Whittlesea Fen Town Lobby

17:51 Tuesday 13th September 2011
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

: As we were hearing earlier on, the seat of North East Cambridgeshire will go altogether, and it will be divided up into four different constituencies, including the new seat of Wisbech and Downham Market. But people in Whittlesea, they will be moved to the seat of the new constituency of South Peterborough. Johnnie Dee went out into Whittlesea today and spoke to a number of people, including Kay Mayor, who is the appropriately named Mayor of Whittlesea. (TAPE) (OB)
KAY MAYOR: Oh dear. i’m not sure that Whittlesea wants to do that, but, that’s a personal view. A 12-week consultation period is starting today, with these intital proposals. Obviously, North East Cambridgeshire will be putting in some counter-proposals. But the public of Whittlesea need to make their views known. Do they want to go in with Peterborough, or do they want to stay in North East Cambridgeshire? I can remember when North East Cambridgeshire was the Isle of Ely constituency. I’m old enough for that. So I really think the public need to think about all of this, and put their views forward to the Boundary Commissioners.
JOHNNIE DEE: So potentially your MP could change? It’s Stephen Barclay at the moment. Who could it be?
KAY MAYOR: You know as much as I do about that. This has been dropped on us this morning. I’m hoping Steve will apply for that post. Who knows? We don’t know.
JOHNNIE DEE: On front of us we’ve got some maps you’ve just printed off for us here. Do you think it really will affect the people of Whittlesea and they will not be happy, just like you?
KAY MAYOR: I think the majority of Whittlesea people want to stay in Fenland and North East Cambridgeshire. I don’t believe that they want to go in with Peterborough. Personal view. Everybody’s got their opinion.
JOHNNIE DEE: And why is this,  not exactly a hatred of Peterborough, but, you don’t like Peterborough much it seems to me. Why is that?
KAY MAYOR: (LAUGHS) I don’t hate Peterborough No. I think there’s some fantastic buildings in Peterborough. I worked in Peterborough until last November, nearly a year ago. And I’ve got some good friends in Peterborough. But I believe that the constituency should remain North East Cambridgeshire. (LIVE)( STUDIO)
ANDY BURROWS: That was Kay Mayor. She is the Mayor of Whittlesea. Under these proposals Whittlesea, which currently falls into the North East Cambridgeshire area, and the MP there is the Conservative Stephen Barclay, under these proposed new changes, which will be discussed over the next few weeks and months, would then instead be swallowed up by the new seat of Peterborough South, which one presumes will be the new home potentially of Shailesh Vara, who’s currently the MP for North West Cambridgeshire. I know this is all about as clear as mud, but let’s speak to Councillor Martin Curtis. He is the Deputy Mayor of Whittlesea. He’s also a Whittlesea Town and Fenland District Councillor for Kingsmoor Whittlesea. He’s also a County Councillor for the Whittlesea ward. So there can’t be much he doesn’t know about Whittlesea. Hello to you Martin.
MARTIN CURTIS: Good evening.
ANDY BURROWS: Right. Let’s try and make sense of this for people. Because I think it’s difficult enough isn’t it, at the best of times? Whittlesea currently is North West Cambridgeshire. That’s if you vote in a General Election, you’ll be voting in the North West Cambridgeshire constutuency ..
MARTIN CURTIS: Whittlesea is part of North ..
ANDY BURROWS: (SHOUTS) North East. Sorry. Even I’m getting confused now. Right, North East Cambridgeshire. Right. Stephen Barclay is the MP.
MARTIN CURTIS: That’s right.
ANDY BURROWS: And under these changes, the seat of North East Cambridgeshire would go, and Whittlesea would be swallowed up by the Peterborough South constituency. Are you happy about that?
MARTIN CURTIS: I’m very very concerned about what it means. there are a number of things. There’s issues around first of all our .. North East Cambridgeshire is very very closely aligned with the boundary of Fenland District Council. Not entirely, because there’s other areas that aren’t part of it. But that arrangement works very very well at the moment. Because we’ve got a Member of Parliament who intimately understands the whole of Fenland. And actually getting rid of that arrangement, when you think that Fenland is the area of highest need in Cambridgeshire, is something that .. I think the Boundaries Commission have spent too much time getting the numbers to work, and not spent enough time looking at the implications of those decisions.
ANDY BURROWS: But what would be the difference, just being represented by a different MP? Surely they would be just as committed to the area.
MARTIN CURTIS: Absolutely. And one of the benefits we have in Cambridgeshire is that certainly the Conservative MPs in Cambridgeshire, and I know all of them to one level or another, are very good. And they will represent the constituencies. And I’d be confident that whoever it was would represent Whittlesea. But it’s actually representing Whittlesea with the full knowledge and context of Fenland with in. So as an example, a big issue in our town is the people striving for a by-pass around Whittlesea. And if you look at the economics of making a by-pass happen, it’s all about building and developing links into the centre of Fenland, to improve the economic base of the whole of Fenland. Now having a single MP that can deal with all of those issues would be much much better for us. And it’s better for the whole of Fenland. And as I said, we know that Fenland is the area of highest need in Cambridgeshire.
ANDY BURROWS: I do wonder if this will actually go ahead, when the dust has settled, for any number of reasons. There are big issues, of course, with any boundary changes, but I do wonder if it fits into the Government’s Localism Bill really, making local authorities and local MPs more and more accountable for their actions. Because surely you would be looking to promote county councils, and local authorities, unitary authorities, rather than maybe moving a few MPs around.
MARTIN CURTIS: There is a very very important principle, and your interview with Stephen Barclay earlier on today brought this out, and it’s a really important issue, that the aligning of parliamentary constituency sizes around the country has to be done. And that work is very important, because our political system is very very unfair at the moment. With the way that the constituencies work, if the Conservatives polled the same number of votes acros the country as the Labour Party, the  Labour Party would be in power. Because their constituencies, the inner city constituencies, are much smaller. And that parity, it’s very important that that is dealt with. And the Boundary Commission is right to do that. But they have to look at more than just numbers. They have to look at the implications for people of the decisions they make. And as far as Cambridgeshire is concerned, it looks to me like they’ve played a very good numbers game, but not a very good political game, with a small “p”.
ANDY BURROWS: Well thank you for your time Martin .. That was Martin Curtis there, who is a councillor who represents Whittlesea, at quite a number of levels there.