Friday 21 March 2014

Standing Down as Leader of Cambs County Council

Today I announced today that I am standing down as Leader of Cambs County Council in May. I will blog some colour to this over the weekend, but here is the press release I sent out today.

The reasons stated on here are the genuine reasons - in the next few days I suspect the targets of my reasons will create all sorts of speculation in order to deflect from the truth.

"County Councillor Martin Curtis has decided to step down as Leader of the Council at the Annual Meeting in May.

He took the leadership role promising not to become embroiled in petty politics and to do the best for the people of Cambridgeshire.

Almost a year later he and the Conservative Group, working with others have delivered billions of pounds of investment into the County – including a City Deal, A14 upgrade, new rail and transport measures as well as playing a part in delivering on a 30 year wait for fairer funding for our schools.

But with the change to a new committee system in May he believes the evidence of the last year and, especially of recent months, suggests that the Council will become embroiled in petty politics at the expense of the huge strategic issues the Council is succeeding with. He also fears that the new system could lose focus on protecting vulnerable Cambridgeshire residents from harm.

Over the last year the Council has achieved:

· An announcement about a City Deal which is a £1/2b investment in our County.
· Secured a deal for the A14 upgrade: a £1.5b investment.
· At long last, taken a huge step towards fairer funding for our schools, securing £20m extra.
· Planning permission for a major rail investment (Science Park Station).
· Support from the Transport Minister for the Wisbech to March rail line, a potential £40m scheme - he has not yet committed funding, but described it a "strategic priority".
· A superfast broadband project that continues to deliver on time and on budget, and is forecast to deliver improved coverage across the County.
· £128 million in savings over the last three years while protecting frontline services
· Continued progress on schemes like Kings Dyke Crossing and Ely Southern Bypass.
· Our first community hubs, working across Councils to save money.
· A Community Navigators scheme that is progressing to maturity and receiving widespread recognition for the work it is doing supporting older people.
· Settlement of the guided busway dispute - very challenging, but at a cost far, far lower than many predicted.
· An asset management approach to road maintenance which is reaching fruition.
· A multimillion pound refit for the College of West Anglia - delivering on a promise broken by the Labour Government.
· A £30m agri-tech investment in the belt between Cambridge and Norwich.
· Worked with AmeyCespa to bring the MBT plant back into full operation
· Working with our partners to deliver Stage 3 of the Tour de France which is the biggest annual sporting event in the world

He said: “This has been the hardest decision I have ever had to make. But I vowed to always do the best for the people of Cambridgeshire, I do not believe my skills rest in dealing with the continuous stream of dogma that is going to get into the way of the direction of this Council that the move to committees will bring. Evidence of the last few months has shown to me that this is where we are heading.

“Our Councillors need to be absolutely concentrating on the people of Cambridgeshire and the challenges they face. We need to be looking after the most vulnerable, making our roads work better and ensuring people have access to jobs.

“In the last year the Council has achieved billions of pounds of investment that directly benefit the people we serve. I am extremely proud of the massive strides we have taken in solving some of the major problems facing Cambridgeshire and our record stands for itself. But this is about to become bogged down by people more interested in grandstanding or focussing on minor issues that are better dealt with more informally than doing what is best.

“I fear that we are about to rush headlong into a Committee System that will be characterised by petty politics and infighting, with the needs of the people of Cambridgeshire coming a very poor last.

“It would be easy for me to carry on as Leader but I believe we are elected by the people for the people. I cannot, in all conscience, be part of that system and see the massive achievements we have made become lost in a sea of self-serving noise. I hope that by resigning I can make some of our opposition groups think twice about the lack of strategic focus they have shown over the last ten months and the damage that will do to a County Council with a £500m budget under the committee system.

“You only have to look at the agenda for the next full council meeting to see a glimpse of the future. I cannot be part of a system that is using its most important meetings to eat up time and money discussing video cameras and becoming embroiled in a third debate about flying flags while we have real deprivation and a job to do. The people of Cambridgeshire deserve better of their Council and Councillors and I do not want to watch the good work we have achieved be squandered by people who seem unable to deal with the big strategic issues like reform of social care or delivering an infrastructure that will drive economic growth.

“I cannot praise enough the support the Conservative group and the officers at the Council have given me over the last year, providing me respectively with selfless support and tireless work to deliver for Cambridgeshire. I will remain Leader until the annual meeting in May and remain a councillor, doing my best for the people of Cambridgeshire and Whittlesey. I will of course fully support the Conservative group and its new Leader.”


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