17:10 Tuesday 15th March 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: LibDem Leader Tim Farron MP is in Cambridge ahead of the local elections in May. He’s visited the major new community being built at Trumpington on Cambridge’s Southern Fringe, where 40% of the 4,000 homes being built are affordable. The LibDems are in decline in the area. They lost control of the City Council two years ago, and at the General Election lost the seat of Cambridge to Labour.
TIM FARRON: Well it’s great to come up and to back Tim Bick and Julian Huppert and the team in Cambridge as we head towards the local elections on May 5th. They’re a real opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to rebuild as the main opposition to Labour across the city. I’m particularly looking forward to going to the Southern Fringe development of course, where 50% 0f the homes built are affordables, a project which is delivered thanks to Liberal Democrats when we ran the Council.
CHRIS MANN: But you don’t any more, do you? You mentioned two people of course who were defeated. They were thrown out, Tim Bick and Julian Huppert. No longer do you run the City Council. No longer do you have an MP there. So your visit is a bit late.
TIM FARRON: It was a wonderful result in many ways, compared to many others around the country of course. Last May was a real blow. But we got incredibly close to winning in Cambridge. It’s very clear from all the results we’ve been having around the country since last May that in the council elections that have been every Thursday, Liberal Democrats are gaining more votes and more seats than any other party across the country. I think what we offer, particularly at the local level which is where things started off for us in Cambridge all those years ago, is that attention to the community, and actually getting things done. I guess if I was to ..
CHRIS MANN: But hang on a second. You got turfed out because you lied to people, particularly about student loans. This is very much a university city of course. You’ll know that. So how on earth are you going to get that faith back? People won’t believe you any more.
TIM FARRON: Well we were a matter of a few hundred votes off winning the seat last May, which demonstrates real strength within the city. And I knock on doors around the country and I’ve done an amount of it in Cambridge over the last few years. And you get a real sense that people in Cambridge want councillors who deliver for them. The national issues are massively significant, but they are not the only thing that matters. And having a council that wants to get things done and doesn’t just want to sit on office is really important. The visit to Southern Fringe today is really instructive. It’s a positive visit.
CHRIS MANN: Talk to us about the specifics then of this idea that there could be some devolution for East Anglia, and Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk join together. There’s an opportunity. Do you think that should be taken?
TIM FARRON: Well if you’re going to (unclear) the local people ought to have a say in. One of my concerns with the Government at the moment is whilst devolution is absolutely right, it’s the right agenda, I want people in Cambridge and Cambridgeshire to be able to make decisions that affect their community, not be told what to do from Whitehall.
CHRIS MANN: You talk about the city’s housing crisis. Of course you had a period in government where you could sort things out, and you haven’t done that as far as Cambridge is concerned.
TIM FARRON: Well you’re wrong. I’m going to visit a site today that proves we have actually. When we ran the Council we ensured that not only did development happen, but development was affordable. It’s quite unique really around the regions to have a development of this scale where 50% of the new homes are affordable.
CHRIS MANN: But you nowhere near solved the problem in Cambridge, both the houses to rent and to buy.
TIM FARRON: And nobody has. And ..
CHRIS MANN: But you had power. You had the chance to do that. There’s still a chronic shortage.
TIM FARRON: And we did. Have we sorted it? No. Have we made it better than any party has ever done? Yes. have we fixed it? No way. And the reality is that what we’ve got is an ongoing housing crisis. It will continue to be the case until you have a Government that allows and enables local authorities to borrow to build, and to make sure we build new garden cities, to allow councils to develop social rented homes that make sure that we can meet the needs. What we’ve got is unambitious government, and the Coalition, which made some progress, didn’t make anything nearly enough. And that’s why it’s been something that I think we should absolutely point out, that when we ran the Council in Cambridge, you saw this kind of development happening. Under Labour, you know we’re seeing very little.
CHRIS MANN: How can you persuade people the LibDems aren’t just an irrelevance to British politics now, that you can actually make a difference?
TIM FARRON: Well today I’m rushing back from Cambridge to go and vote in Parliament tonight against the Snooper’s Charter. And the Labour Party will sit on their hands, because they are indifferent to the growing intrusion in the lives of private people, online and in other ways. Britain desperately needs a Liberal party that will stop an authoritarian Government and a chaotic Labour opposition, causing such damage to fundamental British values. And in the end, we have a destructive rather extreme Conservative Government doing damage to this country, and we have a Labour party who are the most ineffective official opposition in living memory. And if it’s not the Liberal Democrats, then there will be nobody else to hold this Government to account across the country. Our re-growth is not just a massive opportunity for us as a party, I’d say it was a duty.
CHRIS MANN: Tim Farron, thank you so much for joining us.
TIM FARRON: Thank you.