£100k homes scrapped 'with almost immediate effect' says Mayor
Robert Alexander Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Archant
“There were no little notes of advice from outgoing Mayor Palmer, no hidden stash of toffees under the desk, just his words of congratulations from the weekend after what was a very closely fought race.”
Mayor Dr Nik Johnson reflecting on life – and success- on his first day in office as Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
“I have to say on Saturday evening I was so exhausted by it all, the large celebrations we’d planned were scaled-down somewhat,” he said.
“I enjoyed a lovely evening with my wife – who I had to apologise to for not phoning when I’d won – my children, family and close friends.
“On Sunday, when I got up, I was treated to a round of applause from my neighbours which was unexpected and very kind.
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“I then had a text from Sir Keir Starmer congratulating me and wishing me all the best in my new role.
“I have to admit that at first I thought it was a spoof message from one of my medical colleagues, so I wrote back saying ‘I hope this isn’t a joke and really from the Leader of the Labour Party’.
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“It was real; and Sir Keir acknowledged again my win, saying that he was looking forward to working with me and that we should meet and talk very soon.
“And to be honest that is how I want to work – in cooperation with everybody to get this job done.”
Mayor Dr Johnson said: “Nobody knows more than I do the challenges that lay ahead.
“But for me that is precisely why I took up this role in the first place.
“Not because it will be easy, but because it’s a challenge that I genuinely feel I can commit to and do something for the people of Cambridgeshire.
“In balancing the work that I do now, and what I need to do in the future, will be, as I’ve already mentioned, very challenging; but at least in that I’m not unique.
“Just look at Dr Caroline Johnson, Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham. Not only do we share the same surname, but Dr Johnson is also a Paediatrician and a public servant.
“She manages to balance the roles of being a busy medical officer and member of Parliament, so why shouldn’t I?”
Mayor Dr Johnson said that initially he will spend half a morning each work at Peterborough, Addenbrooke’s and Hinchingbrooke hospitals.
“That’ll give me the remaining six and a half days in the week to commit to my role as Mayor of the Combined Authority,” he said.
He said: “While it’s vital that I keep my medical hand on the pulse – pardon the pun – I also have a new responsibility to look after the needs of the people of Cambridgeshire who have put their trust in me through this election process.”
The new Mayor, who says he would like to be addressed as ‘Mayor Dr Nik Johnson’, of the Labour and Cooperative Party, talked more of his first day in office:
“It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind really, but the very competent staff here at the Combined Authority in Ely have made me feel very welcome, and I met with all of them both together as a group, and individually today.
“I have to say that they’ve made me feel as if I am part of the family already, and I feel more cared for than in any new position I’ve taken up before.
“I’m also delighted that they have all genuinely taken on-board my belief in the three ‘c’s – Compassion, Cooperation and Community for all and will be working with me to deliver them.”
Mayor Dr Johnson already has plans that he intends to implement straight away.
“I will be scrapping the £100k homes project with almost immediate effect,” he said.
“I’ve always struggled to understand the model, and now not only with funding from central government waning, we have calls of concern from members within Westminster.
“I will look at how we can move forward with the existing parts of the project that are beyond recall, and look to deliver those houses that exist in one form or another.
“But I want to curtail the process quickly so that I can look at other ways to deliver socially affordable housing.”
He said: “It’s also my intention to do away with the CAM-Metro scheme.
“In all honesty, I’ve never seen it as a sustainable transport system and it’s not going to be a part of our long-term plans here anymore.”
He will look to see “parts are salvageable and what parts can be transferred as information to tackle wider transport problems.
“But giving Cambridge a bespoke, extraordinarily expensive metro transportation system that simply cannot function or be funded in the future is gone”.
Mayor Dr Johnson said: “I know that policy will disappoint some.
“The vision of a linked-transport network some sunny day far off in the future that would potentially bring together some of the outer-laying villages and towns as far as the new Alconbury development and perhaps even as far as Peterborough, is nothing more than that – a vision.
“It can’t and won’t be funded further.
“But I do believe that Peterborough especially has transport needs different to Cambridge, and they must be addressed.”
His policies also include “giving 18–25-year-olds a tempting pricing system that will bring them back to public transport”.
Mayor Dr Johnson also feels Ely will be remain home for the time being at least.
“As I sit here in my new office in Ely today, looking out on the splendour of this beautiful city, my initial impressions are that we do have a home… and it’s right here,” he said.
Once the pandemic is over, Mayor Dr Johnson also plans to make Combined Authority meetings more transparent including meetings of the business boards.
“From now on, with the exception of sensitive matters that do not need to be made public, all meetings will be open,” he said.
“Everybody who has listened to me during my campaign knows that I have a vision of a ‘Greater Cambridgeshire’, and this, along with my commitment to the three ‘c’s of Compassion, Cooperation and Community for all is at the core of my plans, going forward.
“I want this Greater Cambridgeshire to be the County of Culture, I want Peterborough to deliver on the Environmental Capital of the Country.
“There’s a great deal of work to be done, and now I need to be getting on with it.”