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Page updated 24 August 2016

Community

Useful details on the wider community of Gamlingay and South Cambridgeshire.

Included is rubbish collection, libraries and mobile libraries, schools, various council (District and County) contacts and other information that might be useful if you live in Hatley.

Devolution

Devolution for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – and the prospect of a mayor: good or bad?

On the surface, some argue it doesn't look good for local ratepayers.  Peter Mann, webmaster of this site, was confused by what was was on offer, so asked Peter Topping, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, for his opinion.

NB The public consultation about it closed on 23rd August.

First, the background (from an SCDC press release):

The devolution deal, which could see a new £600m fund (£20m annual fund) to improve transport and infrastructure as well as £170m for housing being being provided by Westminster, was backed by South Cambridgeshire councillors on 28th June.

They believe the opportunity to boost jobs, transport and affordable homes across the area is worth taking forward after the format of the devolution deal was adapted from the original East Anglia footprint Whitehall had put forward earlier this year.

The proposal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough would see a combined authority chaired by a directly elected mayor. The bid also includes benefits for the whole county, including:

  • A new £20m annual fund for the next 30 years (£600m) to support economic growth, development of local infrastructure and jobs.
  • £170m for affordable housing, including £100m for affordable, rent and shared ownership – particularly in response to housing issues in South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge City.
  • There is a proposed specific £70m fund to meet housing needs in Cambridge. which Cambridge City Council has indicated would be spent on new council housing.
  • Providing new homes across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – including affordable homes in greater Cambridge.
  • Transport infrastructure improvements such as A14 / A142 junction and upgrades to the A10 and the A47 as well as Ely North Junction. Also it would support development at Wyton and St Neots.
  • Rail improvements – new rolling stock, improved King's Lynn, Cambridge, London rail.
  • Devolved skills and apprenticeship budget – to give more opportunities to our young people. Investment in a Peterborough University with degree-awarding powers.
  • A local integrated job service working alongside the Department of Work and Pensions.
  • Co-designing with government a national work and health programme focussed on those with a health condition or disability, as well as the long-term unemployed.
  • To integrating local health and social care resources to provide better outcomes for residents.
  • Working with government to secure a Peterborough enterprise zone – attracting investment from business leading to more and better quality jobs for residents.
  • Working with government on the continued regeneration of Peterborough City Centre.
  • Supporting the delivery the Wisbech Garden Town and the Wisbech-Cambridge rail connection.

The devolution deal currently being consulted on would see a greater number of decisions on public services being made locally, rather than nationally, with an elected mayor working with the MPs and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough councils to deliver the best results for local people.

A Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority would include a representative from each authority and the local enterprise partnership.

Councillor Peter Topping believes this is a good deal because:

In in terms of the devolution offer, there is £100m of Treasury money being put forward for Cambridgeshire to build affordable houses quickly – this is not about more houses, it is about speeding up the building of affordable houses in the next few years on sites which have already been identified and working closely with existing housing associations. The focus of the money is the Cambridge sub-region where it most difficult to meet the demand for this type of housing.

Officers have calculated that we can build about 2,000 houses – which will go a long way to meeting our current affordable housing waiting list in South Cambridgeshire of 1,800 houses. The £70m for housing in Cambridge City is additional, so we expect the bulk of the £100m to come to South Cambs with some going to other parts of the county. We and the City will be working closely on getting the sites going – there will be pressure to deliver on this so it will be happening fast, i.e. the next few years.

The £20m a year infrastructure pot is not in itself a lot, although it is over a long period and it adds up. But the government is saying where areas are in a devolution arrangement, we can bid for programme funding for infrastructure which will be more than we can access if we were not in a devolution arrangement.

The main argument though is this devolution makes local authorities work together in a better and more collaborative way – necessary to make us more efficient and joined up; local district councils will be more involved in issues such as transport and health, which in the past have been left to the County Council. Work on improving skills development across the county will come to this combined authority rather than being spread across a number of organisations.

There will be an elected mayor, with a salary of £70,000 (the same as the Police and Crime Commissioner). Support for the mayor will mainly come from existing officers across the local authorities, rather than creating a new tier of government.

The new mayor and combined authority will have powers which are currently held in Whitehall by a diverse number of government departments. These are not joined up and don't especially understand the demands and needs of a region or area.

When it comes to accessing government money and talking to international companies, the combined authority and the mayor working with local MPs can be a strong – and distinct – voice.

I have sat in on parish council discussions which were very much in favour of local rather than Whitehall accountability and powers, including a locally elected mayor who can be held to account.

 

 

 

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