Shortly after his veto set back progress on a major new transport plan for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald broke his silence to launch an astonishing attack on Mayor Dr Nik Johnson.
His attack was filmed shortly after a Combined Authority meeting which saw Cllr Fitzgerald veto a key transport plan.
But Cllr Fitzgerald later lashed out saying “it is time for Nik Johnson to go.
“The clock is running Mayor, and you’ll be out before you know it.”
Under the rules of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) leaders of both Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City can veto transport issues.
Cllr Fitzgerald’s refusal to support the Local Transport and Connectivity Plan (LTCP) is not new: his opposition to it meant it was withdrawn from a CAPCA board meeting.
He said after that meeting, he had “repeatedly expressed concerns to the combined authority via council officers that the LTCP in its current form is not something that the Conservatives in Peterborough can support”.
Fast forward to yesterday, and after months of behind the scenes planning, including regular contact with officers of all councils, including Peterborough, the long-term strategy to improve transport in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough was back on the agenda.
With no indication that Cllr Fitzgerald opposed it in its re-drafted form, he sat poker faced and silent throughout the debate and repeatedly declined an invitation from Mayor Johnson to speak.
Only when Mayor Johnson put the document to the vote did Cllr Fitzgerald’s continued opposition to it become known, and his veto ensured it goes back for further discussion.
Cllr Fitzgerald, the under fire Conservative leader of Peterborough City Council, admitted his stance “may cost me my job”.
But, with Peterborough MP Paul Bristow by his side, Cllr Fitzgerald recorded a video claiming his veto meant he had done “something important for the residents of the city – the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough tried to push through a policy called the local transport and connectivity plan which could have meant congestion charging and ULEZ schemes coming to the city.
“But I stopped him because it’s the right thing to do for the residents of the city.
Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald on why he vetoed crucial transport plan at @CambsPboroCA yesterday. Clearly @paulbristow79 thinks both he and Wayne are into a vote winner. Unfortunately not many seem to agree – and Wayne himself here acknowledging a leadership challenge pic.twitter.com/1FLpryxtyw
— CambsNews.co.uk (@CambsNewsOnline) September 21, 2023
“It won’t make me popular with anybody or everyone and may even cost me my job because opposition parties led by Labour, the Liberals and Independents are trying to oust me from this position.”
But he added: “I take a tough stance on these policies, but I am doing what is right for the residents of Peterborough and will continue to do so.”
He said the new transport plan was a “big project” and he claimed the city had been “let down by the Mayor. It is time for Nik Johnson to go.
“The clock is running Mayor, and you’ll be out before you know it.”
Mr Bristow described it as a “big vote today as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Labour Mayor’s plans to introduce road charging in Peterborough was blocked by Conservative led Peterborough City Council.
“Opposition councillors in Peterborough and the Labour Mayor are now furious. But it was the right thing to do”.
Mr Bristow said: “The childish and arrogant Mayor reacts by refusing to hand over £200,000 the Government has given him for a new bus depot.
“He has thrown his toys out of his pram – and proved he is not a Mayor for Peterborough. All he cares about is Cambridge.”
Mr Bristow claimed the “the Labour Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough wants to introduce road charging in Peterborough just like he has in Cambridge.
“It is there in black and white in his Local Connectivity and Transport Plan.
“But the Conservative Leader of Peterborough today blocked the plan. He refused to back anything that could lead to road charging in our city.
— John Elworthy (@johnelworthy) September 20, 2023
“It has made him unpopular in the south of our county and some Lab/Lib/Ind councillors who want to lead Peterborough. They need to win an election first.”
Mr Bristow said: “Pathetically the Labour Mayor has refused to hand over £200,000 the Government has given him for a new bus depot. He has proven himself to be not only invisible to the people of Peterborough – he is also mean spirited and petty.
“But I am going to lobby the minister to give us the money direct.”
He concluded by describing Dr Johnson as “an invisible mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who we never see in this city; no one knows who you are, and we are going to find the money.”
Mayor Dr Nik Johnson said: “I want to say huge thank you to officers who’ve worked tirelessly to get this vital strategy ready. It’s an impressive undertaking and they should feel very proud of what’s been put forward.
“The development of the LTCP has been done with collaboration at its heart. The Combined Authority has engaged with our partner councils from the initial vision and key objectives, through to working with them directly on developing the detail.
“I’ve every confidence that we will bring this decision back for approval at the earliest opportunity.
“We’d made progress since concerns were first raised at May’s Combined Authority Board meeting, having taken the decision to allow for more in-depth consultation with our partners over the late Spring and Summer period.
Dear @paulbristow79. Stop this relentless and frankly sad tirade trying to stir up division, and tell us/Your #Peterborough constituents something constructive – how we dissuade avoidable car use and minimise fossil fuel use, unless you're another climate action delayer? … https://t.co/IGaeTlFHrA
— Richard Kendall (@richardkendall) September 21, 2023
“Clearly there’s still work to do, and I believe wholeheartedly in our ability and determination to get it done.
“The LTCP is an ambitious, bold strategy, which supports the investment in transport infrastructure our region so urgently needs. That means joined up, decent, affordable, and reliable public transport, more opportunity to walk and cycle and less congestion and pollution.
“The LTCP will support the sustainable growth of our economy, reducing inequality, opening up opportunity and improving public health.
“And with the impact of climate change already being felt, this strategy sets out how to reach net zero carbon emissions.
“The LTCP has the support of the majority of our council leaders and of our Business Board, made up of business leaders from industries across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Whether it is scrapping 7 bins or road charging in Peterborough – the Tories are now just making this things up. It is fantasy politics from a party that will say anything to stay in power. The CA does not have the legal power to force this change on us. As report makes clear. https://t.co/kmuCoITKYG
— Andrew Pakes (@andrewpakes_) September 21, 2023
“It is the strategy through which we will engage with Government to bring much-needed investment to transport in our region.
“We have had positive feedback about the quality of the LTCP from Government and other local transport authorities.
“The current Local Transport Plan remains in place and our work on important transport projects, like work to reform our buses, improve rail services, and expand our network of cycling and walking routes continues.”
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