Devolution: Now the work starts
Cllr John Holdich, leader of Peterborough City Council:
On Tuesday evening, Cambridge city councillors gave their approval to a devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
They were the last of seven councils, including Peterborough, to approve the deal and with it gave the green light to a once in a generation opportunity to unlock new funding and decision making powers for the benefit of our local area.
For me this was the biggest decision that I’ve made in my political career; a decision that I’m confident will grow our local economy and help shape a prosperous future for people living and working in Peterborough.
I wanted to spend some time in my column explaining why I think devolution will be positive for our residents and that even greater opportunities will be offered through future devolution deals.
1. New homes. The backing that our deal has received now unlocks £170million of new funding to build new homes in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough over the next five years. We think this will mean 2,500 new homes built across the local area and we have good plans in place to ensure that many Peterborough families benefit from this funding.
This is only the start of new funding and powers from government and work is already underway on a business case to ask for additional funding to build even more homes.
2. Encouraging investment and creating jobs. Peterborough needs to continue to attract new businesses and to help others grow and prosper.
We already punch above our weight with some fantastic companies based in the city but through working with government on creating a Peterborough Enterprise Zone we think we can attract even more.
We also need to help businesses grow by creating a better skilled workforce to meet their needs.
Through this deal, funding and powers on adult education and skills training will be transferred to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough from central government. By being in charge we can improve the training offered to our residents in order to develop the skills that local employers want. This will not only mean better career opportunities for residents but a greater number of better quality jobs being created in Peterborough.
In addition, the deal delivers new funding to invest towards an independent University of Peterborough and other infrastructure projects, including road improvements, throughout the county which will be attractive to businesses and residents alike.
3. Looking after our communities. This first devolution deal is just the start of transferring important decision-making powers and funding from central government, through the Combined Authority, to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Nationally, there is a big debate on the demands of social care, especially care for the growing elderly population. We hope that future devolution deals will give us new powers and funding to better join up health and social care services across the local area.
In fact, to meet future demand on services it’s crucial that we use devolution as an opportunity to transform how the public sector operates in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. On top of social care, this could include the integration of community safety services as well as tackling deprivation in our communities.
The public sector must continue to modernise to better support our communities and I believe that devolution has given us the tools to take charge of this and make it work for us locally.
The votes are over. This is where the real work begins.