James Palmer, mayor of the Combined Authority
“In response to Charles Swift OBE, who fears that Peterborough City Council may be abolished now that we have a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, let me make absolutely clear that while I’m Mayor, that will never happen.
Let’s also be clear about what the Combined Authority is for. Last year, the government offered Cambridgeshire and Peterborough a devolution deal that would bring powers back to regions. The resultant Combined Authority was given a strategic responsibility and funding to deliver housing and transport infrastructure as well as improve skills and education. As mayor, my focus is on these key areas, and in order to deliver for the people of Peterborough, I am working closely with Peterborough City Council to take advantage of the opportunity devolution has presented us. That’s why last month the Combined Authority agreed to put in £9.74 million to help develop the first phase of the University of Peterborough – a learning institution that will have its own powers to award degrees, and focus on the skills this region needs to make its workforce more competitive and boost the economy. Of the options on the table for us, the Combined Authority chose to invest the maximum amount into the University, to offer places for twice as many students and offer a sensible, single-site interim facility at the Embankment. This project was an absolute cornerstone of the devolution deal and I was delighted to help get the ball rolling on the first phase.
I’m championing the case for full dualling of the A47 from Peterborough to Wisbech, to help unlock more of the economic potential of the northern part of the county. I felt the original Highways England A47 proposals of dualling from Wansford to Sutton and improving the Guyhirn roundabout were simply not ambitious enough. So a business case has been commissioned by the Combined Authority for a full dualling, and I will be meeting with the chief executive of Highways England soon. And this year the Combined Authority was successful in bidding for £4.57 million from the Government for the Yaxley loop road, which will bring forward an additional and much needed 5,350 homes for Peterborough. These are all projects which are being taken forward alongside the good work that Peterborough’s city council is already doing. Indeed, the leader of Peterborough City Council, Cllr John Holdich, is a key part of the Combined Authority Board and one of my deputy mayors and I work with him closely.
Let me assure Mr Swift that the Combined Authority and the City Council has a good working relationship that is already bearing fruit.
An independent review of the current structure of local government in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has been commissioned by the Combined Authority, which will set out to find how things could be done better, and whether we can save some tax payers’ money in the process. That will report in the autumn and I look forward to the results.
I understand the reasons why Peterborough broke off from Cambridgeshire County Council in the late 1990s and I respect the decision that was made. As Mayor, I am in full support of a strong, independent unitary council for Peterborough.”