Ethan MacDonald and Jonathan Heywood explain why it is crucial for students to vote Labour in the upcoming local elections.
This Thursday (May 6th) is the deadline for voting in the Cambridge local elections, and CULC has been supporting and canvassing for a superb slate of Labour candidates, including 4 students who will be familiar to many CULC members.
Students can vote both for city councillors and county councillors in their Cambridge ward, and also vote back home. Every four years, council seats are all up for election, meaning three seats for city council and one seat for county council within each ward. In the years in-between ‘all up’ elections, a smaller proportion of the seats will be up for election as the candidates who get elected with lower vote shares at the ‘all up’ elections have short terms as councillors. 2021 is the first time since 2017 that all Cambridge City Council seats are up for election and the first time since 2017 that the County seats are up for election as well. As a result, this is the most important opportunity for students to express their voice on local issues until 2025. Currently, Cambridge City Council has 26 Labour councillors, 15 Liberal Democrats and 1 Independent. Cambridge council has not had a Conservative plurality since the 1980s – instead, control has alternated between the Liberal Democrats and Labour, whereas Cambridgeshire County Council has been Conservative controlled for its entire history.
Since 2014, Labour has held a majority on the council, taking over from the Liberal Democrats who had controlled it since 2000 and have focused on protecting and extending council services in the face of budget cuts from the Conservative governments both in the County Council and in Westminster, and tension with the Conservative Mayor of Cambridgeshire, James Palmer. Key priorities for the outgoing city council have included protecting Whitworth House, a Women’s Shelter for Cambridge victims of domestic violence, after the Cambridgeshire County Council tried to withdraw funding from it; creating a plan for the City Council to going Carbon neutral by 2030 by continuing to cut the use of herbicides and planting thousands of new trees; building more than 500 new council homes, and sponsoring innovative low cost and low carbon footprint temporary housing to start tackling Cambridge’s rough sleeper problem. As councils deal with the financial ramifications of Covid and hope for an end to austerity in council budgets, student votes can genuinely affect the future of Cambridge City Council, and potentially upset the Conservative majority in the County Council too.
Our Labour city council is left-wing and slowly changing Cambridge, despite being crippled by budget cuts both by the national Tory government and the county Tory government. The council pledges to continue addressing poverty across the city through our anti-poverty strategy, and promote diversity – continuing successful policies such as the Community Grants scheme, and promoting a Real Living Wage as well as helping local people to take action to improve their local area through a new community seed fund’. Labour will also resettle a further 200 refugees, build more disability-friendly play areas and Changing Places toilets, and make more places in our city safe spaces for the LGBTQ community.
Labour will continue to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies and has ambitiously legislated for a net-zero council by 2030, by ensuring new council homes are built to Passivhaus standards wherever possible, replacing city council vehicles with electric vehicles as the default option, championing the restoration of the chalk streams in and around Cambridge and assessing all policies against their impact on the environment.
On housing, Labour will continue to try and give rough sleepers better options and solve the housing crisis with 1000 new council homes with net-zero carbon emissions, as well as working with tenants’ groups to stand up to private landlords, providing more housing for intermediate rent to make housing more affordable, and standing up for leaseholders facing cladding bills and unfair charges.
Despite operating under the exceptional duress of COVID and Tory budget cuts, the Labour council has made serious progress since 2014, but right now they need student support to hold onto their majority in the face of vote fatigue and low turnout. Even if you can’t come out on the doorstep on election day, please do remember to spend May 6th reminding your friends to get out to vote, and remember to vote Labour!