Local Leaders Spotlight: Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council urges anti-Conservative tactical voting

The leader of Cambridgeshire County Council has urged voters in Peterborough to consider which party they should back ‘to try and work out how to not have a Conservative’ in the upcoming local elections this May. 

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, a Liberal Democrat, also said the Tories were interested in ‘reducing the capacity of local authorities’ and branded the UK Conservative government ‘not only wrong but also deeply incompetent.’

Cllr Nethsingha and other County Councillors will not face re-election this May, but voters in Peterborough are set to go to the polls next month to re-elect one third of Peterborough City Council.

Currently, no party has overall control of Peterborough City Council, but the Conservatives remain the largest single grouping with 23 seats, and Labour the second largest with 14. 

She said: “Peterborough is currently in no overall control following the defection of a large number of Conservative councillors over the course of this year, and they have very important elections in May.

“In Peterborough, I would certainly be encouraging anybody who wants to not have a Conservative councillor to be looking carefully at how many leaflets they get through the door and thinking about who is fighting hard in their patch, because it will probably make a difference there.

“It does actually matter who you elect for your local council. It makes a difference to the quality of your council services. And my perception of Conservatives in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is that they’re much more interested in reducing the capacity of local authorities.

“I would suggest that actually if you want to have an authority which is focused on making sure that the services are there for the people who are the most vulnerable when they need them, you probably want to try and work out how to not have a Conservative.”

Ahead of these crucial local elections, Cllr Lucy Nethsingha spoke to cross-party campaign group Compass about her experience of working as part of a coalition on Cambridgeshire County Council, and her hopes for the future. Watch the whole interview here

After the Conservatives lost control of Cambridgeshire County Council in 2021, Labour, Liberal Democrats and independents came together in a ‘rainbow coalition’ capable of narrowly outvoting the Conservatives. Since then, this coalition has gone from strength to strength and even increased its majority after the Liberal Democrats won a mid-term by-election and a Tory councillor defected to the Liberal Democrats. 

Cllr Nethsingha said the business of forming the coalition ‘from a timing point of view was pretty hard work,’ but said the parties found a surprising amount of common ground once they got around the table.

She said: “One of the first things we did was put the manifestos of the different groups next to each other to see how much overlap there was. And there was an extraordinarily large amount of overlap. So actually setting out a kind of direction of travel and a set of things that we wanted to achieve was not so difficult.”

She said working as part of a coalition helped them to achieve things they wouldn’t have been able to with a single party grouping. 

She said: “We know that child poverty is a huge and rising problem across the whole country… so I am really pleased that one of the key priorities from the joint administration, from when we were first setting up our agreement between the parties, was on free school meals.”

She added that working with the Labour grouping encouraged the coalition to pay not just council staff the real living wage, but ‘make sure we were paying as many of our contracted staff the real living wage as well.’

She also spoke about her frustration of working alongside the national Conservative government over the last few years leading Cambridgeshire County Council.

She said: “Having a change of government, getting rid of the Conservatives at national government level would be completely wonderful. I mean, it has been the most extraordinary, frustrating three years in terms of dealing with national government, because you just never feel as if there’s any sensible direction of travel, there’s no long term thinking whatsoever.

“It’s just been that they’ve been not only wrong but also deeply incompetent and I am just really hoping that a different government would at least have a slightly more long-term perspective than this one has.”


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