Letters: Who is more influential on Ox-Cam Arc proposal than Bedford’s own Mayor?

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BFARe logo
BFARe is a campaign group that believes East West Rail’s 2019 public consultation was flawed and the resulting preferred route is not the best East-West/Oxford to Cambridge rail route for Bedford.

Dear editor,

I read the Mayor’s latest published criticism of the government’s Ox-Cam Arc proposals with incredulity.

At the Borough Council meeting, and in the local Liberal Democrats newsletter, the Mayor openly criticised the Government for their plans for the Arc because they are not prioritising current Bedford residents.

Bear in mind the Arc is a bit of circular argument:– We allegedly need East West Rail to support 1 million new homes – but EWR’s business case no longer stacks up without… you’ve guessed it… Lots of new homes in the shape of the Ox-Cam Arc.

It is “progress for progress sake” and will result in massively disproportionate development for Bedford in comparison with the rest of the country.

I find the Mayor’s sudden humble, self-deprecating criticism a refreshing change, and I hope suddenly putting his residents first stands him in good stead for the election in 2023.

It does strike me a little bizarre though, bearing in mind his massive influence over the Ox-Cam Arc.

This manifests itself in the Ox-Cam Arc Leaders Group. Consider this:

  • The Ox-Cam Arc Leaders Group engages directly with the four central government ministers responsible for the Arc to promote and guide it. The Leaders Group is made up of:-
    • Local Council Leaders – Bedford Borough Council is represented by the Chief Exec and the Leader of the Council (The Mayor).
    • Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) – South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) is a member – the Mayor is on the Board.
    • England’s Economic Heartland (EEH) – Bedford Borough Council is a Committee member, the Mayor is active.
    • The Strategic Transport Forum of EEH – The Mayor is the Chair.
    • Universities

The objective of the Ox-Cam Arc Leaders Group is to collaborate with government in promoting and delivering the Arc.

Given the Mayor’s many fingers in many pies in the group (4 out of 5 – 80%) which are working on the Arc – surely one can expect him to be one of the biggest influencers in the process.

Therefore, it seems a little odd that he would level a criticism that highlights what a poor job he has been doing in exerting that influence on government.

If it isn’t his job, whose is it? There can surely be few people with more influence than him on this matter.

So when he criticises the government for not considering current residents, perhaps he should be saying that he and he and his team have failed in persuading government.

After all, they were quick enough to celebrate “great lobbying” in 2020 when EWR Route E was selected, which will mean massive damage and disruption to homes, lives and livelihoods in Bedford town and parishes.

How exactly is that prioritising current residents?

Great lobbying is a double-edged sword – if he celebrates his success he must also acknowledge (and be accountable for) his failures.

Mike Barlow
BFARe

Letters published reflect the views of the author, not Bedford Independent.
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