Combined Authority and Mayor One Year On

The political landscape in Cambridgeshire is getting more and more complex. As well as the County Council (responsible for education, health and social care) and the District Councils (responsible for planning, housing and waste management) we have the Greater Cambridge Partnership (formally The City Deal) attempting to deliver transport improvements in South Cambs/Cambridge and now the Combined Authority and the Mayor doing transport, housing and skills throughout the whole county and Peterborough. It will be no surprise that this is proving somewhat challenging to work with especially as there is overlap in what they are all wanting (and in some cases failing) to do.

Concept Drawing of Metro

The Mayor has recently taken over responsibility for the Local Enterprise Partnership which was responsible for the Economic Development Strategy for a very large area including all Cambridgeshire. This concerns us as we are very aware that South Cambs and Cambridge City are the power house driving the economy of the whole County and there is no guarantee that the Mayor is as committed as one would hope to ensuring the continued successful business growth of our area.

He has even more recently tried to halt the well developed plans of the GCP to build some new park and rides and to put a Busway along the A428 corridor. This would not be a problem if it were clear that the CA was going to be able to solve the ever-increasing congestion problems facing us all (but especially people commuting in and out of Cambridge) in the short term but that is not the case.

It’s clear that the Combined Authority (CA) is beginning to flex its muscles. The Mayor and the CA would like to subsume the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) much as they did the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). At the most recent meeting it laid out its 4 year plan which encompasses several ambitious transport schemes (including the CAM metro and, worryingly, an extension of the M11 northwards to Wisbech) and began to consider the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER). With five levels of government locally it’s also clear that reform is needed.

In the meantime, James Brokenshire the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has written a letter saying he had seen “various statements and correspondence which have been critical of the level of collaborative working between local leaders”.

Mr Brokenshire pointed out that the next tranche of up to £400m GCP funding is “not guaranteed” and said future money would depend on a gateway assessment. The assessment would look at progress on delivery, as well as government confidence in the “effective collaboration and delivery capability of local partners.”

 A recent report into the proposed Cambridge Area Metro in the National Infrastructure Commission report has come into criticism for the full report go here:

Decisions taken by the Mayor must go to Scrutiny committee but unfortunately the last one was inquorate as a particularly large number of Councillors from the same political party as the Mayor did not attend.

Analysis has already shown that the Mayor’s running costs are over what was predicted with £1.18 million figures in March (election pledges of £850k) and staffing of 71 people (election pledges 20).

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