After long negotiations, Peterborough and Cambridgeshire could have their own combined authority, but the response so far has been mixed

John Holdich at the Town Hall EMN-151130-162627009
John Holdich at the Town Hall EMN-151130-162627009
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Peterborough could get the ‘best devolution deal in the country’ according to the city council as it looks at a combined authority with Cambridgeshire.

Councillors will vote at an extraordinary meeting on Monday on whether to go ahead with the new deal which would see an elected mayor for the region from May 2017.

The devolution saga has now moved on from a proposal by the Government for a single authority across Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

Crucially, Peterborough City Council insists that in the new deal it will keep its sovereignty as a local authority.

Under the proposals, the combined authority would receive a £20 million annual fund for the next 30 years to support economic growth and more money for housing.

The deal also includes a Peterborough Enterprise Zone - allowing for businesses in the city centre to receive a five-year exemption on paying business rates - and a Peterborough University.

Council leader Councillor John Holdich, who would sit on the cabinet of the new combined authority, said there was “absolutely no chance” of the city council joining up once again with Cambridgeshire County Council.

Praising the deal as the best in the country due to the money being offered by the Government, he added: “Our proposed deal builds on, and is better than, the original offer from the Government. Devolution would mean greater control locally over the decisions that impact on all of our lives.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Nick Sandford criticised the lack of time to scrutinise the documents on devolution before Monday’s vote. He said: “One of my concerns is the directly elected mayor. You’re putting a lot of power in the hands of one person.”

Cllr John Whitby of UKIP said he was sceptical of the proposal but likely to back it with “severe reservations.” His main concern was the cost of the extra tier of government and the lack of accountability.

Cllr Chris Ash, of the Liberal Party, said he would not support the proposals which would add more officials and “jobs for the boys.”

Cllr Stephen Lane of the Werrington First group said: “We are led to believe the document’s detail contains what is best for the Peterborough economy. Our hearts are full of hope for it to do what it says on the tin.”

North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara said: “We seem to have got the balance right here.” But Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said he does not want another new tier of government. He added that he would reserve judgement until he saw if there would be new money for Peterborough in the package.

One possible contender to be the county’s first mayor is Labour and Co-operative member Cllr Ed Murphy who said he might stand.

However, former council leader Cllr Marco Cereste, when asked, said he was not considering standing.

The devolution deal is backed by the The Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership which would have a seat in the new authority.

If the local councils accept the new devolution package, a public consultation will take place across July and August.