17:42 Tuesday 16th July 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: The question of funding for an A14 upgrade reared its rather ugly head again today at a full Cambridgeshire County Council meeting. Beforehand, Paul Bullen the Deputy Leader of UKIP on the County Council said a referendum needed to be held before the Council agreed to any contribution of funding. But Council Leader Martis Curtis said it was vital that work on the road is not delayed. He joins me in the studio now. Hello Martin.
MARTIN CURTIS: Good afternoon Chris.
CHRIS MANN: And also the UKIP Leader Peter Reeve. Hello Peter.
PETER REEVE: Good afternoon .
CHRIS MANN: The end result Martin was the vote was …?
MARTIN CURTIS: It was overwhelmingly rejected.
CHRIS MANN: Ok. Peter Reeve. Why do you think it was a good idea?
PETER REEVE: Referenda is a good idea. We in UKIP are democrats. We fundamentally believe our role in Cambridgeshire County Council is to pull with the views of the residents. The views of the residents are quite clearly this. They don’t want to see Cambridgeshire Council tax money being put into national schemes. We all want the A14 delivered, apart from perhaps the Liberal Democrat MP in Cambridge, but actually it’s about priorities for money. And if you take money off Cambridgeshire tax payers’ services to put into the A14, then someone is going to suffer. And all we’re saying in UKIP is if you’re going to do that, let’s let the people out there decide. And that seems like a logical point of view, and both BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s survey this morning agrees with us, and also the one in ..
CHRIS MANN: I’m not sure that it does, but Martin Curtis, what was your response to that?
MARTIN CURTIS: Well actually the reality of the situation with the A14 upgrade is it’s part of an ambitious programme that we sold as Conservatives in our manifesto you know in the elections and bearing in mind the area that the A14 you know covers which is the South of the County. We picked up and gained seats because of people’s recognition of our commitment to the A14. OK. Let’s get that .. But the other part of this, and the truth is that the Cambridgeshire economy will suffer by more than twenty five million, and that includes receipts to this council because of business rate retention, if we don’t go ahead with this. Government were absolutely clear with this , and I’ve sat and listened to civil servants make this plain to us, that Minister’s view was that the A14, if it happened, it would be based on local contribution. It would be based on a toll. And it would be based on the rest of the funding coming from Government. And without that, there was no deal.
CHRIS MANN: Peter Reeve, it’s not a survey but on this programme we’ve had the Local Enterprise Partnership. We’ve had Chamber of Commerce, and all kinds of business leaders like that and transport leaders and they’ve all said A14, it’s got to happen, otherwise Cambridgeshire is going to grind to a halt, if it hasn’t already at certain times of the day.
PETER REEVE: We’re all agreed. The A14 has got to happen. What we’re talking about is the way it’s funded. And it’s the Conservatives running the Council, they’re going to get shafted by their own Ministers. That is the issue we’re addressing. And they should go to the people of Cambridgeshire, the people actually paying the bill, and find out. Do they want tolling? Do they want Council tax money that should be used on vital local services to be used on a national project. Martin believes he should make that decision. And we believe that’s an arrogant position from the Conservatives. And actually the people out there know best.
CHRIS MANN: But isn’t this what manifestos are about? You go to an electorate with promises. You stand for something, and they vote on you depending on that.
PETER REEVE: Well it was quite embarrassing in the Council chamber when so many Conservative councillors were standing up saying that the people out there just don’t understand. Only we councillors know … (HUBBUB)
MARTIN CURTIS: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that is absolutely a complete and utter misrepresentation of what we said. What we said was getting across the complexities of this A14 argument, because it isn’t just a thing about do you want local funding or not. It is about getting the understanding of the links between the A14 and the City Deal. About understanding the impact of the A14 around the whole of the County. When you think about the A14/A1 corridor, and what that means for the Alconbury Enterprise Zone. It’s about the fact that this is a really really complex situation, where the question of do you want local funding of the A14 actually does not go into and does not go anywhere near close to actually addressing and putting over what is the true message. And this is one of the things with politics. You’re elected to make decisions because as a politician what you do is get into the complexity of situations. And it’s people’s trust in your understanding of that complexity and the trust of your ability to make decisions that they elect you for.
CHRIS MANN: Gentlemen, hold it for a moment. We’re going to check on the travel. ..
CHRIS MANN: I’ll just repeat the news. At a Full Council meeting today, county councillors rejected the referendum idea put forward by UKIP. It was rejected by fifty one votes to fourteen. With me here to discuss that and the future of the A14 funding we have the Leader of the County Council, Leader of the Conservatives of course as well, Martin Curtis. And UKIP councillor Peter Reeve, who leads that grouping. Martin, is it now full speed ahead to the A14? Can anything else get in the way?
MARTIN CURTIS: There’s still a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and 2016. But fingers crossed what we will see is in 2016 a start of a project that will benefit the whole of this county.
CHRIS MANN: And for you Peter Reeve, are you now going to give up trying to put speed bumps in the way of this project?
PETER REEVE: We’re not trying to put anything in the way of it. We’re just looking at how the tax payer is being treated, and UKIP is prepared to stand up for ordinary working people out there in a way the other parties aren’t. It’s quite interesting to see all three parties, the main old political parties, thinking the same, doing the same. It’s only UKIP that’s a challenging voice in that …
CHRIS MANN: Actually I was thinking you sound like an old politician, because you make political points in everything you say. But that’s for others to judge. Now one of the central parts of your policy nationwide is this idea of referendums on all local issues. And you’ve brought it to the table here. Is this an expensive way of running councils?
PETER REEVE: No.
CHRIS MANN: Could we afford to have a referendum?
MARTIN CURTIS: We can’t. And that’s quite simple. UKIP will pretend that you can do a referendum on the back of a fag packet. And they put this argument across today, that you could do an online vote, using your electoral roll number. If we’re going to have referenda, then they have to be .. they would have to stand up to democratic scrutiny. There are no two ways about that. That’s how it would have to be. Otherwise you couldn’t trust the result. In order to do that, you are committing projects to hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of costs. And let’s go through some of the projects we’re talking about. Based on the criteria of their morion today, that we would have had to have referenda on in Cambridgeshire. So let’s go ..
CHRIS MANN: Chesterton Station?
MARTIN CURTIS: Chesterton Railway Station. Soham Railway Station. The Wisbech rail project. The A47 upgrade. Kings Dyke crossing. Foxton railway crossing. I could go on.
CHRIS MANN: That’s a lot of votes Peter Reeve.
PETER REEVE: Well it’s all smoke and mirrors from the Conservatives. It doesn’t need to be that expensive. The Americans ..
CHRIS MANN: Just give us a straight answer to that. Would you want a vote on every one of those projects?
PETER REEVE: Potentially yes.
CHRIS MANN: Yes.
PETER REEVE: If it involves tax payers’ money, local tax payers’ money coming out of local services and going into national projects. I don’t actually think all of those do qualify with the wording of what we’ve used. Again, smoke and mirrors. But this idea it’s too expensive to go out and ask the public’s opinion is just wrong.
CHRIS MANN: Give us a bill of how much it would cost to have each of those referendums in your view.
PETER REEVE: Martin saying it’s half a million pounds for a referendum.
CHRIS MANN: Well how much do you think it would be?
PETER REEVE: That’s right if it’s a standalone referendum.
CHRIS MANN: How much do you think it would be?
PETER REEVE: We think it’s negligible.
CHRIS MANN: What does that mean?
PETER REEVE: There’s two national elections coming round.
CHRIS MANN: Negligible to some … not the other. (TALKING OVER SPEAKER)
PETER REEVE: Negligible in that we’re already having all the polling stations opened. We’re already having ballot papers issued.
CHRIS MANN: You haven’t answer the question. How much would it be per head? What’s very little? What’s very little? Could you just give me an answer.
PETER REEVE: I’m not going to be pinned down to an answer because I don’t ..
CHRIS MANN: You mean you don’t know.
PETER REEVE: .. because I don’t know the actual answer.
CHRIS MANN: You don’t know.
PETER REEVE: What it isn’t ..
CHRIS MANN: That would have been an easier answer at the beginning. You don’t know how much it would cost.
PETER REEVE: What it isn’t though Chris is half a million pounds, which is what the Conservatives are saying. They are saying that on the basis of not thinking outside the box.
CHRIS MANN: Do you think .. a referendum on it. (INTERRUPTING)
PETER REEVE: Let me finish Chris. They are saying that on the basis that is a standalone referendum. We’ve not said how it would be done. But what we will do is piggy-back national elections. We’ve got two coming up, the European elections which we expect to win next year, and the Westminster elections. We are spending half a million pounds in Cambridgeshire to run each of those. UKIP has proposed that we just piggy-back on the back of ..
CHRIS MANN: Do you think that would work Martin Curtis?
MARTIN CURTIS: If the timing was right. And this is the important point with these projects . It’s all about timing. And actually if you want to really delay these projects, then you’ve got to wait until May to move them forward. And we know that some of these projects people are crying out for us to get started. But let’s not pretend that even riding it on the back of a referendum .. of a current election, an extant election, isn’t cheap. Because you’ve still got to pay for all the bulk polling cards. You’ve still got to pay for for for counting agents, and the time for counting agents. Right across the county. It’s still significantly expensive.
CHRIS MANN: And Peter Reeve (CACOPHONY) Isn’t politics about leadership? Isn’t it about making decisions? About being elected and getting on with it.
PETER REEVE: Well Martin thinks politics is about him getting elected and him making decisions. We in UKIP think it’s about representing the community and giving them the voice. We are the party of the people, and that’s why we are increasing massively our vote.
MARTIN CURTIS: Well actually today after the Council meeting today I’ve had a number of Opposition members come up to me and talk to me, compliment me, about how inclusive I am trying to be as a leader. So the idea that it’s about me .. I am elected, and yes, I want to deliver on a Conservative manifesto. But I have made the commitment that I will work with anyone who wants to work with us. People have already seen me trying to do that.
CHRIS MANN: Well you’ve had your first challenge today, Peter Reeve, and your first vote, and you’ve been defeated overwhelmingly, fifty one votes to fourteen.
MARTIN CURTIS: (QUIETLY) Three times.
CHRIS MANN: Three times.
MARTIN CURTIS: They lost three votes today.
PETER REEVE: Well actually ..
CHRIS MANN: Are you going to carry on? What some people have said is this is going to turn into some political game, the way the County Council is, when actually there are a lot of problems out there to be solved.
PETER REEVE: We are here to solve ..
CHRIS MANN: So are you going to play games of politics, or are you going to try and get things done?
PETER REEVE: We are not here to play games. We’ve been in two Council meetings now. On the first one we got rid of the Cabinet system to make Cambridgeshire a better democracy. That’s going to deliver lots of results and a lot more voices for backbenchers and communities. On the second meeting we attempted to freeze council tax, stop wasting tax payers’ money on national projects, but still delivering them, and also making the structure much better. And Martin rejected those. We stood for the people.
CHRIS MANN: We’re almost out of time. Martin, final reply please.
MARTIN CURTIS: Well actually the notion .. you see this is the point we were making today. All three of the UKIP motions were things that they could grandstand on, by making very brief points about certain issues. so what they didn’t tell you, and Peter didn’t tell you in this debate, is actually what they tried to commit us to was a zero per cent council tax increase for four years.
PETER REEVE: Absolutely.
MARTIN CURTIS: When we have no inclination of what Government grant is going to be over the next four years, what inflation is going to be like, what population is going to be like, what growth in vulnerable people that we have to support by law is going to be like.
PETER REEVE: (UNCLEAR)
MARTIN CURTIS: We do not. And actually what he would have done is put this council into financial crisis, potentially.
CHRIS MANN: Gentlemen, thank you both for joining me for what has been an excellent debate.
Much more on this at Richard Taylor’s website.