Inquiry demand into housing ‘disaster’ and ‘fiasco’ under former mayor

CAPCA housing inquiry demand

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson (left) with his predecessor James Palmer. Cllr Bridget Smith (Lib Dem) South Cambs wants an inquiry into Mr Palmer’s housing policies. Cllr Anna Bailey (Con) accuses his critics of ‘political manoeuvring’ - Credit: Archant

A council leader described former metro mayor James Palmer’s housing policies as “a complete and utter disaster”. 

Cllr Bridget Smith, leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said she didn’t hold officers of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) responsible.  

They are responsible to politicians “and this has been a complete and utter disaster, a fiasco,” she said. 

Her criticism came as housing director Roger Thompson said that after March 31, 2022, the government “had no current affordable housing funding support” for combined authorities. 

He said: “Without a funding source it is probably fair to say that the prospects for the combined authority engaging and influencing the affordable housing market beyond March 2022 are severely limited”. 

Cllr Smith said devolution was sold partly on the basis of £100m for affordable housing.  

Describing the loss of a third of that, she told mayor Dr Nik Johnson: “It is a scandal mayor and I would appeal to you there needs to be proper investigation how this scandal occurred.” 

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“It is a disgrace and it is very difficult for me to explain to my residents how £26m was lost, meant to be housing for them.” 

She said many of those in South Cambs – people for instance working at Addenbrooke’s - could not afford to live locally. 

Having to live miles away and commute was damaging to their health. 

Cllr Chris Boden said that in Fenland lives had been “transformed” by affordable housing that had been provided.  

He told Cllr Smith: “With respect your area is the least deprived area in the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough”.  

Cambridge City Council leader Lewis Herbert, accused the former mayor James Palmer of putting £40m into a ‘revolving loans’ policy without government approval 

He described as “stupid” the loan to Laragh Homes to build flats in Forehill, Ely, despite four earmarked as affordable. 

Hunts Council leader Ryan Fuller accepted the term scandal was appropriate for what had happened “but the biggest scandal is nothing to come next”. 

East Cambs Council leader Anna Bailey said a much criticised £40m revolving loan fund brought in by the former mayor was “still doing its job and could still be doing its job”. 

She accused critics of “political manoeuvring” and invited them to consider the damage they were causing to CAPCA’s reputation.