Cambridgeshire councillors set to examine new devolution scheme

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A new devolution deal that could see Fenland become part of a new combined authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has been unveiled.

District and county councillors will examine the proposals, which replace previous plans for a single authority to cover both areas plus Norfolk and Suffolk, over the coming days.

And senior officials involved in the negotiations say the plan represents a “great opportunity” for the region.

The new proposals offer £20 million of funding per year for the next 30 years, plus a further £261 million over five years to invest in housing and transport.

Under the previous scheme, the combined East Anglian authority had been due to receive £30 million per year across all four areas. A separate Norfolk-Suffolk body is set to receive £25 million a year.

Andy Wood, who has led negotiations with the government on behalf of councils and local enterprise partnerships, said: “I believe what is on the table is one of the best settlements in the country.

“The timeframes have certainly been challenging but I believe the proposed deals represent a great opportunity for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“Government has recognised the importance of East Anglia to the economy, and the different needs and opportunities of its town and cities.

“Through productive negotiations we have been able to secure more funding for East Anglia than was in the original deal.”

The new proposals, which retain the controversial proposal for a directly-elected mayor, will be debated by Cambridgeshire county councillors next Tuesday. Fenland district council members will examine them at a meeting next Friday, July 1.

The county council was first to signal its concerns over the original devolution deal when it passed a motion declaring the scheme to be “unacceptable” in that form in March.

Its leader, Steve Count, said: “We were clear that the original proposals were not acceptable and have since explored with government a proposal which builds more on the strengths of the local area.

“Our priority is always to do what is best for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough residents we serve and we think this locally developed solution should be comprehensively considered and debated by our councils.”

Fenland council leader John Clark added: “This proposed deal has the potential to bring significant new funding to Fenland.

“It has taken protracted negotiations to get to this point and, although often frustrating, they have proved worthwhile because, at each stage, the document has been improved.

“Now all our members have the chance to study the proposals in detail over the next two weeks.

“Then it will be up to them to decide at our full council meeting on July 1 whether or not to approve them.”

If the measures are approved, a public consultation will then take place during July and August.

A final decision on whether to sign up to the combined authority is expected to be made in the autumn, with mayoral elections scheduled to take place in May next year.