Lib Dem Lorna Dupre shrugs off 'reckless and ill informed' criticism by council leader Anna Bailey after historic vote at East Cambs Council

PUBLISHED: 15:18 04 June 2019

Newly elected Liberal Democrat councillors for Ely North Alison Whelan and Simon Harries at the MoD site in Ely.They helped secure a historic victory when the council debated future proposals for the houses. Picture; ELY LIB DEMS

Newly elected Liberal Democrat councillors for Ely North Alison Whelan and Simon Harries at the MoD site in Ely.They helped secure a historic victory when the council debated future proposals for the houses. Picture; ELY LIB DEMS

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Lib Dem leader Lorna Dupre brushed off accusations of being "politically motivated, reckless and ill informed" after winning a historic vote to secure more affordable homes on the empty MoD site in Ely.

With the Tories wafer thin majority on East Cambs District Council reduced because of councillors on holiday, a Lib Dem motion was agreed urging the combined authority - which is funding the project - to create 50 per cent of the homes as affordable.

The motion was carried 12 votes to 11 after Cllr Dupre said the original plan for only providing 15 affordable homes from a total of 92 empty houses "simply isn't good enough".

She said: "We were clear in the council debate, and in our discussions with officers, that there is absolutely no reason for the council to delay the purchase of the site from the MoD or the draw-down of the loan from the combined authority."

But Tory leader Anna Bailey was furious, claiming that the "carefully worked up plans" to bring the homes back into use "were put at serious risk by the action of the new Liberal Democrat group".

She said: "The politically motivated, reckless and ill-informed actions of the Liberal Democrat group have now put the whole project at serious risk.

"The on-site start date of July will not now happen; the homes will remain derelict and will continue to deteriorate whilst we try to salvage the project".

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Cllr Bailey said other parties were interested in the site and the fear was that the MoD "may now simply decide to get on with disposal through public auction or to another interested party".

But that is disputed by Cllr Dupre who said a revised plan to deliver more affordable housing on the site was needed "to help meet the acute need" in East Cambridgeshire.

She said: "Indeed the outgoing leader Charles Roberts, told the council only a month ago that 'it was hoped that it would be possible to secure an affordable rented housing element' on the site, and that 'every effort would be made to deliver the maximum affordable housing units possible'.

"In his new role as a strategic advisor to Mayor Palmer on the combined authority, which is funding this project, Charles is ideally placed to help the council make this vision for the MOD homes a reality."

Cllr Bailey believes the economics of the Lib Dem proposals don't add up and accused her opponents of failing to examine "or understand the detail of this scheme".

She added: "There is absolutely no precedent or expectation that the combined authority will agree to the additional grant funding required by the motion."

Cllr Dupre said Conservatives were trying to use profits from the scheme to help pay off a loan the council had made to its trading arm; her party believes the council should not be a commercial developer but ensure public money is used to provide affordable homes for local people.

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