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City Deal Chair responds to campaigners on University board resignation

By Ben Comber

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

The Chair of the City Deal Board speaks on accountability, the conflict of interests, and moving forward.

City Deal states the facts

The Greater Cambridge City Deal is a partnership between central Government and five partner organisations: Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership and University of Cambridge.

The five partners, on behalf of the Greater Cambridge area, were all integral in negotiations with Government which secured a growth deal worth up to £500 million to 2030 and expected to generate a further £500 million plus in local and private funding.

The Governance framework for the City Deal was established under the Local Government Act 1972 following decisions made at respective Full Council Meetings.

The Board has a duty to consider the advice of the LEP and the University when this is given in discussion on a particular item – this is not a duty giving any special status to any partner’s consultation response.

Professor Nigel Slater is stepping down from his role as Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Cambridge to pursue academic interests. Recruitment is underway for his replacement and the University has reaffirmed its commitment to city and regional affairs, including its key role in the City Deal partnership.

The City Deal has responded to concerns raised by residents regarding the University of Cambridge representative’s resignation from the City Deal Board, and the percieved conflict of interests that exists by the University’s potential influence over decision-making regarding a second busway to the rest of the city close to sites where the University and its colleges own land.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, Chair of the City Deal Executive Board and leader of Cambridge City Council said: “The Greater Cambridge City Deal is a partnership of councils, business and academia with the authority - and a clear governance arrangement and remit from central Government - to make local investment decisions that will generate and support sustainable economic growth for the benefit of the local and national economy.

“In real terms, it will accelerate the availability of thousands of additional homes, and ensure they have quality transport links that bring new opportunities and jobs for people both locally and from further afield and nurture an environment in which businesses can invest and flourish. Cambridge is a global success story and opportunities brought about by the City Deal intend to protect our quality of life locally and provide a base for future sustainable prosperity for generations to come – but this does not come without challenge.

The City Deal advisory body, the Joint Assembly, and its decision-making body, the Executive Board, are a committee set up to work in the interests of the public, as part of the original agreement, and are run according to transparent and rigorous government frameworks.

“The governance arrangements for the City Deal were established at the beginning of 2014 as part of the agreement with Government, in full consultation with each of the member councils, and this agreed to the inclusion of the Local Enterprise Partnership and University representatives on both committees, although without voting rights. This way wider academic and business sector views are on hand for Local Authority members to draw upon when making their decision - acting as critical friends in the decision making process.

“There are very clear rules governing this process. For example, where there is disclosable financial interest on the part of a member, the member does not take part in that discussion and their advice is not given nor considered.

“Clear rules applying to conflicts of interest are followed and any conflicts that are raised regarding any partner organisation are addressed, discussed and minuted within public meetings ensuring clear accountability.

“The involvement and input of each member of the City Deal remains essential – including the University.

“As with any partnership there will be, over time, changes in personnel. For the City Deal, these do not reflect the health nor progress of the partnership but individual circumstances and, in the case of Professor Slater, a personal decision to leave his University role as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise & Regional Affairs, which includes his seat on the City Deal Board, at the end of December to pursue academic interests.

“Having declared the University’s interest, he was not involved in the discussions or decisions on the A428 Cambourne to Cambridge busway and the University’s formal response to this was recorded and duly published.

“The recent recommendation for this scheme followed high level assessment of a number of options based on agreed Government guidelines, in line with other City Deal authorities and taking into account feedback from public consultation and advice from community and Assembly representatives – which very recently led to an agreement for some alternatives to be explored.

“The Board will continue to work with and listen to residents - and all other stakeholders - in making these important decisions but we will also challenge and defend, where necessary, speculation or misleading commentary that is not based in fact.”

The full letter from campaign group Save the West Fields can be found here.


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