Letters: No praise for Palmer, litter picker success and neglected roads

The swans have hatched their eggs on Wiers Drove in Burwell

The swans have hatched their eggs on Wiers Drove in Burwell - despite the massive building works or the builders moving the fence back to protect them. The father has hardly left his partner's side in the last few weeks. It was such a wonderful feel-good site to see. - Credit: AMANDA MANCHETT

The swans have hatched their eggs on Wiers Drove in Burwell

The swans have hatched their eggs on Wiers Drove in Burwell - Credit: AMANDA MANCHETT

No praise for Palmer

I fail to see why anyone would be praising James Palmer at this juncture.  

What he did or didn’t do when part of ECDC has absolutely no bearing on his time as Mayor of the Combined Authority, which has been a tale of dubious practices, incompetence, arrogance and vanity. 

£800,000 wasted on consultants for the abandoned St Neots Cycle and footbridge scheme. The plans were audited and did not represent good value for money. 

Palmer’s affordable housing plans were an utter failure. Out of the 2000 homes planned by 2022 thus far delivered only 8 homes in Fordham.  

The three planned in Cambridge and, I believe, four under construction in Ely, will add up to 15 out of the 2000 being built.

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That’s 0.75% of the target and it’s safe to say, even if he had got re-elected, there’s no way the remaining 99.25% could be built on time.  

Of course, the affordable housing scheme went completely out the window anyway when, in March 2021, it was announced that central government would withdraw £45 million of funding that was earmarked to fund affordable housing in Cambridgeshire due to "insufficient progress" and poor value for money.  

It’s more than interesting that both plans, St Ives and affordable housing, were ultimately abandoned because neither represented good value for money and failing to make progress. 

Let us not forget Palmer received criticism from central government more than once and his statements regarding them were disgraceful. 

In September 2018, Palmer was accused of concealing the truth about whether the chief executive of CAPCA had resigned or been fired.  

Palmer insisted that he had resigned, but council leaders said that they thought "the evidence points to it being a dismissal", a decision which Palmer was not allowed to make unilaterally under CAPCA's constitution.  

It was later revealed that the chief executive received £94,500 in severance pay despite serving no notice period.

Palmer approved the payment without consulting other members of the board and when challenged about it suggested the public were not "even slightly interested" in the circumstances surrounding it.  

The sheer arrogance of that response is breathtaking.  

This member of the public is most definitely interested in an elected official handing out nearly £100,000 without consulting anyone else or bothering to determine the legal status of the move. 

When running for Mayor, Palmer estimated the running costs of CAPCA would be £850,000 but by November 2018, costs had spiralled to £7.6 million in 2018, including £5.6 million on staff salaries.

Palmer admitted he underestimated the cost of running the new combined authority and said his original predictions "were never going to be realistic". 

If he knew the figures weren’t going to be realistic he knowingly submitted false figures and took no responsibility for doing so.

In fact, after the increase in costs was announced, Palmer sacked the chief finance officer of CAPCA. Put bluntly he saved his own arse by scapegoating a member of his staff. 

In July 2020, Conservative Minister of State Simon Clarke wrote to the Mayor criticising him on a number of issues “…which suggest that the delivery capacity of the combined authority requires improvement.”  

He was particularly concerned about “…disagreements between CAPCA and the Greater Cambridge Partnership…” which he feared might hinder delivery of projects.

He also stated in the letter that “…a number of historical problems had been identified...”, including the appointment of Tom Hunt as his chief of staff.

Palmer blamed civil servants for the criticism. Palmer tried to dodge the bullet by, what a surprise, blaming others. 

I won’t even bother with the detail of the preposterous Cambridge Metro.

A £4 billion cost that was, once scrutinised, deemed to fail on every measure. 

No one should be deluded enough to deny the obvious that Palmer the politician has been a failure.

His failures are so large that they outweigh any good he achieved by a staggering ratio.  

The success rate of his affordable housing plans spring to mind as comparable, an overall failure success ratio of 99.25 to 0.75, which is as pitiful as it is a display of incompetence. 

DELENN MORSEBY (via Facebook) 

It's the law

Darryl Preston is to be congratulated on being elected our new Police and Crime Commissioner and should be wished well in the task ahead.

As an ex-policeman he has an inbuilt advantage although time will tell whether he can make the leap from poacher to gamekeeper.

In holding the constabulary to account however he could do worse than look to levels of service.

Cambridgeshire police news as recently as in last week’s Ely Standard was about less provision, specifically the closure of enquiry offices.

Not long before is was the withdrawal of PCSOs to save £1m p/a.

Now, I don’t envy the chief constable his need to balance the books.

But I sense that, like so many senior public servants, his default approach is cost-led.

This, in turn, demands providing what’s possible from a finite budget compounded by inflation.

No matter how it’s dressed up with terms like ‘streamlining,’ the net result is a reduced service, less overt police presence in the community and a Devil’s own job getting a police officer when you want one.

What I find tiresome in this is never being asked what level service I want.

If it was put to me that I could have a police officer dedicated to my street and it would cost ‘x’, I could make an informed decision over whether I wanted to pay.

I probably wouldn’t want that many officers poking about but, had I been told that the PCSOs could be retained if I agreed to an extra £1 on the police precept (simplistic I’m sure but across the county population, about right), I’d have paid up without demur.

In fact, if the chief constable wants an extra £20m p/a to provide me with a gold standard service, my £20 is in the post.

I’m suggesting to the new PCC then then he starts by setting out some graded service models, with costings and asks the populace what they’ll stump up for.

A police officer on every high street will cost ‘x’. A human on the end of a telephone 24/7 will cost ‘y’.

Then we can have an informed debate rather than the chief constable in the invidious position of being expected to deliver more and more with less and less.


Litter pickers success

Ely Litter Pickers - who were recently mentioned in The Telegraph newspaper - are doing a pick at the river from 10am this Saturday.

We then also have a stall on Ely Market on June 3 and a slot at the Ely Cathedral summer fair.

Our group has grown significantly recently and we're supported by lots of local businesses.

It has had a huge impact on the community. 


Neglected roads

Just wondering if you can investigate or report on the terrible condition of the roads in East Cambs.

I have asked a councillor to which all she did was notify the highways department and replied with a standard letter. I also contacted Steve Barclay MP.

Obviously, it was given to one of his underlings with them contacting the highways with the same reply.

You only have to drive around East Cambs to see how much the roads have been neglected.

One example is the Ely to Littleport bypass.It’s supposed to be an A road but it’s more like a B or C road.

Someone is going to be seriously injured or worse killed. It’s a disgrace.


Park and ride closure

Milton Park and Ride closed on May 10. Please report this to prevent needless journeys.

Addenbrooke's Hospital is difficult enough from Ely without arbitrary withdrawal of services. 


Calling young footballers

Ely City Crusaders Blue are looking for current Year 10/U15 players to join our talented squad for the 2021/22 season U16s season in Cambridgeshire Colts U16A league.

Training at Ely City Football Club on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6.30-7.30pm.

Lovely team, with excellent coaching. Playing matches on Saturday mornings.

Looking for outfield and keepers - all boys will get a game - no one is ever left on the bench.

Contact Mark on 07799 314034 for more details or come along to training.