17:20 Thursday 4th July 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[C]HRIS MANN: Five local representatives have been meeting the Deputy Prime Minister this afternoon for the latest round of negotiations of the Greater Cambridge City Deal. If their bid is successful, it will unlock a billion pounds worth of investment in local infrastructure. Our reporter Henrietta McMickey is here to try to explain a bit more about it. A billion pounds That’s a big deal.
HENRIETTA MCMICKEY: It is a big deal. This is part of the idea from central government that gives local areas more say over planning and infrastructure. The Government acknowledges that while London is always crucial, it will be the heartbeat of the UK economy, certain powers need to be devolved to other cities in a bid to increase growth elsewhere. Cambridge was chosen to be one of the twenty cities that would go forward to the next stage in the negotiations. This is what’s been happening today. The idea is that councils plus local enterprise partnerships (and) representatives of the business community all work together. And to be successful each area must demonstrate a strong local plan that’s going to increase jobs and push industry. Here in Cambridge the Greater Cambridge group is made up of three councils, Cambridge City, Cambridge(shire) county and South Cambridgeshire, the University, and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise partnership.
CHRIS MANN: Well we’re going to be talking to two of those representatives in just a moment. But what happened today?
HENRIETTA MCMICKEY: Well earlier this afternoon five representatives from that group had to go and pitch to Nick Clegg at the Cabinet Office, together with a cross-departmental ministerial group, armed with their plan. What was this bid? Well, as I mentioned, it has to increase jobs and boost growth. So they said let’s have a new and enlarged rail station at Waterbeach, improvements to the A10 down to Cambridge, more buses and bus-lanes in and out of the city, better transport links along the A428 between Bourn and Cambourne, more dedicated cycle paths, and a new park and ride. And the goal, as you said, more than one billion pounds to unlock funding to local government from the centre. So there’s a lot riding on it. And one official described the whole process as kind of Dragons Den.
CHRIS MANN: A bit of a Dragons Den eh? Well let’s find out two of those that had to go into the Dragons Den today. We’re joined live from our Westminster studio by Martin Curtis, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. Hello Martin.
MARTIN CURTIS: Hi Chris.
CHRIS MANN: And Jeremy Sanders, who’s the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University Hello Jeremy.
JEREMY SANDERS: Hello Chris. Pro Vice Chancellor.
CHRIS MANN: Pro Vice Chancellor. I do apologise. So, how were the pitches gentlemen? Martin first of all. How do you feel it went?
MARTIN CURTIS: Well we got what we expected, which is we gave a good presentation to them. We showed the ambition we have for the Greater Cambridge area. And we had quite a challenging session with them, which is exactly what it was all about.
CHRIS MANN: Jeremy? How did you feel it went?
JEREMY SANDERS: I thought it went very well. The questions were assertive, and so were our answers. I think we gave as good as we got.
CHRIS MANN: That description of it being like the Dragons Den, a fair one?
MARTIN CURTIS: I’ve heard it described as the world’s most expensive episode of Dragons Den a couple of times, and it feels a little bit like that. But it was a necessary process actually.
CHRIS MANN: Well they didn’t exactly have the cash sitting in front of them at the table I imagine, but did they give you a sense that you might have got closer to that big cheque?
MARTIN CURTIS: I think the very fact that we were there today says that actually we’ve moved a big step in the right direction. But there’s a lot of work to be done between now and somebody making an announcement to say we’ve either got it or we haven’t.
CHRIS MANN: Does Cambridge really deserve this? This is already a prosperous area that’s doing well. The University is part of the lead of that. There’s all the science and research. Do we really need more Government money? Aren’t there more deserving places?
JEREMY SANDERS: Cambridge is the place that can deliver innovation and growth in jobs and success. And I think we can do that. We can provide better value for money in Cambridge than anywhere else in the country. Our ability to invest in jobs for example in West Cambridge is constrained by roads, it’s constrained by the lack of affordable housing. If we can get the City Deal, then we will be able to grow Cambridge and make it more successful, not only for Cambridge, but for the whole of Britain.
CHRIS MANN: Martin Curtis, people I’m sure are looking enviously at this up the road in Peterborough. they might say they need the money more?
MARTIN CURTIS: But this will benefit Peterborough. And the knock-on effect to Peterborough would be theirs, so I would argue that, and obviously I represent as Leader of a council, a whole county. And one of the things we see from the City Deal and I see is that actually the benefits of getting the City Deal won’t just affect the areas where the infrastructure’s being delivered. My view is that you’ll see a ripple effect across the whole of the county, and actually beyond that into Peterborough. Remember the links, especially with the A14, when it’s delivered, the links between Peterborough and Cambridge are going to be excellent, so Peterborough will benefit from it I would have thought.
CHRIS MANN: The list of things that you heard read out there, the train station at Waterbeach, the A10 improvements, bus lanes and so on, the A428, the cycle paths, they’re all on your list. That’s what you say you’d spend the money on. Are you saying without that money those things won’t happen?
MARTIN CURTIS: No. Some of it will, but what we’re talking about is it’s a huge package of work that needs to happen. For example, the Chisholm Trail’s in there. We’re committed to delivering the Chisholm Trail, but this will make it a lot easier, the mechanism for makng it work is there. And it does what it needs to do, which is link all those developments and link all those developments to making Cambridge and putting Cambridgeshire right up there with the Bostons and the San Franciscos of the world in terms of its economy. So that’s what it’s about. It’s linking those developments, accelerating that, so we can put Cambridge where it deserves to be.
CHRIS MANN: Jeremy Sanders, is there one killer point that would win it for Cambridge?
JEREMY SANDERS: Simply that we’re the best.
CHRIS MANN: (LAUGHS) That’s a bit glib, isn’t it? With respect.
JEREMY SANDERS: But there’s a lot of truth in that. If you look at the number of patents per hundred thousand people in Cambridge city, I think it’s ten times greater than the next closest place. Places like the Medical Research Council building that we saw with Nick Bowles on Friday; six Nobel prizes have come out of there. So a boast about Cambridge being the best University in the world, and Cambridge being the best city with the best capacity to grow if our infrastructure is right, is a well-deserved boast actually. It absolutely matches up to the facts.
CHRIS MANN: Ok. And any chance that the Dragons are going to say they’re passing on Cambridge, or do you think you’ve secured at least part of that money? Martin.
MARTIN CURTIS: I am very very hopeful that they will. But it is a big ask. There’s no doubt that .. I went to the meeting with Nick Clegg and a number of the other bidders a week or so ago, and it’s quite clear that in terms of our ambition, Cambridge’s bid is well ahead of the others. And the ask is much greater. But actually the flip side of that is that the revenue benefits for the exchequer over 30 years are much greater than any others as well.
CHRIS MANN: Thank you both for joining me.