A couple of weeks ago MPs across the Eastern Region met in Parliament with Ministers to discuss the Government’s fledgling proposals for devolution across the UK and in particular (and potentially) in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Norfolk and Suffolk.
We’ve all hear about devolution in the Greater Manchester area and the so-called Northern Powerhouse, which gives real power and autonomy to local authorities on key issues like training, strategic transport, housing and regeneration and established by the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill.
I came to the meeting as an agnostic with an open mind and frankly I was unsure what devolution would mean for Peterborough. What is the so-called “Tri County” deal?
I have to admit to being wary of local government reorganisation. Would we be overshadowed by an overconcentration on the city of Cambridge? Would a huge new authority stretching from Felixstowe to Stamford and St Ives to Great Yarmouth really work? Which local authorities would be abolished – the districts or the counties and how would an executive Mayor for East Anglia be any better than existing democratically elected and accountable leaders? Why would we in this city wish to give away the independence of being a stand-alone unitary authority, which was hard won when we broke away from Cambridgeshire County Council in 1996?
Obviously, there are some areas where we have a lot in common with other counties in the Eastern region like a (relatively) poor road network and pressures on infrastructure like school places and health services but Peterborough is unique in that it is the only single tier unitary council in the mix.
Every MP looks after their own area’s interests and it’s what they’re paid for and I make no apologies for doing exactly that. So I want to know what’s in it for our area? Our top priority must be jobs and prosperity, better education results and training and that has to mean help with funding a new university in Peterborough, without ignoring other important areas like transport infrastructure like new roads and continuing the regeneration of the city centre including good quality housing without abandoning our commitment to be an Environment City. We must consolidate our buoyant jobs market and potential as a regional transport and retail hub and environmental sector locality of choice.
I will work with our local city council representatives and others like the Local Enterprise Partnership to get the very best deal from Government for our city and I meet regularly with Cllr Holdich and Gillian Beasley to support their strategy.
In the meantime, I would be interested to learn of any strong opinions one way or another from constituents, businesses, voluntary sector groups and others in the city.
Please let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org