VIDEO: Prime Minister David Cameron on the Wisbech to March rail line, votes for 16 year-olds, and shared council services
PUBLISHED: 20:57 19 February 2015 | UPDATED: 18:49 22 February 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron promised tonight to take a “proper look” at the campaign – and the cost- of re-opening the Wisbech to March rail line.
His pledge came during a visit to the Cambridge Science Park when he met Cambridgeshire journalists.
I asked Mr Cameron, who was accompanied on the Cambridge end of his tour of East Anglia by SE Cambs MP Sir Jim Paice, if the people of Wisbech, who want the rail line restored, deserved to have something returned to them that was once taken from them.
“Is there an economic case for it?” I asked.
Mr Cameron said the past decade had seen a revival in rail travel and this was reflected in the pressure to re-open some closed lines.
He promised “have a proper look at Wisbech to March line and to see whether this can work. Infrastructure is a big part of our plan for the east of England.”
Mr Cameron deflected criticism that Cambridgeshire had received only the “petty cash from the money allocated” for the A47.
“I think that’s rather churlish,” he told me. The Coalition Government had delivered improvements to the A11, around Ipswich, had committed to the Ely bypass and “other things in the programme such as the A12, the A14 and, of course, the A47”.
The Prime Minister felt his Government had not inherited a rigorous programme of infrastructure improvements “which is why the need to improve it is being properly looked at and delivered. We have done a lot but we still have a lot to do.”
Mr Cameron also spoke of the need to engage more with young people and outlined plans for more starter home and an expanding the number of apprenticeships – partly financed by controlling the welfare budget.
Asked if he agreed with giving teenagers the vote at 16 he said “I don’t favour that but I’m happy to have the debate”.
He said when visiting sixth forms, for example, he had received a mixed response to lowering the voting age. In his own Oxfordshire constituency, for example, two thirds of a sixth form at one school had recently discussed the issue and “were happy to keep it as it is”.
The Prime Minister also called for more shared services among local councils and suggested they could, “if they want” use some of the reserves some of them had built up in the past four years.
He also said surveys had shown “the satisfaction with local government services has gone up” and with the “general power of competence” given to local councils they could invest in business space, for example, in their area. “If they want to fix things in their constituencies, some councils have started to invest in commercial property and make space for business opportunities. Councils being careful and enterprising are no bad thing.”
Asked if Cambridge was on a list of seats his party hoped to win, Mr Cameron said “we don’t actually publish target marginal seats. When you’re in a battle you don’t tell your opponents what you are targeting, If I wasn’t targeting Cambridge however then what was I doing here today?”