Devolution deal supported by councillors in South Cambridgeshire

28 June 2016

A devolution deal that could put hundreds of millions of pounds in the hands of local people rather than Westminster has been backed by councillors in South Cambridgeshire.

At a public meeting this evening (Tuesday 28 June) councillors voted to support the tabled deal – which could see a new £600 million fund (£20million annual fund) to improve transport and infrastructure as well as a £170 million for housing being handed down from Government.

Leading councillors in South Cambridgeshire believe the opportunity to boost jobs, transport and affordable homes across the area is worth taking forward after the format of the devolution deal was adapted locally from the original East Anglia footprint Whitehall had put forward.

All Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Councils and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership must all respond to the Government by the end of June and, if supported, local people will then be formally consulted next month.

South Cambridgeshire District Council gave residents the opportunity to comment on the original East Anglia deal along with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough deal. All the responses were presented to councillors to help them debate the proposals.

If all Councils support the devolution deal it is expected a formal public consultation will be launched on 4 July.

Suffolk and Norfolk have also submitted a devolution proposal covering the two counties and if both deals progress the whole of East Anglia would work more closely together on strategic issues such as transport and infrastructure.

The proposal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough would see a Combined Authority chaired by a directly elected Mayor. The bid also includes benefits for across the County, including:

• A new £20million annual fund for the next 30 years (£600million) to support economic growth, development of local infrastructure and jobs.

• £170 million for affordable housing, including £100 million for affordable, rent and shared ownership – particularly in response to housing issues in South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge City. There is a proposed specific £70 million fund to meet housing needs in Cambridge which Cambridge City Council have indicated would be spent on new Council housing.

• Supporting the delivery the Wisbech Garden Town and the Wisbech-Cambridge rail connection.

• Providing new homes across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough including affordable homes in Greater Cambridge.

• Transport infrastructure improvements such as A14/A142 junction and upgrades to the A10 and the A47 as well as Ely North Junction. Also it would support development at Wyton and St Neots.

• Rail improvements (new rolling stock, improved King’s Lynn, Cambridge, London rail)

• Investment in a Peterborough University with degree-awarding powers.

• A local integrated job service working alongside the Department of Work and Pensions.

• Co-designing with Government a National Work and Health Programme focussed on those with a health condition or disability, as well as the long-term employed.

• To integrating local health and social care resources to provide better outcomes for residents.

• Devolved skills and apprenticeship budget – to give more opportunities to our young people.

• Working with Government to secure a Peterborough Enterprise Zone – attracting investment from business leading to more and better quality jobs for residents.

• Working with Government on the continued regeneration of Peterborough City Centre.

• This proposal to be the first in a series of proposals which devolve more funding and powers from Government to this area.

A Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority would include a representative from each authority and the LEP.

For a devolution deal Government requires that there is an elected mayor. This means local people will be given the chance to directly elect their choice to become Mayor, to chair and lead the combined authority. But the proposals also include checks and balances with representatives of the partner organisations making sure any decision are made democratically. All seven councils will sit on the combined authority and will have their say on decisions. No powers will be taken away from authorities without their consent.

At the meeting one amendment to the recommendations was accepted along with a request for the Council’s Civic Affairs Committee to make recommendations on how to scrutinise decisions taken by the Combined Authority.

Councillor Peter Topping, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “The deal that has been worked on locally has vastly improved the proposals that were originally put forward by Government for East Anglia. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have a lot of common challenges, one of the top ones for me being making housing generally more affordable for all. The funding this deal offers would give us the chance to make inroads on the housing issue as well as unlocking the funding and flexibility to help support the successful economy we have in Greater Cambridge.

“Other areas, such as Manchester, who have had a series of devolution deals have negotiated for more funding and powers to be devolved locally over time. If this first deal is secured we have a great opportunity to do likewise in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to make sure we continue to do what is best for local people."

Amendments agreed:

Wording changed:
1) Considers and endorses the conclusions and outcomes of the Governance Review, that the establishment of a Combined Authority with a Mayor for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area will improve the exercise of statutory functions in that area.

Recommendation accepted:

2) Requests that the Civic Affairs Committee examines and makes recommendations on the methods for this Council to be able to scrutinise decisions taken by the Combined Authority and the actions of the Council’s representative(s) on the Combined Authority.