East Anglian MPs and Cambridgeshire mayor show united front to Chancellor Philip Hammond over need for more investment in region
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer joined a delegation of MPs from East Anglia to meet with Chancellor Philip Hammond to press the case for significant investment in the East to feed into the Treasury’s preparations for the Autumn budget.
Together with the MPs, the mayor highlighted key projects that would foster greater economic growth in both Cambridgeshire and East Anglia as a whole, including the full dualling of the A47, removing the rail infrastructure bottleneck around Ely and improving the A14.
The mayor joined Cambridgeshire MPs Steve Barclay and Lucy Frazer as well as Norfolk and Suffolk MPs Liz Truss, George Freeman, Sir Henry Bellingham, Chloe Smith and Jo Churchill, as part of the delegation.
The recent interim findings of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) showed that while the economy of the Combined Authority area was performing strongly, its continued growth was at serious risk unless significant investment was made in key areas including transport infrastructure.
Mayor Palmer said: “The East is a hugely important economic centre for the whole of the UK, and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area contributes £5 billion annually to the Treasury. Our prospects for further growth look very strong, but our recent interim CPIER report found that unless we deliver significant infrastructure improvements soon, that growth will tail off.
“We cannot afford to let that happen, and I made the point to the Chancellor that the country as a whole cannot afford to let that happen.
“This is not about going cap-in-hand to the Government, but is about demonstrating our ambition. What we are showing to the Government is that every pound invested in the East will repay itself many times over.
“With the autumn budget now just around the corner, we are keenly aware that we are in competition with other parts of the country for the attention of the Treasury. Meetings like this, where politicians across East Anglia can show a united vision for improving our area and boosting its economy, give us the best chance of success.
“We were also very keen to get this meeting in ahead of the Parliamentary recess, because we know the preparations for the autumn budget are already underway.
“I feel the Chancellor was impressed with what we had to say and we are already building a very compelling case for projects like dualling the A47 and improving the rail infrastructure at Ely.
As well as the key projects, Mayor Palmer was also able to raise with the Chancellor the additional Combined Authority powers needed to help realise the other infrastructure plans for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
That includes the ability to create a Mayoral Development Corporation, a separate organisation which would be set up by the Combined Authority and charged with bringing major projects to fruition. Currently the Greater London Authority can set up such corporations under the 2011 Localism Act.
The Mayor also highlighted the need for the Combined Authority to be given other powers to raise funding for key infrastructure projects. That includes being given the ability to use tax increment financing (TIF) which was for example employed by local authorities in London to fund the extension on the London Underground’s Northern Line.
Mayor Palmer and MPs will continue to work closely with the Treasury as the Autumn Budget is finalised.
The Combined Authority has already made significant progress on plans to dual the A47, with a commissioned technical report highlighting a strong business case for improving the road, including how it will unlock economic growth as well as improving journey times. In June the Combined Authority Board agreed to take the planning for dualling between Peterborough and Walton Highway forward, including narrowing down the route options and beginning a stakeholder consultation.
The Ely Area Capacity Enhancement Programme, which will remove the rail bottleneck that is restricting services both in Cambridgeshire and the East as a whole, has also seen significant progress, including from the Combined Authority, to bring forward detailed plans and a case for investment. Mayor Palmer as well as MPs across the entire region have been lobbying hard to Government to assist with funding the improvements which will help unlock significant economic benefits. Good progress is being made on the scheme, with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling visiting Ely station in January, and signalling his support for it being included in the next national rail investment round of 2019-2024, known as Control Period 6.