Author Archives: Martin Lucas-Smith

Public meeting on Saturday 13th April 2024

We will be holding our first public meeting on Saturday 13th April 2024, at 11am. This will be held at the Cambridge Central Library in Lion Yard, on the third floor (meeting room).

Given the recent developments prompted by Michael Gove’s ‘Case for Cambridge’ and the proposals for a Development Corporation, it’s even more timely that we get together. Please come along and bring any friends and colleagues who might be interested. We will be explaining the background to the campaign for Unitary Authorities in Cambridgeshire and setting out our ideas for how we might achieve a more rational approach to local government.

This is your opportunity to learn more about what we are doing, to meet the team behind the campaign and to help plan towards a more common-sense approach to local government organisation.

This is an open meeting – all are welcome. If you are not already a member of our Campaign, please do join.

The meeting agenda will be roughly:

  • Introduction (presentation)
  • Historical context (presentation)
  • Options for new local government structure (presentation)
  • Discussion (main part of the meeting – where you come in!)
  • Next steps

The meeting room is fully accessible, with a lift to the third floor.

If you support our campaign, please advertise this event widely to friends and family using any social media channels and networks that you have available.

Your views are important. We want to hear them! Do come.

AGM report

Thank you to everyone who came to our inaugural AGM on 11th December 2023.

The following were elected to the committee, who will lead the campaign over the coming year:

  • Ralph Ecclestone – Chair
  • Phil Rodgers – Secretary
  • Hilary Jackson – Membership Secretary
  • Chris Howell – Treasurer
  • Martin Lucas-Smith – General committee member
  • Antony Carpen – General committee member

The constitution was approved.

Antony helpfully gave us various details of the history of relevant local government changes and proposals, including the 1990s proposals. There have obviously been many changes since then.

Members discussed various issues that will arise as we try to spread the word about our campaign and aim to get decision-makers on board.

The new committee now has a large set of potential actions. These will no doubt involve public meetings, creation of helpful resources, discussions with elected councillors and MPs, articles and newspaper pieces, and asking election candidates their views. All these will need volunteers – please do get in touch if you might be interested. Don’t worry if you don’t yet have experience!

Campaign planning session and first AGM, Monday 11th December

We will shortly be holding our first meeting, forming our inaugural AGM.

We have written to supporters as follows. If you’re not currently a supporter, please do sign up.

We’d like to invite all our supporters to a general meeting to plan the campaign at 7pm on Monday 11th December 2023, to be held over Zoom.

To let us know you can attend, please sign up via the link we have e-mailed.

As part of this meeting, we would like to adopt a constitution for the campaign, and elect our first officers, including a Chair, Secretary, Membership Secretary, Treasurer and committee members. The draft constitution is available to review.

Let us know if you are interested in standing for any of these posts (even if you can’t attend on Monday 11th) by e-mailing us at: hello @ cambsunitaries.org.uk (without the spaces).

The main discussion of the meeting will follow: we will discuss next steps in the campaign, including how to gain support across the County.

The campaign got off to a flying start in October with Cambridge City Council debating a motion calling for a Unitary Council for Southern Cambridgeshire.

Cambridge City Council debates the issue of a unitary council

Last Thursday (October 19th), Cambridge City Council debated the issue of a unitary council.

Several councillors spoke about how the current arrangements leave residents confused about which council is responsible for what services, and that now is a good time for a review of how the system works.

Councillors agreed to ask the City Council’s Leader and Chief Executive to start discussions with other authorities in the region about a less fragmented model of local government – the full text agreed is below. We’ll be watching developments with interest!

You can watch the debate here:

The text of what the City Council agreed was:

Council notes that:

  1. There is renewed public interest in how Cambridge is governed.
  2. Although many important partnership relationships are in place between this and other councils, that the current fragmentation of responsibilities and decision-making presents an unhelpful hurdle to strategic focus on the big range of issues which bind the city of Cambridge, affecting lives and livelihoods of all our residents.
  3. This fragmentation frequently leaves many of our residents confused about the location of responsibilities and accountability.
  4. Past doubts about the critical mass required to justify unitary status are being questioned again, as they were in the 1890s, after both World Wars, in the 1950s and again in the 1960s.

Council affirms that:

  1. Power should reside as close to people as is possible.
  2. For purposeful, democratic government, we should therefore consider whether a single tier council, amongst other options, framed around the urban geography of the city, is the most appropriate model of Government for our city.
  3. We support the calls currently being made for deeper devolution of powers from central government and are committed to working with the Mayor to progress those discussions, for the benefit of both Cambridge and the wider region, to ensure we can best support our communities through the cost of living, climate and biodiversity emergencies. Specifically we believe devolution in relation to single funding settlements and fiscal powers, devolved skills and adult education budgets and clearer, transport responsibilities would give power back to local communities.

In addition Council affirms:

  1. Its continued commitment to the many, complex partnership arrangements of which it is a part as the best available current means of pursuing joined-up decision-making so long as local government structure remains as it is.
  2. Its awareness that whatever model of Governance might emerge, working co-operatively and supportively with our partners and communities is essential to deliver better outcomes for our residents.
  3. That the increasing expectations of change and economic growth that face us in this area make it no longer optimal that we have less dedicated local self-government than city areas such as Peterborough, Luton, York, Bedford, Reading or Bath. In particular reference should be made to the structures in Manchester given that this city sits within a Combined Authority.
  4. Its belief that an alternative model of local government could better connect our residents to their representatives and local service providers, and facilitate joined-up decision-making, and strengthen our voice in dialogue with central government and improve the life chances, health and wellbeing, and opportunities for our residents.

Accordingly, Council asks the Leader and Chief Executive to initiate discussions with other Authorities in the region and then central Government to identify options for a less fragmented and more cohesive model of Government for Cambridge, that best serves the needs of its residents. These discussions should involve and engage with the people of the city in a meaningful way, thereby recognising the need for our governance structures to reflect the wishes of the people we serve.

Hello from the Cambs Unitaries Campaign

After months of informal talks with local stakeholders, we have now publicly launched our campaign website and started identifying supporters.

We aim to be a bottom up, grassroots campaign that builds support from across the political spectrum for more effective and accountable local government in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough through new Unitary Authorities.

To do that, we need your help. These are some of the potential next steps we have identified to move the campaign forwards.

  • Organising and publicising a public meeting to launch the campaign.
  • Joining a steering committee to provide governance to the campaign and ensure it remains broad based and focused solely on our objective of unitary authorities.
  • Joining an activists group to make campaign actions happen.
  • Helping build our online presence – can you help improve the design and visual appeal of our wordpress website, or help set up a Facebook group?
  • Contacting representatives from the political parties, finding out their views and signing them up as supporters – especially if you are a member of a political party locally.
  • Contacting other stakeholder groups like resident’s associations or other campaign groups that may be interested in better local authority accountability and governance.
  • Helping to build our supporters and presence in the north of the County to ensure we campaign across the whole area.
  • Helping with research to provide more details of how new unitary authorities would work, and how their finances would work.

Can you help with any of these areas? Send us an email at hello@cambsunitaries.org.uk to let us know how you can help move the campaign forward. If you know anyone else who would support our campaign, please encourage them to sign up to our mailing list at cambsunitaries.org.uk.