Mayor of Bedford sets out his Lib Dem re-election manifesto

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Liberal Democrats Bedford Borough Council and Mayoral Manifesto Launch 2023. Image: Bedford Borough Liberal Democrats
Bedford Borough Liberal Democrats Council and Mayoral Manifesto Launch 2023. Image: Bedford Borough Liberal Democrats

In just two weeks we will know who the Mayor of Bedford Borough will be for the next four years. The current Mayor, Dave Hodgson (Liberal Democrats) is hoping to extend the 14 years he has held the council’s top spot promising he will be “working hard for every resident in the Borough all year round”.

As the incumbent Mayor, Mr Hodgson is the only one who can show evidence of how he hopes to overcome the challenges facing Bedford Borough, and also build upon its success.

His manifesto opens with what he says are “highlights” of how he and his Liberal Democrat colleagues have run the council so far.

This includes ‘creating and protecting over 8,000 new jobs, reducing the Council’s carbon emissions by over 62% and supporting the poorest by offering a 100% Council Tax Reduction Scheme’.

Looking ahead, he says his manifesto for 2023 looks to do much of the same and focuses on three main pillars.

• Supporting people
• Protecting the environment and tackling climate change
• Creating opportunities for all

“As your Mayor, I will always do what is best for Bedford Borough and make sure that council taxpayers’ money is well spent,” said the Mayor. “We have proved year on year, through some very difficult times, that we can run the Council finances responsibly.”

Looking at some of the issues facing Bedford Borough more closely, the Mayor spoke to the Bedford Independent about doing what they can to “be ambitious for Bedford Borough”.

Town Centre

The town centre has to change,” says the Mayor, but he warns it won’t change overnight.

“The town has to be a destination site and we need people to big up the town,” he says, “we’re going to make sure we have places that people want to come to. So, people are going to come into town to meet their friends, to have a good time.

“So it’s going to be a venue driven. One part of that is Mayes Yard, which has got Beales, Debenhams, the Corn Exchange and library in it. We’re talking to the two owners about how we can reconfigure that for residential, retail and nightlife.

“Bedford Town Centre is changing but of course, it’s a structural change and that doesn’t happen overnight.”

East West Rail

A controversial issue that almost all the candidates have spoken about but one that the Mayor has had to be part of, due to him being the incumbent.

“We are really pleased the Secretary of State is supporting Wixams station… it’s in our manifesto to support a railway station that comes through East West Rail.

“I cannot see why we need six-track. Bedford to London is four-track… so how come we need six going north?

“They should also electrify it from day one and freight should be electric too… however, we will await their announcement and campaign from there.

“The outrageous thing is the announcement has taken almost two years. Every time I speak to them [East West Rail] I constantly say this is not acceptable.

“We should not put anybody through that. So the sooner they make a statement the better and they need to make it clear and concise.”

Public Transport

“The government has cut our funding from £ 30 million to £ 7 million, the pressure on the council is massive and we don’t even provide bus services.

“What we need is the government to give us the money to do it. Us, Central Beds and Luton got no money for bus funding. We need proper funding…

“We continue to support our bus companies but they’re under huge pressure but we haven’t got the money to do that…

“We haven’t cut our funding for buses but obviously the same money doesn’t go as far nowadays.

Environment

“I signed an agreement in 2009 for the climate change fund, we’ve reduced our carbon, we’re regional leaders in electric charging points, we’re regional leaders in how many electric vehicles we have as a council.

“We actually signed up for Soalr together which on the whole has been a good scheme, there have been a couple of blips, but we need to look at how we can support residents to support their carbon footprint and energy bills.

“We’ve got in out buildings, motion sensor LED lighting and street lighting has gone LED. The big push is how we get big [council] vehicles to be carbon neutral.

“So tackling what we do, what schools do, and helping individuals and businesses. I think we’re at the forefront of tackling climate change.”

Dealing with crisis

“We stepped up in the pandemic, supporting the extremely vulnerable, the councillors and council staff stepped up to do that. We were the first council to get carbon monoxide monitors into every classroom and then we discovered that some classrooms didn’t have ventilation, so we bought 250 HEPA filters to support them.

Whether it be the Redwood Grove explosion, making sure we had an emergency rest centre up there, or the flooding in 2020 we need to step up and support people in crisis and I believe that’s what this council has done and will continue to do under my leadership.”

You can read the Mayor and Liberal Democrat manifesto here.