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Cambridgeshire and Peterborough make devolution history

Councillor Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell
Councillor Lewis Herbert. Picture: Keith Heppell

City council vote to make devolution history for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough unlocked £800m worth of funding with an historic devolution deal.

Councillors in South Cambridgeshire were the first to back the deal at meeting on Monday night followed by the county council earlier today.

The city council, led by Lewis Herbert, followed suit tonight to make the region the first non-metropolitan devolved area in England.

Seven separate authorities voted on the deal, with Huntingdon District Council, Fenland District Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council, and Peterborough City Council, having voted in favour of the deal.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “Devolution will bring real benefits for Cambridge residents and the most important of these is funding for affordable housing for rent.

“At least 500 new council homes will be built in Cambridge plus hundreds of additional housing association rental homes for the Greater Cambridge area, helping us to address the local housing affordability crisis.

“We now have a real opportunity to work together to press for more devolution from government so that decisions can be made locally to provide even more housing and investment in our highly successful Greater Cambridge economy.”

The devolution deal will see a combined authority with a representative from each authority and the LEP, chaired by a directly elected Mayor, whose salary will be £70,000-a-year.

The deal will provide a £600m fund (£20m annually for the next 30 years) to support economic growth, development of local infrastructure and jobs

Another £100m will be used for a housing fund to be invested over the next five years to build more homes in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough including £70m for affordable, rent and shared ownership.

Cllr Peter Topping, leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “I am particularly pleased that we have managed to negotiate a deal that gives us funding to help address housing affordability in the area.

“This is something that has not been achieved anywhere else in the country. Housing affordability and transport are the two most common issues people locally talk to me about and this deal will put hundreds of millions of pounds in the hands of local people rather than it being controlled by Whitehall.

“Devolution presents us with a huge opportunity to make inroads on the housing issue as well as unlocking the funding and flexibility to help support the successful economy we have in Greater Cambridge.

“By securing a devolution deal it means we are in a great positon to negotiate further deal with government, as they have in Manchester, where a series of devolution deals have seen more powers and funding devolved locally over time.”

The county council voted 37-26 in favour of devolution at the end of their extraordinary meeting.

Leader of the county council and the Conservative group, Steve Count hailed the result as “huge” for the people of the county.

He said “I am absolutely delighted. As we got closer I increasingly believed it was possible.

“It has taken a long while to get to this point. It is not perfect for everybody but the deal that was on the table we were told by Government was “the deal” and if you don’t take it then we would be back at square one.

“We’ve seen what happened in Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, if you fall away then you go to the back of the room and start again. This is huge.

“I could not understand why people would vote against it. I listened to people’s arguments against it but I could never see any of those arguments outweighing the enormous benefits on offer.

“I am absolutely delighted that I can stand here and know that we will be able to deliver for the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

However, UKIP councillor Adrian Dent, who did not support the Deal, said: “It was a bad day for democracy. Decision will now be made by a group of people with a mayor who can override them.

“At some point it will cost every person in Cambridgeshire more money through council tax.”

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