Mayor James Palmer suggests he favours abolition of Cambridgeshire County Council - ‘but that’s just my belief’

Julie Windle (centre), chairman off Whittlesey branch of NECCA and Kay Mayor, chairman of the North

Julie Windle (centre), chairman off Whittlesey branch of NECCA and Kay Mayor, chairman of the North East Cambridgeshire Conservative Association with James Palmer Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough.PHOTO: RWT Photography - Credit: Archant

Mayor James Palmer indicated he favoured greater influence and powers for district councils and the possible abolition of Cambridgeshire County Council.

He told a Conservative Party lunch in Whittlesey yesterday (Sunday): “I believe what the county does could be delivered by the district councils – but that’s just my belief.”

He insisted he was “not a dictator” which was why he was putting forward an independent review that he argued “will give us a clearer way forward”.

Mayor Palmer said that during his time as both a district and county councillor it was “very clear to me” that if he wanted to get something done it was “almost impossible” through the county council.

He referred to Soham rail station and the Eastern Gateway for Soham – both in his home town – where he felt the county council had failed.

“They are still not sorted – nor anywhere near being sorted,” he said.

On the Eastern Gateway – that is planned to create an extra 553 homes in the town – he said this had been put forward in the local plan in 2010/11. It was still not sorted,

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He blamed non delivery of the Eastern Gateway for the failure of the East Cambs District Council to achieve recognition by the Government of that local plan.

He said the county council was “incapable of delivering the gateway” even though much of the land is owned by the council.

“The council is sitting on a huge nest egg for the county but it is still not happening and it is very frustrating,” said Mayor Palmer.

On the specifics of which powers could be devolved where he said Cambridgeshire had parish, town, district and a county council as well as a local enterprise partnership and a city council in Cambridge and Peterborough.

He said there was a lot of cross over but reminded his audience that Cambridgeshire County Council was mainly created for education and health.

He questioned whether it was still needed for education since all secondary and most primary schools were now academies.

Could education be handled by districts? “Yes I think it could” he said. Mayor Palmer also felt highway improvements could be handed to the districts with the strategic role of transport now being handled by the combined authority.

“There is quite a lot of stuff to look at and to see if we can do things more efficiently,” he said.

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