Cambridgeshire And Peterborough Ask For More Local Powers

21 July 2015, 06:49 | Updated: 21 July 2015, 06:54

A letter to Secretary of State asks for new devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Councils and authorities.

Public services and business representatives from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have welcomed plans for devolution and signalled the need for a new deal with Government.

The request has been sent in a letter to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Rt Hon Greg Clark from all leaders of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s County, City and District Councils as well the Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP) and key public services.

The letter from the 11 organisations calls to open discussions with the Minister and Government on a devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Discussions would look at devolving more powers locally as well as exploring how the area could benefit financially and join up social care, health and public safety across authorities.

It would also look at how any devolved powers in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough could be governed – including the commissioning of independent advice to look at how this could be achieved.

As well as Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council the signatories include the five District and City Councils (Cambridge City Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, Fenland District Council, Huntingdonshire District Council, and South Cambridgeshire District Council). Any deal would need to benefit the specific needs of each local community and district they serve.

The deal would build on the Greater Cambridge City Deal and the good work of the GCGP LEP as well as the area’s business rate retention pilot. This would enable Greater Cambridge to build on the delivery under the City Deal. It would also look at the benefits of a new two centre economic development strategy, focussing equally on the growth potential of the Peterborough and Cambridge sub-regions.

Emphasis is also put on the need for support from local business for devolution and the fact conversations have already started with companies.

Leaders from Cambridgeshire Public Services say in the letter: "Freedoms on planning, development and housing will allow us to deliver higher growth, and speed up delivery of new housing. Certainty over budgets and greater fiscal freedom will allow us to plan better to build the infrastructure. Sharpened governance, closer working with business and clearer accountability will help strengthen local support for and ownership of plans for growth.

"National Government will rightly continue to set the broad policy and legislative frameworks in which many of these functions operate. However, to recognise that one size does not necessarily fit all, there should be a “right to vary” where devolved authorities can make a reasoned case that a change would have a perverse impact locally, or that the same objective can be achieved through other means.  This (like the proposals on health and social care and public safety) would be part of a new and mature partnership between central and devolved Government.

"We strongly support your “bottom up” approach to devolution.  Each area is different, and there can be no standard blueprint.  We would want to work in partnership with you to create a devolution deal that delivers more and better for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and for the Country as a whole."

The letter also stresses the importance on the national and world stage the area has, especially in supporting growth and the UK economy.

There are three main areas which are highlighted in the letter for discussion in any devolution settlement. These are:

Economic Growth:
- Fiscal devolution – how we might keep a share of the fiscal dividend of growth to support further and faster growth; create financial incentives for development across our geography; and the creation of specific local fiscal instruments to support key infrastructure development.
- Certainty over budgets – allowing us to plan better and to lever in more private sector capital.
- Greater control over public transport to create a more effective network.
- Skills – building on the work of GCGP LEP by devolving skills budgets and control over the incentives on providers to make sure these budgets are used to fill skills gaps and provide paths to sustainable, high skill, high wage jobs.
- How economic and business development budgets held nationally could yield better value if held and managed locally.
- Housing, planning and development – greater financial and policy freedoms to speed up the provision of new housing, and to allow us to develop solutions that work for our area to make our market work better.

In Health and Social Care, the scope for aligning the nationally and locally set objectives, accountabilities and financial incentives across local authority, NHS and other partners to deliver a better and more integrated service for residents, and to drive out avoidable costs and perverse incentives. This might also cover budgets vital to public health, such as sport.

A similar deal for Public Safety across local authorities, police, fire, probation and other services that would create a better alignment of police priorities, activity to create safer and stronger communities, including a joined up approach to sentencing, prisons and probation.

The signatories also suggest they want to explore a “new deal” and “mature partnership” between Government and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and indeed all devolved areas, on legislation and regulation.

This would see Government setting broad policy and legislative framework while providing a right to vary locally to benefit communities.

The partnership will also be commissioning independent expert advice to consider governance model options that would provide leadership, accountability and confidence in delivery, as well as fitting the particular character of the area.