Fenland councillors urged to back devolution after Peterborough says yes

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Fenland’s councillors have been urged to sign up to devolution proposals for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The authority is due to consider the plan for a new combined authority at meetings in March on Friday.

And, after Peterborough City Council approved the deal, a seven-week public consultation is expected to start next week.

The new proposals, which were unveiled last week, are intended to set up a new combined authority for Cambridgeshire and the Peterborough city district, which would be headed by a directly elected mayor.

The body would be given £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.

The deal replaces a previous proposal for a single authority covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, which Cambridgeshire County Council rejected in March.

Fenland Council leader John Clark said: “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.”

The full council will make a recommendation of what to do to the authority’s cabinet, who will meet once the full council meeting has finished.

Both meetings will follow a debate by county councillors this afternoon.

But officials have stressed that a decision to back the plan now does not mean the council is legally committed to participating.

They say the authority could still pull out before a final decision on whether to participate is made in the autumn for a number of reasons, including a weight of public comments against the idea.

Fenland will be one of the last authorities to consider the proposals, which were given the support of Peterborough City Council on Monday evening.

Leaders there described the devolution deal as the best in the country and stressed that no sovereignty will be lost from the change.

But opposition members expressed reservations about adding a new tier of administration which they wanted to avoid.

The consultation is scheduled to run from next Monday, July 4, until August 22.

n A separate proposal to set up a combined authority for Norfolk and Suffolk was supported by Norfolk County Council on Monday. West Norfolk Council will debate that proposal tomorrow night.

If they are finally established, the two new authorities will be expected to work together in areas of common interest, such as transport.