PETER DAWE, INDEPENDENT: Independence day could be revolutionary

Peter Dawe

Peter Dawe - Credit: Archant

Getting councillors out of committees, generating electricity from the Wash, and removing the need for social housing are just a few ideas mayoral candidate Peter Dawe has for Cambridgeshire.

The businessman, who is running as an independent, is already known for creating the UK’s first commercial internet provider, as well as setting up more than 100 companies and initiatives spanning the likes of finance, mobile apps, and health.

Now trying his hand at the mayoral elections, Mr Dawe is keen to carry on harnessing the power of technology and says it’s one of his key policies in the race.

“There are so many exciting 21st century technologies out there, and we can use these to improve the lives of people in Cambridgeshire,” Mr Dawe said.

“I honestly despair that much of what I see from the council is 19th century technology. They’re talking about buses, bicycles, trains. They’re not even last century.

“When did you last hear them talking about apps, or electric shuttles? There are just different ways of doing things.”

As part of this, Mr Dawe says he would look at building a barrier across the Wash, near King’s Lynn, and install turbines to generate electricity.

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“On our calculations it could potentially generate four gigawatts, and the other thing we could do is use the Wash as a store of energy,” he said.

“What the county needs is the ability to have a really big battery so that when there’s a surplus we can store the energy, and when there’s a deficit we can use it. We can make the Wash a battery that’s bigger than all the world’s batteries put together.

“That has such immense value that the several billion pounds that it costs to build gives a sound return. There’s a lot of money out there looking for a good long-term return, so I’ve got no hesitation that if we get permission to build it, it wouldn’t need any government subsidy to do it.”

Mr Dawe also has plans for a ‘digital democracy’ – an online platform where the electorate can vote on how their money is spent – as well as piloting projects to assess risk before rolling out new services.

And it’s this empowerment of communities to help them solve their own problems which is another key policy for the candidate.

Mr Dawe also hopes to encourage councillors to become ‘champions’ of their communities, and wants to change the traditional council categories of departments such as planning and transport, to individual areas.

“While I’ve been campaigning I’ve been meeting some amazing people who want to make their community better, but they see the council as a block,” Mr Dawe said.

“What I want to do is empower those people for them to see the council as something that will help them or, at the very least, not get in their way.

“I’ll be going to existing councillors and say ‘stop going to committee meetings. Start talking to your headmasters, your practice managers, your super-markets, your religious leaders, and talk to them about how you as a group are going to make your community better.’”

The new mayor will be responsible for a £600 million budget when they are elected – £20 million a year for 30 years – as well as a £170 million grant for affordable housing.

“The evidence is that people like living in dense, service-rich communities, not garden cities or garden suburbs. It’s easy to prove it because of the price of the houses in the city centre is so much more, so they must prefer them,” Mr Dawe said.

“So what are we building? Garden suburbs all the time. I really want to see if we can build a dense, vibrant new town rather than spreading it out like Cambourne.”

To achieve this, Mr Dawe hopes to start a factory supplying 20 houses a day with a two-bedroom property costing in the region of £150,000.

“In four years, if we can get the factory going and turning out those sorts of things, we should be seeing a difference in rents and the cost of housing across Cambridgeshire. Then you don’t need social housing.”

Mr Dawe’s other policies include creating more internships by putting his skills budget into business rather than educational establishments.

“I think it’s a wonderful one-off opportunity,” he added.

“Since I was 30, I’ve spent my life being a pioneer and hearing everyone saying ‘that will never work’, so this is just another pioneering role and I’ve got no fear of it.”