SUE DOUGAN: During today’s Budget the Chancellor George Osborne confirmed there could be a new local authority for Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Norfolk and Suffolk. There would also be a newly directly-elected Mayor, who would have extra powers and a budget for major infrastructure projects worth around £900 million over 30 years. Now it still needs to be consulted on by each council in the region of course, but let’s get reaction now from the Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, Steve Count. Good evening Steve. Is this something that you welcome?
STEVE COUNT: Oh hi there. Yes this is something that we’ve been working together with our partners for a little while. I’m glad to see we’ve got something to put in front of our councillors finally.
SUE DOUGAN: Will you personally be backing the proposed devolution?
STEVE COUNT: Yes I think that’s an easy question for me. I wouldn’t be recommending this goes to our Council unless I thought that a deal of this size and magnitude was worth consideration. So yes I will be backing it.
SUE DOUGAN: OK. And what about any deal breakers? Are there any conditions in this that you’d never perhaps agree to?
STEVE COUNT: No, I think the deal breakers that were discussed have been removed before we got to this stage. What we’re seeing in front of the .. what we’re putting out now to the public, to the business community, to our stakeholders, to see what they think about it, for me there aren’t any deal breakers.
SUE DOUGAN: OK. From the point of view of people listening today who might well think oh here we go, another tier of government, it’s another system that we have to learn, is there a worry perhaps that what will be seen as another layer of government will end up costing taxpayers a bit more money across this region?
STEVE COUNT: No I think the very reverse is true. First of all it’s not another layer of government the way I see it. It’s actually bringing government closer to the peoples. So we’re talking about devolved powers, mainly from Government, coming down to maybe a regional area. We’ve also built in double devolution into our bid, so there’s a possibility of some of those functions throughout the area that may even go closer to the people, whatever the appropriate level is. But overall, I’m hoping to see costs go significantly down. But also on the back of that, we’re able to leverage in an awful lot more money to invest in this area. So I see it as a good deal.
SUE DOUGAN: Ok. And what about this sparking some inter-county rivalry as well? Are there any thoughts or details yet on where across this new region the Mayor and his or her office might be based?
STEVE COUNT: No I think that’s something that to be worked out as we move along. And I don’t think that’s something that mature councillors like ourselves who have come to making this deal go together are going to get overly concerned about. And what we’re concerned about is the right thing for our area, and not necessarily where the Mayor comes from or where his office or her office is going to be, but actually whether they are up to the job and good for delivering on the ground.
SUE DOUGAN: OK. Thank you very much Steve Count, joining us this afternoon, the Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council.