In an interview broadcast at 08:25 on Tuesday 7th September 2010. Radio Cambridgeshire’s Paul Stainton talks to local committee man John Bridge about an anonymous group of business people who plan to replace EEDA with a new Local Enterprise Partnership headed up in the interim by the interviewee.
PS: A closer working relationship between Cambridge and Peterborough could benefit the county’s economy. No, serious. Both local authorities submitted joint plans to enter into a Local Enterprise Partnership, and they’ll replace the Development Agencies scrapped by the Coalition. John Bridge is chairing the board of people who’ve put together our bid. Morning, John.
JB: Yes good morning.
PS: You’ve always got your fingers in.
JB: Yes indeed. One is always ensuring that we do the best we can for business, and the economy locally, to make sure that we actually lead on this thing, and that everybody that works and is part of the Peterborough economy will be able to actually get through the current economic situation as best as possible.
PS: But Peterborough having a relationship with Cambridge, I mean they’re two very different places, two very different economies. I mean, it won’t work, will it?
JB: Well the thing is that everybody talks about the difference between Cambridge and Peterborough, but we have to understand that this is often to do with the local administration, and the authorities that we have. And from a business and economic perspective the two things work together very well indeed. And there’s lots of collaboration between businesses. And we work together extremely well in that way. And I think this recognises that. But also of course what we are doing is also linking up with Rutland and Kings Lynn and North Norfolk, and other people surrounding Peterborough, where it’s very important that we do work together for economic benefit.
PS: In very simple terms, what does it all mean?
JB: Well what it means is that the Government has actually stopped having Regional Development Agencies. And the East of England Development Agency will cease to exist in about twelve eighteen months time. And one of the big problems in relation to Peterborough is being right on the edge of that region, and has had to obviously work with people that are very much much further south and on the east coast. And what we need to do is to make sure that Peterborough together with Cambridge are the centre of their real economy, and that we can look at the things that we can do together to ensure that we ourselves can make the interventions and the investments, and the things that we think are important actually come together very significantly in a local basis rather than on a regional basis.
PS: So can I just get this clear in my head then? To save money we’re scrapping the East of England Development Agency, but then we’re replacing it with a Local Enterprise Partnership which is probably going to cost us some more money.
JB: Well the key thing is we’re ensuring that the kind of cost and bureaucracy will not be a part of a new Enterprise Partnership.
PS: So there won’t be a Chairman, there won’t be a Chief Executive, there won’t be loads of minions running around taking loads of money out of the coffers like there was before.
JB: Clearly there will be a business chairman, who will come from a significant business to actually lead the way.
PS: Will he get paid?
JB: I don’t believe so, no.
JB: That’s not the intent.
JB: What we’re trying to do is to get people together who work for the good of their businesses, and all the people that live and work here.
PS: So we’re asking these people to give their expertise for the benefit of the bigger society?
JB: Indeed. And of course businesses want to work much closer together with the local authorities, and part of this is actually to bring businesses and the local authorities together. So Rutland and Peterborough and Cambridge will all be joining together, but there will be a fifty fifty partnership with business to ensure that the business voice is heard, and can really influence and drive the economy forward. And linked with that we’re also going to obviously be involved with our universities, Anglia Rusting (sic) and Cambridge University, as well as our regional colleges, to make sure that we get the skills right, and that we have the right people for the businesses in our area.
PS: Are you confident you can do this, you can make a real impact?
JB: Well one of the things that I’ve been really impressed with is how now all of the local authorities and all the businesses throughout of the area we’re covering are now working together collectively, and recognising that in the current situation that we’re in, we all need to actually make sure that we pool our expertise and actually drive forward together to make sure that we benefit, not only our businesses but all the people that live and work in this area. And really we have an opportunity to deal with this on a much more local basis than we could through a regional organisation, which in essence had to look at things on a larger scale.
PS: Yeah. The deadline for the bids to be put in was yesterday. Did we get our bid in on time?
JB: We had our bid in on Friday. And it obviously has met those deadlines. It’s a very comprehensive bid, and I think a very good bid indeed. And we very much hope that the Government will look at it also in that light and allow us to go forward to develop the partnership that we have and ensure that all the people that have come together really from not recognising abitrary unitary authority type boundaries where the real economy is and help people work together in natural economic geography will be able to actually make a real difference to the way that we go forward. (Anyone?)
PS: Will it bring the county together do you think? Will it make Cambridgeshire stronger?
JB: I think that in many things when you work together in partnership you actually achieve far more than if you try and work individually and in silos. And I think at the present time with the kind of financial constraints that we face it’s very necessary for people to actually look and work together for this common good and to ensure that it’s a real partnership and not just lip service, that we really understand that if we actually do get together we really think about the future and how we can affect it, and how we can plan effectively for it, then yes, I think it could make a real difference.
PS: Can it bring more jobs, more money to the county? It could be to everyone’s benefit. Can it succeed?
JB: Well we believe very much it can, and I think that in talking to all the local authority representatives that we’ve been involved with, and in particular all the businesses that we’ve consulted, they do really believe that we need to focus on these key issues of infrastructure, road transport and the utilities that we desperately need to make sure that we’ll continue as we grow. Broadband which is a key issue. Make sure that we’ve got the provision of the correct housing that we need. And also skills and employment, to actually work with all of our educational partners to ensure that the people we have here have the right skills. And of course with the housing and other things we’ve got the ability for them to be able to live and work within the area.
PS: John, thank you for that. John Bridge who’s chairing the board of people who’ve put together this Local Enterprise Partnership with Cambridge and Rutland to replace the East of England Development Agency, hoping we can all work together in one big happy family in Cambridgeshire, and bring jobs and prosperity to the region.
This is about business taking over the functions of local government, privatising local government revenue streams.