27 March 2021
What is Talking Point?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every week. In the run-up to the elections on 6th May 2021, they are also running a series of 'election special' talking points. Here, we share our responses.
Today's Question: What should the County Council’s top priorities to promote post-Covid recovery be? Alongside supporting residents, how can it recover financially?
About a year ago, at the beginning of the first lockdown, Cambridge Green Party was engaging with the County Council over their recently published Climate Change Strategy. We didn’t think they were being nearly ambitious enough and asked them a whole series of questions to encourage them to appreciate the size of the challenge. One of the things that was worrying was the way the Conservative council Leader responded to our questions. He made two points. He spoke about preserving economic growth and took it as given that the prosperity of agriculture in the County depended on continuing the current intensive methods of farming the fenland to produce food.
Neither of these are straight-out wrong, but they both miss a vital truth that we need to grasp if we are to talk realistically about what a post-COVID recovery should look like. If COVID has taught us anything is that we can do things differently and in many areas we must.
First, growth. The Greens are the only party that has not signed up to the government’s growth-at-all-costs strategy. We need to replenish our social capital as much as we need to replenish our economic capital. The pandemic has made us all aware of the importance of community and made us realise which are the jobs really make or society function. Supporting vulnerable people in our community must be a priority.
Second agriculture. Cambridgeshire will be particularly affected by climate change. The fens produce nearly as much in the way of greenhouse gases as all other human activity in the County, and much of the County will be affected by increased flooding risk. Our post-COVID recovery needs to recognise that this will mean far-reaching change, not all of it welcome. We need to stop taking it for granted that our future lies in growing intensively farmed food for the country as a whole and looking at developing more sustainable and more local food networks.
Emerging from the pandemic is golden opportunity to kick-start a green recovery. Spending on projects that promote sustainability offers a win-win way of getting to a healthier economy in all senses of the term. For example the national average number of public charging points for electric vehicles is 31 per 100,000 population. Cambridge actually lags behind with only 26, whereas Green-led Brighton already has more than three times as many with 89. Installing more on-street charging points would facilitate the transition to emission free transport, create jobs and on top of all that improve air quality and therefore health.
Our response was written Jeremy Caddick. Jeremy is the County Council Candidate for Abbey in the 2021 Election. He has lived in Cambridge for more than 25 years and is the Dean and Chaplain at one of the Colleges in Cambridge University. He was one of the leaders of the campaign for the University to cut its links with fossil fuel companies.