Cambridgeshire – a Modest Growth Deal with Conditions Attached

greg_hands07:19 Monday 7th July 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[P]AUL STAINTON: Over £21 million of Government money is to be pumped into the Cambridgeshire economy next year, with more payments to follow. It’s part of the Government’s £12 billion pot of Growth Deals, handed out to local Enterprise Partnerships to encourage business and innovation over the next six years. The money has been given a cautious welcome by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership, but they’ve expressed disappointment there wasn’t more cash for our county. The Minister for Cities Greg Clark is here now. Morning Greg.
GREG CLARK: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Why wasn’t there more cash for Cambridgeshire?
GREG CLARK: (LAUGHS) Well Cambridgeshire has been doing pretty well recently. We signed the City Deal with the Cambridge area just a few weeks ago. That was investing half a billion pounds into the roads infrastructure of the area. We’ve got another £71 million coming in to Cambridgeshire, with some fantastic projects. So the Enterprise Zone over at Alconbury, a new expansion of the Welding Institute there, so bringing more high-skilled jobs into the area.
PAUL STAINTON: When you look at the level of immigration though into the county, when you look at the level of immigration into Wisbech and Peterborough and places like that, we haven’t got the cash we deserve, have we?

GREG CLARK: No, I think actually if you look across the country, Cambridgeshire has been doing really well here. Quite rightly, because it is an area both with huge opportunities and problems. You’re absolutely right. One of the things that I’m particularly encouraged by in this is one of the proposals for Wisbech is to improve the access, the rail access into the rest of the network by a possible reconnection of the March-Wisbech railway line. That’s something that the local MP Steve Barclay has been campaigning for, and that is being funded through this set of proposals. So it’s a .. what we’re doing here is we’ve taken, from local businesses and council leaders right across Cambridgeshire, their steer on what they think should be done locally, and we’re handing the money over to them to invest, rather then deciding these things as they used to happen, from London.
PAUL STAINTON: Labour say they would fund cities out of London with more cash though? Are we being short-changed here? Is there more to come?
GREG CLARK: There is. This is the first of a six year programme. As I say, Cambridgeshire is doing well out of this, quite rightly. It’s part of a big drive to take money from central government and put it into the hands of local places. Without wanting to be too party political, one of the problems with the Labour proposal is that they’re not taking it from central government and giving it to local places, they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. What they’ve said is they’re going to fund it by taking grants away from local government. I think that’s the wrong thing. I think we need to get back to the days in which places could call the shots themselves, rather than having to go to London to plead and to beg. This is a huge step, following the City Deal into backing the leaders, business leaders and council leaders, and university college leaders I should say, of Cambridgeshire.
PAUL STAINTON: That’s Greg Clark. Greg, thank you for that this morning. Minister for Cities, announcing this money this morning. Well Adrian Canard is the Strategy and Planning Director at the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership. He’s with us this morning. Morning Adrian.
ADRIAN CANARD: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s great news for Cambridgeshire says Greg this morning.
ADRIAN CANARD: Well we’re very pleased the Government has funded all bar one of our top priorities, but we are, as you said in your intro, disappointed that Government hasn’t gone further in investing in Cambridgeshire.
PAUL STAINTON: What else did you want?
ADRIAN CANARD: Well we had a range of projects around transport, skills and start-up spaces, all coming up, as the Minister said, from our businesses. And we didn’t feel that the settlement we’ve got really reflected the great potential there.
PAUL STAINTON: OK. And the money you have got is quite restrictive, isn’t it? You have to spend it on certain things, don’t you?
ADRIAN CANARD: Well it’s money for next year, and it has to be projects that can deliver next year. So that obviously restricts what can come forward. We are looking for the Government to continue to support growth in Cambridgeshire. As you heard, we’ve perhaps been a victim of our own success there, in that the Minister was talking about supporting areas elsewhere with other things. We’ve got a massive amount of growth, and as you well know the pressures on our infrastructure are very high.
PAUL STAINTON: So where are you going to spend this £21 million? Whereabouts?
ADRIAN CANARD: Well as the Minister said, we’ve got a great project for the Welding Institute of moving out to Alconbury Weald, expanding the operation. We’ve secured money for agri-tech, so that will be spread across the whole of Cambridgeshire, companies looking to invest and grow in the agri-sector. But also we’ve got some transport schemes, so we’ll see some work in the city centre of Peterborough, Kings Dyke level crossing, there are a whole range of things. It will affect the whole of Cambridgeshire.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And the A47 junction is going to get some upgrades as well.
ADRIAN CANARD: That’s right. Yes. Improving the East to West connections across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is a key priority for us. We’ve been working to bring proposals to Government to do so.
PAUL STAINTON: And for the people of Wisbech, a bit of good news, perhaps a chink of light on the horizon for this rail link.
ADRIAN CANARD: That’s great news. The work needs to be done, detailed studies. But we’ve finally got the funding to take those forward, and a commitment from Government, if we get the right outcome from those studies, then further funding will come forward.
PAUL STAINTON: Is this new money by the way?
ADRIAN CANARD: Most of the £21 million is new money. Inevitably there’s always a reconfirmation of some of it. About £4 million was transport money that was already argued through and got provisional. So that’s been confirmed, which is great. But the bulk of it is new money, and as the Government says, this is the first of five deals that we need to go forward with. So we’ll be looking to improve and get even more out of them next year.
PAUL STAINTON: Good stuff. Well we’ve got £21 million. Let’s fingers crossed, hopefully get some more out of them as well. Adrian, thank you very much for coming on this morning. Adrian Canard, who’s the Strategy and Planning Director at the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership. So, £21 million to improve our roads, our rails, our infrastructure and bring some jobs to the county. But not as much as they were hoping for.