Chris Howarth on Jackson and Cereste

Chris Howarth from Carter Jonas argues for closer co-operation and a united front to maximise the success of the Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership.

07:28 Tuesday 19th October 2010
Peterborough Breakfast Show BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

PAUL STAINTON: Back in June it was announced that regional development agencies like EEDA, the East of England Development Agency were to be replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships. Since then, a joint Cambridge and Peterborough Enterprise Partnership has been set up to look after the county. But a leading Cambridgeshire businessman has warned it might not be beneficial for this city. We can now speak to the man in question. He’s Chris Howarth, Head of the Commercial Division at Carter Jonas. Morning Chris.
CH: Good morning.
PS: Do you not .. is it just the Cambridgeshire thing, you just don’t want to join up with them?
CH: No no no. I think actually the opposite. I think it’s extremely important that Cambridge and Peterborough do join up. I think the Local Enterprise Partnership is an important thing to happen. There has been some feeling, I think from some people in Cambridge, they say, well, what have Cambridge and Peterborough got to do with each other. But I see the two as being extremely complementary. You have a tremendous technology in Cambridge. Peterborough has land, and a desire to grow. And I think the two working together is absolutely fundamental. One of the problems of course is that the Government’s funding is being cut. The people from afar will look and say, well, we need to put any funding we’ve got into less well off areas. From afar I think Cambridge and Peterborough is seen as an affluent area, but actually it has significant demands. And I think that it’s very important that Cambridge and Peterborough work together to promote this LEP, to make it as successful as possible, to ensure that they get as much funding as they possibly can.
PS: Has there been lots of infighting?
CH: Sorry?
PS: Has there been lots of infighting about all this?
CH: Yes there has been quite a lot of infighting. And I think I was pleased to see that on Friday Stewart Jackson at the inquiry came out and supported the Peterborough Council Growth Strategy, which I think is very important. It’s absolutely vital now that everybody pulls together. We’ve got Marco Cereste leading the Council, and I think he is somebody who can provide a vision and pull everybody together.
PS: You say that though. Both of them were in the newspaper this morning, the Evening Telegraph, knocking seven bells out of each other.
CH: Well, I know. And this is what has been going on for the past I don’t know how long. And it’s absolutely fatal for Peterborough’s growth. The business community is very keen to see Peterborough grow. It’s a fantastic city. It’s got great communications, tremendous opportunities, and somwhere which can offer the land and the skills and everything, to allow the city to grow. But it will only do so if everybody can unite and pull in the same direction.
PS: Why is the funding at risk here then?
CH: Well the funding’s at risk because all funding is at risk at the moment. We’ve got the Spending Review of course, being announced tomorrow. And then we’ll know a little bit more about where the funding will be going and where it won’t be going. But unless we can provide a viable place for the funding to go, it will go elsewhere. It’s much easier for people from London saying, there’s deprivation up north, let’s send it up north. Cambridge and Peterborough, they’re a pretty rich area, they won’t need it. But that’s not the case. And unless we can provide a united way of working together, we will lose that funding.
PS: So you’re not united at the moment then?
CH: I think the business community is certainly united. It’s up to the politicians really to unite, and make sure they’re all pulling in the same direction.
PS: And are you any different from the East of England Development Agency? Or is it just another quango that’s going to cost just as much as the EEDA one?
CH: Well that’s a very good question. I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that. That really depends on how it comes forward. What I think is a welcome idea in the LEPs is the private enterprise side to it. There is a lot of money around in the private sector, if one can find ways of levering that in to help with some of the projects that we want to bring forward.
PS: Listen, Chris, thank you for coming on this morning. And thank you for underlining and explaining the difficulties within this Local Enterprise Partnership, and the battles that are taking place between Cambridge and Peterborough people. We should all be working together. Difficult times require us all to forge one path surely?