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Summary

  1. Highlights of the debate with the four main parties looking to gain power in the county council election
  2. Cambridgeshire goes to the polls on Thursday
  3. The party representatives are:
  4. Steve Count (Conservative)
  5. Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem)
  6. Pete Reeve (UKIP)
  7. Ashley Walsh (Labour)

Live Reporting

By Adam Jinkerson

All times stated are UK

Get involved

The debate is over

Adam Jinkerson

BBC Local Live

That's it for our highlights of the Cambridgeshire County Council election debate. Thanks for joining us.

You've been hearing views from the main parties taking part in Thursday's election. There are also Green Party and independent candidates standing in the election.

You can catch up with the main points from the debate below, but we'll now continue with our rolling news for Cambridgeshire.

Why should people go out and vote?

Inside shire hall
BBC

Ashley Walsh (Labour) - "People should vote because the county council is a nearly half-a-billion-pound authority. It spends a huge amount of money and it has a huge amount of responsibility.

"They should vote Labour because we combine the fiscal prudence needed with a commercial property portfolio, with sensible tax rises, combined with genuine principle on equality, housing and transport."

Steve Count (Conservative) - "It's important to go out and vote and we are the people that will be making a difference to your day-to-day livelihoods. That's the point of what a local county council does.

"Moving forwards, the Conservatives are the only party that strike the best balance between efficiency and tax rises."

Pete Reeve (UKIP) - "Whilst the Conservatives are backed by Labour in tax rises for Cambridgeshire, it's only UKIP that are consistent with having tax freeze guarantees for Cambridgeshire residents.

"We are also the only party that is very honest that we will put local people and veterans first in terms of housing."

Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem) - "I would really ask that people go out and vote on Thursday. These elections are really important.

"The services that the county council provides are crucial for some of our most vulnerable residents. We need to make sure that those services are of a decent quality."

Your big issues: Housing, transport and the state of our roads

The big topics that came up when our BBC bus recently toured the county was three things: Housing, transport and the state of our roads, all of which are county council issues.

But how would these issues be dealt with?

BBC Bus
BBC

Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem) - "The raising of council tax does make a difference. It's not going to fix things quickly but it does work. Particularly with things like the state of our roads, which have been getting worse and worse and I totally understand why people are so frustrated with that. 

"Unfortunately, the maintenance money comes from the revenue pot and that's the bit that's under huge pressure and where the council tax would make a difference."

Ashley Walsh (Labour) - "On housing, it was Labour councillors working with other councillors from parties across the county and city councils that got the 500 council houses for greater Cambridge, and also tens of millions pounds of affordable housing. 

"We would raise council tax to create an £11m investment fund for the market towns and the larger conurbations of the county, including Cambridge, so that we can get those potholes and those roads done first. 

"We then have a problem of rural isolation that we have to deal with."

Steve Count (Conservative) - "The Conservatives proposed an extra £2.5m for pothole repairs for the budget in February and other parties voted that down, and we finally got it through with no increase in council tax. 

"Putting that in perspective, with a budget of about £1.16m at the moment, that extra money for pothole repairs and for grass cutting about doubles the amount of potholes we'd be able to do. That was voted against by Lib Dems and Labour."

Pete Reeve (UKIP) - "UKIP is the only party being honest about these issues. Whilst we have mass migration into the UK, those services will remain under pressure. Houses will remain expensive. Whilst we are building houses all over Cambridgeshire and not building roads, we will find that Cambridgeshire people remain priced out of the market."

Can more savings be made at the county council?

Steve Count (Conservative) - "Cambridgeshire County Council, under the direction of what was a Conservative majority over four years ago, created LGSS, which actually means sharing all of our back office with Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes, so our back office has been really trimmed down.

"We've also introduced sharing in Peterborough and that's how we've managed to drive costs down."

Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem) - "The council has made really enormous cuts over the past four years. I don't really believe there is any more fat to be trimmed from within the bureaucracy in the council without having an impact on front-line services, and I think we're already seeing that impact on front-line services."

Ashley Walsh (Labour) - "What we have in effect is a reorganisation of local government. 

"If you live in some parts of Cambridgeshire now you could have a town councillor, parish councillor, district councillor, county councillor and MP, and we think it's regrettable that the government insisted that we have the mayoralty. 

"Labour at city and council level supported the devolution deal, so we could have extra investment in council houses and affordable housing."

Pete Reeve (UKIP) - "I'm very proud how all the parties have worked together on projects such as sharing a chief executive, but UKIP is very clear that we would go much further. 

"We don't need all these buildings for all these different councils. We shouldn't have a mayor who's spending nearly £1m of taxpayers' money on new offices. Let's have a single council. Let's save up to £60m-a-year doing that. People don't want all these various layers."

Would your party raise council tax?

Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem) - "We've been very clear that we would put up council tax by the 4% that central government were expecting us to. That would bring in an extra £5m. 

"It won't mean the county council will suddenly have lots of money to do lots of wonderful things like we'd like to do. It would just allow us to make the minimum investments we need in our care services."

Pete Reeve (UKIP) - "I have never voted for a tax rise in my political life and I never intend to. UKIP is very clear. 

"The only way to fix adult social care in this country is to divert money from the foreign aid budget. £9bn of that can go into health and adult social care and help solve the problem."

Steve Count (Conservative) - "We've taken a very pragmatic approach. We know that our budget has fluctuated on a yearly basis by immense amounts, so we've had to wait until we got to the end to see if we could deliver our services within the package. 

"The Conservatives do believe in low taxation, and we've manage to match the taxation we've asked for - 2% for adult social care precept - but only the adult social care precept, and we're still delivering our services."

Ashley Walsh (Labour) - "When the Conservative government said the council could raise council tax by up to 4 or even 5%, they were thinking of a council like Cambridgeshire. 

"We would raise the money straight into social care services, but we would also use the council's spare reserves to massively expand the council's own commercial property investment, to create long-term revenues to fund services without having to rely on council tax or government funding."

Why should people vote for your party? Ashley Walsh (Labour)

Adam Jinkerson

BBC Local Live

Ashley Walsh
BBC

"The key issue that we stand for is equality.

"Not just for the city of Cambridge, which people often think of, but the vast inequalities between greater Cambridge and areas like Fenland in particular, which have some of the worst deprivation levels in western Europe.

"We would raise council tax, as the Conservative government said we should, in order to raise the money to properly fund our social care services, to properly fund our schools and to make sure we build council houses, particularly in greater Cambridge, and affordable housing across the county, so that we can get a more equal county."

Why should people vote for your party? Steve Count (Conservative)

Adam Jinkerson

BBC Local Live

Steve Count
BBC

"It's been a very difficult four years. There's been no overall control. Working in a committee system, 17 people in a room at a time with five different parties, trying to come to what has always been a compromised decision.

"We stand for the ability to have clarity of thought moving forwards. We will take each issue as they come on the subject of council tax.

"We've had a balanced approach over the last four years and we're very proud of our record, despite the overwhelming odds against us to deliver."

Why should people vote for your party? Pete Reeve (UKIP)

Adam Jinkerson

BBC Local Live

Pete Reeve
BBC

"I'm very proud of UKIP's track record. We are the only party that stands for tax freezes in Cambridgeshire. We genuinely believe that your money is better off in your pocket than in the county council's coffers.

"Not one penny of all the tax rises that UKIP has been opposing has been spent on services. It's been held in the county council bank account and we think that's just wrong. 

"We're also the only party standing up to protect the countryside and to put local people and veterans first."

Why should people vote for your party? Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem)

Adam Jinkerson

BBC Local Live

Lucy Nethsingha
BBC

"The thing that we've been campaigning hardest on for the past two years is to increase the amount of money that's been available for our public services.

"We think that the Conservatives on the county council, supported by UKIP, have been keeping council tax down, which has meant that many of our services such as school services, care services and bus services have had greater cuts than is actually needed and that was expected by central government.

"We could have had an extra £5m this year that could have gone into supporting care services.

"Those care services are critical for the NHS and for elderly people in particular.

"We think that money is really needed and that's what's we've been fighting for."

Election debate: The current county council make-up

Adam Jinkerson

BBC Local Live

Normally we talk about a council being Labour-run or Conservative-run etc.

At the moment Cambridgeshire County Council is under no overall control, meaning there's no party that has a majority - or more than half the number of councillors. So if a party wants to get their policy through, they must get support from councillors from other parties.

From 1997 to 2013, the Conservatives had control of the council, but then we had the surge in support for UKIP in the county that changed the balance of power and took away the Tory majority.

There are 61 councillors being elected this year, so one party will need to get 31 seats to get a majority.

The Conservatives will be hoping to take back control, but the other parties will be trying their best to stop them.

Shire Hall sign
Fractal Angel/Geograph

Just Cambridgeshire?

In 1998, Peterborough City Council broke away from the control of Cambridgeshire County Council and became a unitary authority, which replaces having county and district councils. They had their elections last year.

Peterborough residents are still being asked to elect a mayor for the Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough on Thursday.

The changing role of county councils

Nic Rigby

BBC News

We've told you what county councils do... but how is their role changing?

Over the last few years we've seen a rationalisation of assets, a huge number of redundancies and savings on all the key services.

Shire Hall
Duncan Grey/Geograph

Jonathan Carr-West is the chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit.

He says it's not going to get easier to run county councils.

We'll see a shift in how a council functions and what they do... they'll become less about delivering services and more about investing in local areas - driving growth, facilitating the voluntary sector, bringing together other branches of the state at a local level... their role will shift from delivery to facilitation."

Jonathan Carr-WestLocal Government Information Unit

The role of the county council

Nic Rigby

BBC News

County councils are hugely important - they make the decisions that affect our everyday lives.

They run many of the services that we rely on, whether that's looking after vulnerable people, safeguarding children, libraries - and 70% of the roads are maintained by the council.

Voting
Getty Images

These decisions are not made by MPs in Westminster, but decided by county councils.

It's a difficult job - there are reduced resources along with increasing demand in some areas, such as adult social care and children's services.

Grants from central government are repeatedly cut, and the government's intention is to phase out central government funding entirely by 2020. 

So by then, local government will be entirely financed by money it raises locally... primarily business rates and council tax.

Welcome to the county council election debate

Adam Jinkerson

BBC Local Live

Good morning and thanks for joining us as we bring you highlights of BBC Radio Cambridgeshire's debate aired yesterday evening, with representative of parties contesting the election for Cambridgeshire County Council.

Presented by Chris Mann, the panel included Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem), Pete Reeve (UKIP), Steve Count (Conservative) and Ashley Walsh (Labour).

Tomorrow, many of us will be going to the polls to vote for a new county council. Traditionally turnout is low - about half that of a general election.

Highlights will begin shortly.