Last night I was pleased to be reselected, at the first stage of the process, as the Conservative candidate for Fulbourn in next years elections.
I have enjoyed my first term as a county councillor. It has been a real learning experience going from not being involved in politics, to being elected and then Leader of the Council all within four years.
Locally, I have been able to save a class that was to be cut because of dropping pupil numbers in Fulbourn primary school. I also helped bring the long awaited cycleway from Fen Ditton to Horningsea to reality. It is fantastic and well used. I was then able to successfully defend an attempt, by my own council, to remove the school bus from Horningsea.
Some of the other issues that I have been involved with are, traffic calming in Quy, HGVs in the Wilbrahams, a steering group for a new housing development in Fulbourn, flooding in Fulbourn and road signage in Teversham. I have also taken up a number of residents personal issues.
As the Leader of the council I have been responsible for setting a balanced and greatly reduced budget, leading on the super fast broadband project, initiating a new rail station for Cambridge and a new by pass for Ely. I have championed areas of the county that are more deprived and taken action to help them, for example the Wisbech 20 / 20 vision.
I have visited all parts of the county meeting our staff, social workers, charities and partners. Forging links with the police, mental health, NHS and our third party providers has been essential if we are all to operate within our reducing budgets.
Since becoming Leader I have strengthened local elected member influence and involvement. Politicians are firmly leading the county council during these difficult times and make no mistake they are difficult.
In particular, I have championed business and enterprise. We need to generate the wealth to pay for the services that people rightly want.
So, turning to the future. The economy continues to be an issue. Thankfully, Cambridgeshire is doing better than most counties but things are still tough. The government needs to balance its books so our grants are being cut just about everywhere.
On top of that we are now the fastest growing county in the country and lots more people are living much longer. We celebrate our improved longevity but elderly people need support which puts a huge additional pressure on our budgets.
We will have stark choices between cutting services or raising council tax. A choice that will bring us into conflict with our population which ever we choose. Personally, I want to protect services to those that really need them. I need to be able to look people in the eye and tell them we can help the elderly mum or dad or the disabled child. But it will be tough.
We will continue to reduced non essential expenditure to a minimum but that will not produce all the savings we need to make. We will continue to focus on the vulnerable, the needy and those that have nowhere else to turn to for help. We will continue, where ever we can, to ensure our young people are prepared for life and have the opportunities to succeed. We are planning more apprenticeships, more activity to generate job opportunities and more effective skills training.
If elected I can promise to continue my style of intolerance to burdens of paperwork, long processes and waste. I will continue to press the council to be more business like in its approach and to be less risk adverse.
I promise to provide strong, practical leadership with a healthy dose of common sense and a sprinkle of humour.
Tough time ahead.