care services. Richard O’Leary is from the GMB union. I spoke to him earlier. He says there’s only one option.
RICHARD O’LEARY: It’s a very complex question. I think our general view is they have no option but to implement this, and that’s because as you’ve already said earlier in your report, local government has been affected more than any area of the public sector with the cuts since 2010. If you take the national figure, local authorities have lost 51% of their budget in those six years, and Cambridgeshire is one of the hardest affected authorities in the country.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Cambridgeshire County Council at the moment will be advising the Government that they are ‘not minded’ to increase council tax by 2% for this purpose. A final decision will be made next month. Just to put it in context, for the average Band D property, a 2% rise on council tax would mean an extra £33 a year. With me now are two men with very different views on this. Ashley Walsh who is the Leader of the Labour group on Cambridgeshire County Council, who is calling for a rise bigger than 2%. Morning Ashley.
ASHLEY WALSH: Morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And also Paul Bullen who is the Leader of the UKIP group who thinks there should be no rise at all. Morning Paul.
PAUL BULLEN: Good morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So Ashley we’ll start with yourself. You’re calling for a 4% rise, an extra £60 on a year for the average householder. Why? Why do we need the money?
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Council braced for savage cuts

dave's_xmas_card08:19 Wednesday 16th December 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Yesterday Cambridgeshire County Council had their last Full Council meeting of 2015, and they came close to voting for a letter being written to the Prime Minister about the funding cuts. Our political reporter Hannah Olsson was there. A bit of a difficult end of year for the County Council Hannah.
HANNAH OLSSON: Yes morning Dotty. Yes the Council needs to save £100 million over the next five years, because it says it’s expecting to get less money from the Government, whilst the number of people living in Cambridgeshire continues to rise. Now last month they told us how their proposals were going to work for doing this. It included big cuts to care, as well as services including gritting, libraries, even lollipop ladies. Now so far all of the discussions about the proposals have been in the individual committees. So there’s a Children’s committee, a Transport committee, and the idea being that the focus of these is on detailed decisions and discussions rather than party politics. But that all seemed to go out the window in yesterday’s Full Council meeting. One of the Labour councillors, Jocelynne Scutt, suggested the Council write to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, to tell them the effects the cuts would have here in Cambridgeshire. And this prompted a lively debate about austerity, with political colours on full show in the Council Chamber. Here’s LibDem councillor Lucy Nethsingha, followed by Conservative councillor James Palmer and Labour’s Ashley Walsh.
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Cambridgeshire budget proposals – Leaders react

10:21 Tuesday 27th October 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

SUE DOUGAN: Cambridgeshire County Council as you’ve been hearing today has announced its budget proposals for the next financial year. The authority has to save over £40 million. Here’s the savings being proposed. Over £9 million to be taken from the care budget that supports vulnerable adults and older people; £1.4 million taken from supporting bus services across Cambridgeshire; the mobile library service could be removed. That would save £160,000; over half a million to be taken from the winter maintenance budget; further cuts to school crossing patrols, libraries, children’s centres. Even things like street parking fees could increase in Cambridge. We have with us today the Conservative councillor Steve Count, who is Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. Steve good morning.
STEVE COUNT: Good morning Dotty.
SUE DOUGAN: Good morning. It’s Sue actually. Good morning.
STEVE COUNT: Oh sorry Sue.
SUE DOUGAN: That’s quite all right. Ashley Walsh is alongside us as well, the new Labour Leader on Cambridgeshire County Council. Ashley hello.
SUE DOUGAN: We’ve got Pete Reeve joining us from UKIP as well. Pete good morning.
PETER REEVE: Good morning.
SUE DOUGAN: I thank you all for joining us here on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Let’s start with you Steve first of all. As Leader of the County Council, what were your reactions when these budgets were announced, when this figure was achieved?
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Cambridge Central Library cuts and the shape of things to come

cambscc08:20 Thursday 4th June 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Should a councillor from Ramsey or Whittlesea be able to decide what happens in Cambridge city centre? Well that’s exactly what happened with the controversial decision about Cambridge Central Libray earlier on this week. It’s prompted new calls to make Cambridge a unitary authority, the same as Peterborough.  Let’s speak to the Group Leader councillor Ashley Walsh. So what benefits do you think there could be to Cambridge of a change like this?
ASHLEY WALSH: Well I think Cambridge is now a city of huge national importance, it’s rate of growth, the importance for the Eastern and Southern economies, (such) that we really have to be able to control our own destiny in terms of how we want to grow, what sectors of the economy we want to develop into. And we don’t have the power to do that at the moment, because most councillors represent parts of the county that have very little to do with Cambridge, and centre around places like Peterborough, or places around Norfolk. And they just don’t get what Cambridge needs and what it needs to do in the future.
DOTTY MCLEOD: There is a flip side to this of course, which is that if you became a unitary authority in Cambridge, you would no longer have the power to decide on things going on in Ramsey and Whittlesea and Wisbech. Would you be happy with that?
ASHLEY WALSH: Well I think when councils work together very well, as the City Council and South Cambridgeshire do over developing housing, then you can have the power to do that, because you influence each other and you work together. But the Central Library is ust one eaxmple of where Cambridge has suffered because people representing elsewhere in the county have not been able to develop beyond their own parochial interests.
DOTTY MCLEOD: It’s just democracy, isn’t it, the fact that people in different areas decide on one thing that might affect one other area?
ASHLEY WALSH: That’s true. I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with having two layers of local government. The big problem now is that because cuts have been so bad, it’s now becoming an argument about defending your own local area from the scale of the huge spending reductions. So although it might sound like a high ideal to be democratic and represent the whole county, because we have very little money around, people are just defending their own interests. The reason I think that we’ve had to lose the third floor of the Central Library is because Conservatives have historically underfunded branch libraries in the county. And Cambridge is now having to pay that price.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. Well let’s talk about what happens when a council becomes a unitary authority. One man who knows a lot about this is counciilor Charles Swift, an Independent councillor for North ward in Peterborough. Been a councillor more more than six decades, so seen many changes, not least Peterborough becoming a unitary authority. So you’ve been a councillor before and after Peterborough became a unitary authority. Has it been good for the city do you think?
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One week on – the parties find their feet

talks17:39 Friday 15th May 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: They say a week is a long time in politics. Since the election results were announced last Friday we’ve had twists and turns, ups and downs, from all of the political parties. And our political reporter Hannah Olsson has been trying to keep up. She joins me in the studio now. It’s been quite a week, and today, well, the drama of the Labour leadership contest took another strange turn.
HANNAH OLSSON: It certainly did. Now since Ed Miliband announced he was resigning as Labour Party Leader after to his party’s disappointing defeat in the General Election last week, contenders have been throwing their hats in the ring. We’ve had Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh, all saying they wanted to enter the race. But then today Chuka Umunna surprised us all by announcing he was withdrawing. The reason he gave in a statement was that he wasn’t comfortable with the level of pressure and scrutiny that came with being a Leadership candidate. Now Chuka Umunna is a polished media performer, and was seen as a real contender for the job, so the announcement will come as a big shock for many people within the Labour Party. But former labour Leader Lord Kinnock says he has probably done the right thing.
LORD KINNOCK: If he felt in his soul that he wasn’t prepared to subject himself, and more importantly his family, to the kind of attention which is fairly typical sadly these days, he has done absolutely the right thing. There’s no point at all in inflicting avoidable unnecessary misery on those that you love most.
HANNAH OLSSON: Candidates must secure nominations from 34 colleagues, that’s roughly 15% of the Labour party’s MPs, by 15th June, to make it onto those ballot papers. So we may see more twists and turns in the race before then.
CHRIS MANN: Let’s move on to talk about UKIP. Yesterday I spoke to Patrick O’Flynn, who had very publicly criticised the party’s Leader Nigel Farage, calling him ‘thin skinned and aggressive’. Has there been more reaction to that?
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Ashley Walsh and Rod Cantrill on tuition fees and the Living Wage for Cambridge

living_wage17:19 Friday 27th February 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

(MUSIC – Same Old Song – Four Tops)

CHRIS MANN: Well will it be the same old song from the two politicians joining me now? A couple of subjects to talk about. Let’s first welcome them. Councillor Ashley Walsh from Labour, who’s the lead on the Living Wage on the County Council. The member for Petersfield. Ashley, hello.
ASHLEY WALSH: Hello Chris.
CHRIS MANN: And also councillor Rod Cantrill, LibDem for Newnham on Cambridge City Council, and a member of the Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee. Hello.
CHRIS MANN: A couple of things. We’ll come on to the university tuition fees in a moment or two, but there was a claim today by the LibDems saying the Co-op of all companies, the Co-op food stores, are paying people below the Living Wage. Expand on this please Rod.
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