This deal will make a huge difference

This time next week Peterborough councillors will take their final vote on a devolution deal that will unlock millions of pounds of new funding for the local area.

Saturday, 12th November 2016, 2:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:31 pm
John Holdich

For me this is one of the most important decisions I will make in almost 40 years as a councillor.

The deal will make a huge difference to our communities with a £600million funding boost for infrastructure alongside vital new money to build homes. It will also see powers transferred from Westminster so that a greater number of important decisions about Peterborough can be made locally, rather than them being made by central government.

As we all know, more homes are needed across the UK and that is no different in this city. By accepting this deal the government will provide £170million of funding to build new homes across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to be spent over the next five years. This could build up to 2,500 homes over that period.

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Through a new £20million annual infrastructure fund, the devolution deal would help us to invest in projects such as an independent university for Peterborough. We will also work with government to develop an Enterprise Zone which will encourage new businesses to move here and create more jobs.

In addition, the deal will support our skills agenda by government devolving funding to a Combined Authority which will enable us to provide the right courses in our education institutions for the needs of our businesses.

The government and the secretary of state have been very clear that an Elected Mayor and Combined Authority must be part of this deal to secure millions of new funding. However, running costs will not be financed by local councils and will be paid for through government funding.

I believe that this is one of the best devolution deals in the UK, and the secretary of state has said it is one of the most ambitious he’s seen. In total, for each £1 spent to run the Mayoral Combined Authority for the next five years it will generate new funding of at least £45 to be invested in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. This is funding that will be used to build much needed homes and take forward key infrastructure projects.

We’ve already had the ok from the local business community with the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership’s board voting to back the deal last week.

This deal will build new homes and improve infrastructure, create new jobs and opportunities for our residents and help to attract new business and substantially grow the local economy.

I believe it is crucial in shaping a prosperous Peterborough for everyone. Now the final decision on whether to proceed with devolution rests with councillors from across the county at their meetings next week.

We’ve had some great successes with Fletton Quays in recent weeks and things are starting to pick up steam. Yesterday I was down on site to check on progress with the demolition of part of the former Whitworth Mill building.

The works will remove modern elements of the structure, such as the three silos, to reveal the locally-listed 19th Century historic mill building.

The council is currently working with partners to explore converting this historic building into a new hub for arts and culture in the city, subject to identifying funding.

Another milestone was the green light being given to build 280 new homes. The homes are just one aspect of the £120million development which will also include leisure and retail facilities as well as prime office space.

As no doubt many of you will, this Sunday I’ll be remembering those that have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect this country.

The Mayor of Peterborough, Councillor Sanders, will be leading the city’s Remembrance Sunday proceedings. A service, which everyone is welcome to attend, will be held at the war memorial just before 11am.

On Armistice Day (Friday 
11 November) the Mayor will lead a procession from the Town Hall to the war memorial on Bridge Street for a 
short service beginning at 10.55am.

It goes without saying that I would urge people to support the annual Poppy Appeal. Wearing a poppy not only remembers lost lives, but also assists the servicemen and women of today.