The Mayor’s a bully

mayorBut that doesn’t mean that everything he says or does is wrong. Just that a lot of it is.

It’s all come to a head recently because the Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough James Palmer has said that he wants the Greater Cambridge Partnership (the GCP) to pause what it’s doing because, he says, he doesn’t want the latter implementing short term transport measures which might not be right for the long term. Actually what he did was to tell the GCP to stop what it’s doing because he’s got his own pet schemes which he wants to make happen.

This happened at the May meeting of the Combined Authority after which its scrutiny committee ‘called in’ the decision that ‘all current busway and park and ride plans must be paused until the Combined Authority is confident there is full alignment with its plans’. That’s a perfectly legitimate position for the scrutiny committee to take. It’s job is to make sure that decisions are proper and taken with due consideration of the CA’s powers and in the best interests of the people it serves.

Unfortunately several members of the committee (all Tories, coincidence or not?) did not attend and did not provide any substitutes. That left the meeting inquorate so the Mayor declined to attend and the due process of scrutiny could not take place.

Not unsurprisingly there’s been a lot of political toing and froing about the rights and wrongs of the Mayor’s actions and those of the members of the scrutiny committee who failed to show. It’s clearly become loud enough to attract the attention of Whitehall with letters now being sent encouraging our politicians to behave better otherwise promised funding may be withdrawn.

Many people have reported on the issue and one of the most comprehensive summaries is on Anthony Carpen’s blog. Click here to go there.

It’s all quite unseemly and shouldn’t happen. OK we’ve got a dysfunctional government set up (too many layers and unresolved conflicts, see the chart in Anthony’s post) but that shouldn’t stop people trying to work together. Sadly they don’t and you’ve got to ask why Mayor Palmer’s colleagues on the Combined Authority don’t exercise a moderating influence on him. But then you note that until recently they’ve all been Tories except one (Labour Lewis Herbert from Cambridge City Council) and as a breed such people seem to worry more about their party than what’s good for the people they’ve been elected to serve. Now that Lewis is joined by Lib Dem Bridget Smith from South Cambs maybe we will see some change.

But I implied at the start that the Mayor is not totally bad. He’s right that the GCP has failed to deliver and had limited ambition. Just about the only thing the GCP’s done so far has been to use grant money, which should have gone for capital projects, to subsidise the removal of parking charges at Park & Ride sites. I’d like to see a transport project which will fit Cambridge for the 2030s and beyond and we must ensure that the GCP’s incrementalism is consistent with the right end result. There are good ideas about such a project on Cambridge Connect’s website, click here to view them

It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of our politicians to work together to deliver this but it will require Mayor Palmer to learn how to work with Lewis and Bridget and to recognise that the peoples of Cambridge and South Cambs have strong views and deserve his attention. Tory bully boy tactic won’t work.

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