David Sanders – costly errors and accountability at Peterborough City Council

09:23 Wednesday 25th October 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Today marks the end. It’s a momentous day, the end of Peterborough City Council’s solar dreams. Let’s call it that. The plan to use Grade I farming land to build a big green energy park, or a series of them. At today’s Cabinet meeting, which is underway right now, the Council will confirm they’re dropping plans for the third and final site on America Farm, the last strand of this three-pronged dream. It means all three plans are now dead in the water. But the whole venture has cost the taxpayer, you and me and everybody else, over £3 million. And not a penny’s coming back from it. The original proposal from the Council claimed the project could make millions of pounds, but the project was constantly hindered by objections from locals, reductions in the tariff from the Government, and the fact the land is right next to Flag Fen, so it needed to be excavated. Councillor David Sanders is the councillor for Thorney and Eye, and he’s with us this morning. David, morning. David morning.
DAVID SANDERS: Good morning. Can you hear me OK?
PAUL STAINTON: Yes I’ve got you now. I’ve got you now.
PAUL STAINTON: Now this was at one time billed as the Leader Marco Cereste’s vanity project by Stewart Jackson MP and others. There were accusations farmers weren’t listened to. I was still doing Breakfast at the time when it was first mooted. I had a lady in here crying, who’d lived on a farm for many many years, saying they’d not been consulted. Was this just a bad idea from the start? Was it a good idea that was badly managed? Or was it just a punt?
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Council admits that a costly solar energy scheme has failed

07:07 Wednesday 25th November 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: The final chapter in Peterborough’s controversial solar farm saga is set to be written today after three years and a cost of over £3 million to the taxpayer. The proposed scheme for America Farm will join those for Newborough Farm and Morris Fen in the City Council’s history books, after being judged financially unviable. later on the Council is expected to accept proposals to drop plans for thousands of solar panels at America Farm. Sara Varey has been looking back on the solar saga.
SARA VAREY: The opening line as delivered by Council Leader Marco Cereste in October 2012 promised an annual income of £7.5 million for the next twenty five years, to be achieved through the Government’s generous feed-in tariff scheme, that offers cashbacks for generating green energy. Three Council owned plots were identified, America Farm, Morris Fen and Newborough Farm. The tenant farmers clamoured their families’ futures were in jeopardy. John Harris voiced his feelings during the debate here on Radio Cambridgeshire in December 2013.
JOHN HARRIS: It’s just absolutely devastating for the countryside and obviously for myself and my family. We’ve not had a good night’s sleep since this plan came to fruition.
SARA VAREY: Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson took on the role of clairvoyant.
STEWART JACKSON: Based on the predictions in this business plan, if the funding regime for subsidies changed drastically, that will leave Peterborough City Council taxpayers on the hook very significantly for this project.
SARA VAREY: And so it has come to pass. The Government’s enthusiasm for subsidising renewable energy has waned. In October 2014 Morris Fen and Newborough were written out of the script as financially unsustainable, and the show is now over for America Farm too. But the audience is still waiting for the punchline. How much has it all cost? Newborough resident Alex Terry says it’s time for the big reveal.
ALEX TERRY: You should release the financial data. You’re earning money to save the people of Peterborough you say. So prove it. (APPLAUSE)
DOTTY MCLEOD: Local resident of Newborough there Alex Terry finishing that report from Sara Varey. We did ask Peterborough City Council to come on this morning for a chat. They’ve sent us this statement instead. It reads: “The decision to withdraw plans for the two largest sites followed a Government announcement that it was withdrawing support from large-scale solar projects. America Farm was the scheme’s smallest site. Cabinet will this morning consider a recommendation to cease this project. This is because DECC the Department of Energy and Climate Change is set to significantly reduce the level of feed-in tariff payments to ground-mounted solar by around 80% in the New Year.” Well Dale McKean will talk to us. He was the Conservative councillor for the Eye and Thorney ward when plans were first put forward for these schemes three years ago, and he also sat on the Rural Scrutiny Committee at Peterborough City Council. Morning Dale.
DALE MCKEAN: Good morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Now did you realise .. did you realise when these schemes were mooted three years ago that these feed-in tariffs might drop off? Did you consider that as a possibility?
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Council elects old school Tory Leader

07:19 Thursday 21st May 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: John Holdich is the Leader, the new Leader, of Peterborough City Council. The long-serving Conservative councillor for Glinton and Wittering has been appointed unopposed. He’ll replace Marco Cereste who lost his Stanground seat in the recent local elections. Our political reporter Hannah Olsson was at Peterborough Town Hall for last night’s meeting.
HANNAH OLSSON: The General Election may have surprised pollsters and parties alike, but this evening in Peterborough Town Hall everything went as predicted. Conservative John Peach is the new Mayor, and Conservative John Holdich is the new Leader of Peterborough City Council. We were expecting a nomination from the Labour Group, but it didn’t come, so John Holdich was elected unopposed. The councillors nominating him described him as Peterborough through and through, a team player qualified and respected pair of hands. He said it was time for a clean slate, and he would do his best to represent the people of Peterborough. The only drama of the evening came as the new Leader began announcing the Cabinet members. Two members of the Labour Party Ed Murphy and Jo Johnson walked out of the Council chamber. Ed Murphy at one point was asking for nomination to run a cross-party Cabinet. I asked both Ed and Jo why they left the chamber.
JO JOHNSON: The Labour Group and followers of the Labour Group whip, because we were going to put a position up, and we didn’t do it.
HANNAH OLSSON: That came as a surprise to you?
JO JOHNSON: Yes it did. We weren’t told. We had a pre-meeting before and we weren’t told that there was no opposition.
HANNAH OLSSON: The Leader of the Labour Party Mohammed Jamil told me that simply, things had changed.
MOHAMMED JAMIL: The support I’d been promised, or I thought I had the support, prior to this meeting certain group members came to me and said look I’m sorry we’re not supporting you. Now I felt I could go ahead with this, or I could try and work with John Holdich to secure a better deal.
HANNAH OLSSON: So it may be a new era for Peterborough City Council, but it seems the drama continues.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Hannah Olsson there reporting from the annual Council meeting in Peterborough last night. John Holdich the new Leader of Peterborough City Council joins me now. Morning John.
JOHN HOLDICH: Good morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well congratulations. What is first on your list of to do tasks?
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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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Peterborough Conservatives predict a coalition of the willing to rule the city

07:40 Monday 11th May 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Quite a lot of upsets in general as the results of the General Election came out on Friday, with the Labour Party doing a lot worse than many people thought, the LibDems doing far worse than many people thought. You had Nigel Farage resigning,. You had Nick Clegg resigning. You had Ed Miliband resigning. And then of course Marco Cereste the former Leader of Peterborough City Council lost his council seat. The person likely to step into councillor Cereste’s shoes will be chosen this week. He lost his seat of course in the local elections. Here’s what he said on Friday afternoon.
MARCO CERESTE: Of course I would rather have been the victor, but you know, God’s will is God’s will and that’s what he’s decided. He’s probably got a different path for me to take.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So a new Conservative Leader will now be elected. Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald of Peterborough City Council joins me now to talk more about this. Morning councillor Fitzgerald. .. So what happens next? Because at the moment the Conservative Group and indeed the City Council is without a permanent Leader.
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Cereste toppled

17:17 Friday 8th May 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

WASEEM MIRZA: There’s been a day of drama already today. Let’s start with Peterborough, where there were 20 out of 57 seats up for election. Technically 56, because a councillor had resigned about a month or so ago. Today the Leader of that city council Marco Cereste lost his seat. A little bit of background, back in May 2013 Marco Cereste survived a leadership challenge, after being criticised for his support on major projects, including a multi-million pound solar and wind farm near the city. He survived that surprise challenge back then, but in today’s elections he lost his seat to the Conservative Ray Bisby, and UKIP’s John Whitby. Now the new make-up of Peterborough City Council now looks like this. Largely unchanged from the last election, Conservatives with 26 seats, losing 2 on the previous election. Labour 12, the same as before. The Independents 7. Again no change there. UKIP 4, that’s up on the previous 3. Liberal Democrats 4, again no change there. The Liberal Party 3, the same as before. So what does that mean? Well no party has overall control of Peterborough City Council, again, the same result as in the previous election. But with Marco Cereste no longer at the helm, there could be big ramifications there for the future. So, what next for Mr Cereste? Well he told this programme earlier the public will decide his legacy.


Care home closures at Peterborough hustings

11:45 Friday 1st May 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Is it time we talked about adult social care in a serious way Stewart Jackson? Is it time we looked after our elderly in a better way, and spent more money on it? Surely not the time to be closing care homes, is it?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I’m not going to defend the City Council’s decision on care homes. They’ll have to come on and defend that themselves. My view is that in a sense adult social care and the co-ordination between acute district hospitals, GPs and the City Council is almost an issue above politics. Because none of us can stop the demographic change, the number of over 85’s doubling in the next twenty years.
PAUL STAINTON: And it’s time to do something now isn’t it Lisa Forbes, and everybody get together on this before it’s too late In thirty years time we’re all going to be looking after each other on zimmer frames, aren’t we?
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Minor party candidates welcome the big debate

big_debate09:21 Thursday 2nd April 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

JEREMY SALLIS: This morning we’re asking has the day of two party politics vanished for ever? Is this the election where it really is all to play for, even for every party taking part? Well tonight we’ll see all seven main party leaders from across the UK take part in a live two hour televised debate. It will also be the only time that David Cameron and Ed Miliband go face to face before we go, before you go, to the polls in May. Well joining them on the stage will be party leaders from the Scottish National Party, from UKIP, from Plaid Cymru, from the Green Party and also the Liberal Democrats. Well BBC Assistant Political Editor Norman Smith went as far as predicting tonight’s contest will be a ‘visible symbolic demonstration of the death of two party politics’. .. If you’re thinking will it make any difference to the vote, last time in 2010 similar television debates saw the polls surge in support for the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg of course. So could tonight’s event have a similar effect on one if not more of the seven candidates taking part? Joining me this morning to discuss this is Darren Bisby-Boyd, who’s the Green Party candidate for Peterborough. A very good morning to you Darren.
DARREN BISBY-BOYD: Good morning.
JEREMY SALLIS: WE also have Mary Herdman, who is the UKIP candidate for Peterborough. Morning to you Mary.
MARY HERDMAN: Good morning.
JEREMY SALLIS: And Sebastian Kindersley, who is the Liberal Democrat candidate for South Cambridgeshire. Morning to you Sebastian.
SEBASTIAN KINDERSLEY: Good morning. How are you?
JEREMY SALLIS: Very good thank you. I think tonight’s debate will be strictly orchestrated, with everyone having their chance to say. I don’t mind as long as you behave yourselves all the microphones being open, so you can pitch in and have your say. But as long as you behave yourselves. First of all, Darren, is this the end of two party politics? There’s a veritable smörgåsbord now for people to choose from.
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