Battle for Cambridgeshire 2021: These are your candidates for mayor

The mayoral candidates who will be vying for your vote in 2021 are Nik Johnson (right), James Palmer (centre) and Aidan...

The mayoral candidates who will be vying for your vote in 2021 are Nik Johnson (right), James Palmer (centre) and Aidan Van de Weyer - Credit: ARCHANT

In May 2021 Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will go to the polls to elect a mayor for the next four years.

A form of English devolution, the directly elected mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough holds the role of executive leader of the area’s Combined Authority.

Together with the organisation’s board, it has considerable resources and powers to set policy and invest in areas such as transport, affordable housing and providing support for businesses.

The first and current mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Conservative James Palmer, was elected in 2017 with 38 per cent of the vote in the first round, and 56.9 per cent of the vote in the second round. 

The Liberal Democrats came in second place with 23.5 per cent of the vote in the first round, and 43.1 per cent in the second round. Labour came third with 18.6 per cent of the vote in the first round.

On May 6, 2021, voters will decide again who they wish to hold the office.

May is still some way off, but electioneering has begun, leaflets are being put through doors, and candidates are increasingly asserting themselves in the political arena.

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The Local Democracy Reporting Service has asked each candidate from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour, to say a few words about who they are and what they would hope to achieve in the role. 

These three parties secured more than 80 per cent of the vote last time round, but other candidates, both independents and from other parties, may also contest the seat, and they will also be provided with a similar chance to introduce themselves to the electorate later on.

Each candidate has been asked to respond to the same questions, and to stick to the same word limit for each.

James Palmer, Conservative 

Mayor James Palmer believes e-bikes will revolutionise travel locally whilst enabling people to remain sociallly dIstanced.

Mayor James Palmer believes e-bikes will revolutionise travel locally whilst enabling people to remain sociallly dIstanced. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Mr Palmer, politics aside, tell us about yourself…

“I am married to Alison and we have two children, Emily 23 and Max 21.

"I am a Cambridgeshire man and I grew up in and still live in Soham. 

"Before being elected as Mayor in 2017, I had worked in agriculture, retail and property development and been involved in politics for 13 years.

"I am a passionate sports fan and have been a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur for 30 years and I like to attend England cricket and rugby matches. 

"I enjoy socialising with friends at home and in restaurants and try to keep active by cycling and walking my two Labradors.”

What will you achieve if elected as the next mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?

“Since my election I have been able to successfully attract over £1.2bn of funding into the Combined Authority area from central government.

"This unprecedented investment has allowed us to tackle problems that had previously been out of reach of local government. 

"I have set the levelling up agenda, bringing prosperity and wellbeing into the heart of my policies during the first term, delivering a new employment focused university for Peterborough and investing into adult education in our most deprived areas, giving new opportunities for people to learn and retrain. 

"My £100K homes initiative will transform the ability of hard-working young people to get on the housing ladder and the first ones are already completed, we will roll these out across the county. 

"A new railway station at Soham will open next year and work on the King’s Dyke crossing is advancing positively. CAM metro will transform the county, giving people easy access to a world class public transport system. 

"By connecting the business parks around Cambridge with the wider county, CAM metro will create a network across towns and villages and spread the successful Cambridge life science and technology industries over a wider area. 

"Phase 3 and 4  of Peterborough’s ambitious new university must be funded and I will work alongside government and local businesses to make sure that the right levels of funding are found. 

"We will continue our ambition to deliver Wisbech rail and upgrade Ely North Junction.

"We will work alongside our partners to build Cambridge South Station.”

Let’s get specific, tell us about one policy proposal of particular importance to you?

“The £100K home is my response to the housing crisis here in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Working people are often forced into rent or social housing because they cannot afford to buy or find the deposit to do so. 

"The £100K home gives people the chance to take the first step on the ladder. Spacious, one bedroom homes are provided for just £100K.

"Each home is covenanted so that they cannot be bought to let or be sold on at market value for profit. 

"When the owner decides to sell, they are sold at the same percentage to market value for which they were bought. In the case of the first homes in Fordham, that is 35 per cent. 

"These homes are then sold to another local person who needs help onto the housing ladder.

"The repayment mortgage on a £100K home is significantly less than market rent, allowing the owner the ability to save towards their next home. 

"Our research has found that somebody earning £18,500 per year can be eligible to buy a £100K home making these amongst the amongst the most affordable homes in the UK. 

"It is the job of the mayor to challenge the status quo and provide solutions to problems that the system has failed to do.”

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, Liberal Democrat candidate

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, Liberal Democrat candidate

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, Liberal Democrat candidate - Credit: LOCAL DEMOCRACY

Politics aside, tell us about yourself…

“Cambridgeshire has always been my home. I grew up in rural Huntingdonshire and went to a comprehensive secondary school in east Cambridge.

“I settled in Barrington with my family in 2006 following a few years studying and working in London and France, and right away joined the parish council to get involved in village life.

“Even more than our vibrant urban spaces and beautiful countryside, it’s the community spirit of our villages, towns and neighbourhoods that feels really special, something which has helped so much during the current pandemic.

“I really enjoy cooking, travelling (when it’s allowed!) and walking.”

What will you achieve if elected as the next mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?

“Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is an amazing area to live, work and study. But there are really serious problems holding us back.

“I will take climate change seriously. The decisions we take now are crucial to getting to zero carbon quickly.

"We are also facing a collapse in biodiversity, which I can help reverse, through strong environmental policies as well as tree planting and creating country parks.

“The transport problems in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are acute. We need to deal with them now.

"Traffic jams are making the lives of commuters a misery and are hurting our economy.

"We must create green transport options that offer a realistic alternative to the car – not James Palmer’s imaginary tunnels underneath Cambridge.

“I will put fairness always at the heart of everything that I do as mayor. I will build more homes that people can afford to rent and buy.

"I will help renters get stable long-term tenancies. I will get more young people into good training and improve access to post-16 education.

“I will provide the leadership that our area needs, which James Palmer has failed to do. I will not waste millions on consultancies for projects that go nowhere.

"I will employ skilled people capable of delivering for the people of Cambridgeshire, not chums from the same political party. I will stand up for Cambridgeshire.

“The current Mayor has missed so many opportunities to help our county. I will make Cambridgeshire and Peterborough greener and fairer for all residents.”

Let’s get specific, tell us about one policy proposal of particular importance to you?

“As mayor, I will focus on getting young people into skills training and better jobs.

“The coronavirus pandemic has made the inequalities in our society so much worse. Young people have been hit particularly hard.

"Their education has been severely disrupted and their job prospects will be curtailed.

“This comes on top of Brexit and climate change, both of which will blight the future of our children, including my own.

“I will invest in careers support, replacing the patchy and inadequate service that we have now.

"I will get successful people from universities and businesses to go into schools and have conversations with children about career paths – not just once, but several times during a child’s school life.

“There is so much more I can do to develop apprenticeships. I will set up a UCAS-style brokerage to match up young people and employers through a simple and transparent system.

“I will use the resources of the combined authority to make sure that we have a greener and fairer recovery, with good, long-term jobs.

“Above all, we need to show young people that we care about their future and give them some hope.”

Cllr Nik Johnson, Labour candidate and Huntingdonshire district councillor 

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has missed out on more than £500,000 in funds for active travel after a “botched bid” by...

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has missed out on more than £500,000 in funds for active travel after a “botched bid” by the mayor, the county’s Labour Party claims. Labour councillor and mayoral candidate for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Nik Johnson. Picture: NIK JOHNSON - Credit: Archant

Politics aside, tell us about yourself…

“I am a children’s doctor based at Hinchingbrooke hospital working across the county.

“A Northumbrian by birth, I am at my happiest when tucking into a Sunday roast surrounded by the hubbub of family life.

“Sport, particularly rugby and football, plays a big part in my life both as a spectator and coach although sadly the playing boots were hung up some time ago.

“Occasionally overawed by the digital era and modern living I retreat and find solace inmy record collection of 1980 – 1990s vinyl or taking long walks with a very enthusiastic Springer spaniel.”

What will you achieve if elected as the next mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?

“I want every single resident of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to know their mayor puts the three Cs of compassion, cooperation and community at the heart of every single decision made by the Combined Authority.

“With a surgical focus in all areas of policy to deliver value for money and reduce waste, I want to take on the challenge of a post-Covid, post-Brexit economy by harnessing the unique qualities of the area.

“Cambridgeshire represents a microcosm of the United Kingdom.

"The Greater Peterborough manufacturing North, a more affluent greater Cambridge and an area of ‘Middle England’ stretching from St Neots to Wisbech, all with variable fortunes to boot.

“We need to build a Northern Cambridgeshire Powerhouse, we need to harness a Greater Cambridge Partnership that innovates and delivers, without forgetting hidden gems from Fenland to Huntingdonshire with their untapped potential of specialized local economies associated with market towns and villages.

“All areas have to be linked practically by a truly integrated transport system and a recovering equitable economy which delivers the ambition of doubling growth but distributes it fairly across all areas whilst developing a sense of place, common purpose and pride.

“From toddlers in nurseries to senior residents of long term care facilities, from March Fens to the Magog hills, the greatest achievement will be to be have convinced our communities that the devolution deal is working for us all and we can embrace more collaboration in the future.”

Let’s get specific, tell us about one policy proposal of particular importance to you?

“The Covid pandemic has taught us that if ‘we don’t have our health, we have nothing.’

“I propose the recovery of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s communities has to be led with principles of world class public health at the heart of all that we do.

"I will invite local leaders in public health to sit as part of the Executive Board where they will advocate and shape local Combined Authority policy to deliver high quality housing, integrated transport systems promoting freedom without pollution and promote working, education and skills opportunities in a digital era for all.

“A brighter future is within the gift of all the Combined Authority city, county, district and business leaders.

“Inspired by a Victorian focus on improved public health resulting in clean air from Bazelgate’s innovative sewerage and water management solutions alongside the infection expert Snow whose insights released a population living in fear of Typhoid Mary’s contagion the parallels for today are prescient.

“The benefits for local recovery in all areas are evident to us all.

“Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has to be brave and I want to be at the forefront of the revolution that heals the hurt we are all feeling.”

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