On Tuesday evening Cambridge City Councillors gave their approval to a devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
They were the last of seven councils, including Peterborough, to approve the deal and with it gave the green light to a once in a generation opportunity to unlock new funding and decision making powers for the benefit of our local area.
For me this was the biggest decision that I’ve made in my political career; a decision that I’m confident will grow our local economy and help shape a prosperous future for people living and working in Peterborough.
Saturday signals the beginning of the festive season in Peterborough with our Christmas lights switch-on taking place.
It’s always a great event and a real treat to see the faces of the children on Cathedral Square when Father Christmas appears on stage and the lights are switched on.
This year’s event will be our biggest yet because we’ve teamed up with Queensgate so that both switch-ons take place on the same night. The city centre lights will be turned on at 5pm with the build-up starting from 1pm with a line-up of local acts to get everyone in the Christmas spirit on the square.
Proceedings will then move to Queensgate for the centre’s festive celebrations. Starting at 5.30pm, crowds can expect plenty of entertainment including the official opening of Father Christmas’ grotto and the switch-on at around 7pm.
This time next week Peterborough councillors will take their final vote on a devolution deal that will unlock millions of pounds of new funding for the local area.
For me this is one of the most important decisions I will make in almost 40 years as a councillor.
The deal will make a huge difference to our communities with a £600million funding boost for infrastructure alongside vital new money to build homes. It will also see powers transferred from Westminster so that a greater number of important decisions about Peterborough can be made locally, rather than them being made by central government.
As we all know, more homes are needed across the UK and that is no different in this city. By accepting this deal the government will provide £170million of funding to build new homes across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to be spent over the next five years. This could build up to 2,500 homes over that period.
Through a new £20million annual infrastructure fund, the devolution deal would help us to invest in projects such as an independent university for Peterborough. We will also work with government to develop an Enterprise Zone which will encourage new businesses to move here and create more jobs.
If you’d told me ten years ago that the money we get from government to provide services for our residents would be cut in half I’d have laughed at you.
Surely rising birth rates, people living longer and the inevitable greater pressure these factors place on our services would mean that our funding would go up and not down.
In an ideal world yes, but the reality is that in the past six years we’ve seen our government funding cut by £54million, which equates to nearly 50 per cent of our grant.
Last Friday we published our first phase budget proposals which detail how we will close a £19million gap in our budget in 2017/18. Once again we’re ensuring that services for our most vulnerable residents are protected.