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Cambridge Network

21/03/16   Devolution announcement prompts further discussion

The Chancellor's Budget announcement of ‘devolution’ to an Eastern Powerhouse is the culmination of negotiation between central government and leaders in the East of England over the past few weeks. But what does the devolution deal mean to businesses in the Cambridge region?

Cambridge Network has organised a meeting on 31st March to explain and to engage more of the business community in the decisions.

Greater Cambridge is one of the few areas of the country that is a net contributor to Treasury and is a force for good as we try to get the UK creating and exporting more. The new wider collaboration brings different strengths together and, with new partners, the aim is to try to amplify the valuable growth each sub region has managed to achieve.

Claire Ruskin, CEO of Cambridge Network, comments: “Devolution means that the region can be given responsibility, powers and funding for making decisions and joining up where it makes sense. Housing, travel to work times and skills are top of the agenda here, because we already have an exceptional supply of jobs. Discussions like this get very political very quickly, and I know we will see many strong views for and against.

"As a non-political person I want to hear what the actual offer is and decide on its merits – my understanding is that it can still be developed or rejected. An interesting development in the offered devolution is that central government wants business leaders to take an active part in the decision making process.

"As most business leaders are more than fully occupied with the hard work of making their businesses succeed – which we know can never be taken for granted - this may need some new ways of working. Decision making will need to be efficient as well as effective and inclusive.”

The conversations will be developing through until late June when the devolution deal will be on the table for detailed decisions. To get to the right answers, people need to understand the implications and how it is different from now. To help with this, Cambridge Network, which has for 16 years helped companies share ideas and best practice, has organised a meeting on Thursday 31st March at 4pm in central Cambridge to explain what the devolution deal means to businesses in the Cambridge region and to engage more of the business community in the decisions.

The meeting, which takes place at The Cambridge Union Society (9A Bridge Street, Cambridge, CB2 1UB) has been added to another important gathering – where aspects of Europe are explained and discussed by Lord Stephen Green – at the same location from 6pm. This is an evening not to miss if you are intrigued and think we might help shape our own future!

Register here if you would like to come.

Claire Ruskin encourages businesses to attend: “We need sensible, efficient and creative thinking to set up ways of making decisions across an area of this size, with industries and expertise in so many sectors. We need to bring the best of business-like thinking together with the best public sector knowledge and thinking to get a great result from the responsibilities that central government is offering. If we can get the rules right we may be able to do good things for housing, transport and skills as well as social care and the wider infrastructure that we all expect to be there. We may have to step up our participation to get what is needed for a healthy and successful future. It will be challenging, and contentious, but has potential for good. Our local leaders have done a good job in the negotiation so far and the latest offer has come a long way in a short time.”

Highlighting the need for debate and discussion, a number of comments have been made on both sides of the argument today.

Stuart Wilkinson, Tax Partner at EY in Cambridge commented: “The Chancellor announced a single powerful East Anglia combined authority, headed by an elected mayor and almost a billion pounds worth of investment.

“This new authority will enable an integrated approach across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and is great news for a region that has been crying out for infrastructure investment, which should help to improve connectivity between cities and increase the productivity of the region.

“Although devolution does not come without its challenges and obligations – if the new authority can also help with the skills shortages in some sectors that would be even better news.”

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner said: “What Cambridge needs is real power over homes and transport. Just announcing a 'power house' with an elected mayor no one wants won't super-charge our economy."

Richard Tunnicliffe, CBI East of England Director, said: "This deal shows that East Anglia is firmly on the government’s agenda in the drive to create growth outside London. It places a welcome emphasis on improving transport connectivity and skills, and, if implemented properly, can help local authorities on the ground to make bold decisions on the future of the region.

"Getting local businesses on board will be a vitally important stepping stone to deliver success.”

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Organisation:  Cambridge Network