As part of the devolution deal across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough the government committed to a housing fund of £100million to be spent over the next five years.
The fund will be spent across the area to build more properties including affordable homes.
I was pleased to secure such a large fund to support residents, especially as the original offer from government was to be spent across all of Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Suffolk and Norfolk!
Details have been announced this week of the first projects, subject to approval, that are set to benefit from this funding that was only available as part of a devolution deal for the area.
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.
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.
When I became leader of the council 18 months ago my post bag was full of letters and emails from residents about issues such as anti-social behaviour, begging, illegal parking and poor quality housing.
I listened to those residents and looked at what we and fellow agencies could do to better tackle these issues, at a time when funding is scarce and manpower is limited.
This week we fully launched the SaferPeterborough Prevention and Enforcement Service (PES) which brings together council, police, fire service and prison staff into a single managed service. The team has been in place since April, however council staff now have the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme powers issued by Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s chief constable to be able to enforce against a greater number of issues.
The idea is that together we can offer a quicker, more visible response to the issues that you have told us impact on your quality of life. Council prevention and enforcement officers, who you might see walking round in new blue uniforms, now have the ability to take action against a wider range of community issues including littering, dog fouling, begging and cycling on pavements. They also retain existing powers including parking and housing enforcement.
Last week I shared with you what I think are the benefits for residents and businesses of our proposed devolution deal with government from the perspective of education and training.
This week I’d like to focus on growth and in particular how devolution could benefit our transport and housing.
Let me start with transport, that’s our roads, train and bus services and how we connect with surrounding towns, rural areas, Cambridge and beyond.
We’re fortunate to be really well situated on the A1M and East Coast Main Line. However, businesses tell us that transport connectivity needs improving so people and freight can move around more freely with better connections to the east and west of our city and between Peterborough and Cambridge. Transport delays for businesses can cost them dearly, as it often means they miss deadlines.
If the proposed devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough goes ahead, we’d have access to a new £600 million fund (£20million annually) to improve transport and infrastructure across the county.
Having access to this kind of money will allow us and other councils in the county to plan road and rail improvements together that will benefit everyone, including people living in the urban and rural areas. In addition, having certainty over the money we will receive in future years will help us plan projects longer term, ensuring we get best value.
We’ll also have more money to spend on improving public transport, in particular to help our rural communities and young people access jobs. Virgin Trains, which runs the East Coast Main Line, is planning to introduce new high speed trains next year which will reduce the journey time from Peterborough to London to under 40 minutes. But we also need better rail links to Norwich, Cambridge and Stansted airport and devolution will put us in a much stronger position to secure that investment in quicker and more frequent services.
If we can also improve journey times by upgrading the roads and having better bus services then it should make Peterborough an even more attractive place to live, whether you work in the city or commute elsewhere, and to invest.