It’s good to see a Lib Dem manifesto. I have been asking to see it ever since Lib Dem Councillor Brooks – Gordon tweeted she was at the launch some time ago. Privately, one Lib Dem told me recently that they did not actually have a manifesto and as nobody read the last one it wasn’t worth doing.
It seems they have been stirred into action – very good.
Having had a quick read of the manifesto it is clearly the Lib Dem alternative budget topped and tailed but with some interesting alterations. It is good that they are trying to come up with some different policies to give the electorate a choice.
Distilling it down it seems that they want to spend lots more from the year on year revenue budget, even though we are going to have to reduce it yet further by £29m next year and the year after and try and fund it through selling of assets.
They have attempted to say how they will fund all the spending but lots of holes are obvious.
For example, a vote catching provision of an hourly train service from Wisbech to Cambridge and London sounds attractive. But, no mention of the many millions it would cost and no reflection on its viability. How much are they promising?
They want to spend more on pavements. I’m guessing that is on top of the £90m of extra money we have already put in place for roads and pavements. The £2.5m they are proposing has to be paid for.
They want to spend an extra £5m a year on bus subsidies that don’t work and result in empty buses trundling around the county at huge cost to the tax payer.
The want to build another underpass for Ely rather than the bypass that the people of Ely want. Now lets look at that suggestion. The current underpass gets driven into on a regular asks resulting in the line being closed whilst it is checked for structural integrity. Why would we build a second one? And then of course digging a bigger, deeper underpass on a flood plain makes sense doesn’t it? Hmm.
The Lib Dems are spinning like a top on the A14 upgrade. At full council they refused to support the current scheme against the wishes of their own leader Nick Clegg. In the manifesto they claim to support improvements but do not support increased capacity. I guess if you cycle everywhere and get on trains and never drive anywhere this ignorance could be excused. But come on. How many people have to die on that road before the Lib Dems put to one side their ideological dislike of cars and do the right thing. No amount of fiddling with junctions or painting lines on the current road will be enough. The road needs widening!!!!!!!!
Interestingly, the manifesto says they ” strongly support the need for Northstowe, yet just a few weeks ago in their alternative budget they proposed withdrawing the £25m of planned funding. Where did that go in the manifesto?
Throughout the manifesto it is littered with guided busway comments. What they don’t seem to say is what they would do about it except moan. Where are the positive comments about how successful it has been? I though they liked buses. What ever the outcome of the contractual dispute it still has to be dealt with not just moaning about it.
They want to spend more on street lighting but don’t say how much.
They want a stop gap solution to waste disposal but don’t say what or at what cost.
They want to improve primary schools but don’t say how or what they would spend.
They want to create more nursery places but don’t say how much they want to spend.
They want to spend more on mental health but don’t say how much.
They want to spend more on youth services but don’t say how much.
They want to spend more on gritting but don’t say how much.
They want to spend more on community librarians but don’t say how much.
They want to spend more on the music service but don’t say how much.
They want to invest in wind farms and solar panels. These are costed but very unwelcome by people in Cambridgeshire who believe have done their bit. I guess if you live in a city it is very unlikely that a wind farm will be built near you.
On a final point. I understand Cambridge very well having lived and traded here for many years. I regularly meet with business leaders and CEOs of our most successful companies as well as those aspiring to greatness. I meet with university leaders regularly and spend a lot of my time helping to attract inward investment.
They are all telling me that the business focused approach that we are taking at the county council is not just welcomed but is seen as essential to help drive the economy forward. They also tell me that the inability of the Lib Dem city council to make any decision let alone the right one is a constant source of frustration.
In summary, a set of unfunded pet projects, that would all have to be cancelled when next years further savings of £29m have to be made. Free tip. Never mix capital and revenue when putting budgets in place. A sure recipe for a short term warm feeling followed by disaster.