Thursday, 5 December 2013

Government Keen To Do Deal With Cambridge On Transport And Housing

Council leaders, businesses and the University of Cambridge today welcomed the announcement in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement that the Government is committed to delivering a "City Deal" with Greater Cambridge to unlock over £1billion of investment.

The Deal aims to secure hundreds of millions of pounds of additional funding for investment in transport infrastructure and homes to support high quality economic and housing growth over the coming decades.

This extra funding is expected to come from the local area keeping a share of the additional tax income that will be generated as a result of future growth (an idea known as "GainShare"). As part of the City Deal, it is proposed that this will be combined with a revised package of funding to support the delivery of affordable housing, along with new measures to allow skills funding to be used in different ways which will target training more at the particular needs of local employers.

In addition to funding for transport and affordable housing, the Deal would see the three councils (County, Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils) pooling some of their funding and powers, and working even more closely than now in a form of "combined authority". This requires Government to change current legislation, but would allow for the creation of a single strategic vision for the future of the area covered by Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire.

The city deal has been negotiated by a partnership of Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, The University of Cambridge and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership.

Partners were invited to negotiate a city deal in Autumn 2012, following the announcement earlier that year of deals with the six largest cities in England.

Councillor Tim Bick, Leader of Cambridge City Council said: "This gives the green light for detailed negotiations on what I hope will be a fantastic City Deal. Everyone knows that Cambridge and the surrounding area has a unique set of conditions that has created some amazing innovations and some hugely successful companies. But everyone who lives or works around here also knows that transport constraints and housing affordability threaten the continuation of that success in the future.

"We’re saying to Government that the right investment will generate more economic growth, but we want to retain locally a share of the proceeds of growth to fund the extra investment we need now."

Councillor Ray Manning, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council added: "There is still a long way to go to conclude the detail of the negotiations and we need to be able to invest with confidence that the funding required will be available in the future. We won’t sign up to a deal that doesn’t offer the right outcomes for the people and businesses of Cambridgeshire. Today’s announcement is an important milestone though as it signals that the Government is serious about doing business with Greater Cambridge."

Councillor Martin Curtis, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council said: "Critically, the Government has announced today that it accepts the principle of the radical Gain Share proposal we have put to them. This will see us retaining a share of the tax dividends from future growth that are currently held by the Exchequer. Concluding the Deal will mean we can invest in improving transport and delivering much-needed new homes to create a prosperous future for residents and businesses across Cambridgeshire.

"This announcement on the City Deal will help ensure that Cambridgeshire remains open for business."

Grahame Nix, Chief Executive of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership said: "If we can agree the right deal with Government this will bring tremendous benefits for local residents and businesses now and in the future. We would be able to provide more sustainable and reliable transport between homes and jobs, and between the technology clusters themselves, to continue the Cambridge Phenomenon into the future."

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, welcomed the Government’s recognition that the unique contribution made by Cambridge to economic growth can be enhanced even further through major investment in housing, transport infrastructure and skills training. Sir Leszek said: "The University looks forward to working with our partners in the City Deal to transform our ability to innovate and sustain economic growth while protecting the features that make Greater Cambridge such an attractive place to work, study and live."