"Covid has shown how local people support each other at a time like this when we all need to come together. In my street it has had a wider impact of building the community - and I know this has been happening across the ward."
What drives you politically?
I was quite young when I realised just how unequal our society is in terms of the opportunities people have. In those days your future was pretty much determined at the age of 11 – grammar school or secondary modern – and this was often down to your background more than anything. I recognised at that time that Labour was the only political party that could and would address this – and I still believe that. I’m proud to be part of a group of councillors that is really serious about tackling inequality in Cambridge.
You live in the area you represent, is that right?
Yes, we’ve lived on Gilbert Road for twenty years now. I’ve always been active in the local area since we moved here. My son and daughter were pupils at Milton Road Primary and I became a governor there. I was involved in the development of the new school building, and we did a lot of work developing the outside play space that was missing from the old site across the road. I also helped secure the funding for the sports pavilion at Chesterton Community College just down the road, and also for the community rooms at Milton Road library – a real first for West Chesterton!
My main priorities for the area are the things local residents tell me about – addressing the issue of commuter parking, providing better buses and cycling provision – and transforming Mitcham’s Corner, so that it is a place for the community and not just a very large roundabout.
How long have you been a councillor, Mike? What sort of things have you been involved in?
I was elected to the city council for West Chesterton in 2016, and I’ve had quite a few roles on the city council since then. Probably the one I’ve enjoyed the most was chairing one of the Planning Committee that looks at larger developments on the outskirts of Cambridge, like the Science Park, Eddington, Biomedical Campus and the land around Cambridge Airport.
I’m also one of five Labour councillors on the Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee, which sets out planning policy for the future including climate change, biodiversity and providing affordable homes and good quality jobs for the people of Cambridge. Even before I was a councillor I was involved with planning, representing local residents’ concerns about various developments.
I’ve managed to secure funding for a whole range of local improvements in West Chesterton – extra streetlights, speed display units and tree planting in residential streets.
As well as my work in the city, I’ve taken on some wider responsibilities as a member of the Greater Cambridge Partnership Assembly, advising on transport issues such as Milton Road and Greenway cycle schemes. I’m also a member of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Housing Committee where we have a budget of £60 million to spend on affordable housing across the region.
You’ve been really involved with a lot of the work on transport, haven’t you?
Yes, I’m the Lead Councillor for Public Transport. That’s quite a tough ask, as where and when buses run are actually controlled by private companies. But it’s still important that our residents’ voices are heard, and I enjoy being able to make sure that happens. I’m absolutely passionate about giving people an alternative to the car that works for them.
I’ve been able to get much better bus services on Milton Road for local residents and for commuters, who can now use the Milton Park and Ride to get to workplaces in the ward rather than parking in local streets.
What do you enjoy most about being a councillor?
One of the really great things for me about being a councillor is when you can work with local residents. The growing number of residents’ associations across the ward shows that people want to work together. If ever I want to know what issues people are concerned about, the residents associations are often my first point of contact – and they’re a great sounding board when we’re talking through possible solutions.
In fact, if you don’t have a Residents’ Association in your area and would like to set one up, please let me know and I will put you in contact with one of the great groups we have.
COVID-19 has also really shown how local people support each other – at a time when we all need to come together. In my street it has had a wider impact of building the community, and I know this has been happening across the ward. I’d particularly like to thank all the volunteers who have shopped and picked up prescriptions for those who couldn’t get out and the local Mutual Aid Group who have helped coordinate much of this – they’ve all been great.