A couple of weeks ago I was due to speak in Worcestershire to a group of the good and the great on how Cambridgeshire had managed to so successfully push forward a pro growth agenda.
The group, made up of the Leaders and chief execs of the county and district councils, the police, fire, charities and businesses were all keen to understand what has made the difference in shifting Cambridgeshire from an OK county to one that was seen as a leader in the fight against recession. They thought that now I had more time on my hands they would take advantage and get me to speak.
I could have talked about the various initiatives that were pursued over the last couple of years, the new rail station in Cambridge, superfast broadband, A14 upgrade, Ely bypass, Northstow, etc etc but most of those were symptoms or more correctly successful outcomes of two strategic policies.
Firstly, in Cambridgeshire, all public sector organisations had agreed and were actively striving for economic growth. This is rare across the country. This matters because it makes it much easier to get agreement on the tactical actions required if everyone is heading in the direction of growth. It also make the message to government a simple one, support Cambridgeshire and you are supporting growth.
Secondly, strong leadership. Now many people don’t like strong leadership, for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons are to do with ego and a feeling of a loss of ability to influence and exercise control, neither of which I believe are true. Some, usually opposition politicians who want the ability to exercise more power but can’t, claim strong leadership is unfair, not democratic etc etc. again this does not need to be true.
But, strong leadership gets stuff done. The business community, individuals, politicians from all levels of government and all parties have told me that strong leadership was working and had really raised the profile of Cambridgeshire. The LGA, the County Council Network, local MPs and Ministers all recognised something special in the strong leadership being displayed in Cambridgeshire.
So having explained all this to Worcestershire I was then going to finish by saying that despite all the success, Cambridgeshire had now turned its back on the strong leadership model and was going to return to the committee method of management. And why has it done this? Have the people been crying out for this significant change? No, far from it. People wanted the success to continue.
The reason is no party won overall control in the recent elections. That had lots to do with how people felt about our relationship with Europe and very little to do with how the county council was being run. So, the minority parties wanted to group together to remove the strong leadership model so they would have more influence.
This means that 30 odd politicians in Cambridgeshire have their egos massaged and the people of Cambridgeshire will now suffer five years of stagnation. Lets hope all these committees don’t try and design any horses or we will be overrun with camels.
And, as it happens, I was not even able to make this event in Worcestershire following the damage to my leg. Funny old thing life sometimes.