On 4 May 2017, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough elected James Palmer (Conservative) as mayor. He will chair the Combined Authority, a new body that brings together the district and city councils, and the Local Enterprise Partnership. Its primary responsibility is to plan and deliver strategic transport infrastructure and, in the first five years, affordable housing. More widely, it will play a role in integrating planning and public service delivery across the county. It will have a signficant budget, including £20 million/year for transport infrastructure and £170 million for housing.
Combined Authority Membership
- Cambridgeshire County Council
- East Cambridgeshire District Council
- Fenland District Council
- Huntingdonshire District Council
- South Cambridgeshire District Council
- Cambridge City Council
- Peterborough City Council
- Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
- An elected mayor
Each council and the LEP will appoint one member and one substitute to the Combined Authority. Council members will typically be the leaders of their respective councils. The first mayoral election will be on 4 May 2017 and thereafter every fourth year.
There are three observer members with speaking (but not voting) rights:
- Police and Crime Commissioner
- Chair of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire and Rescue Authority
- A member from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group
The Combined Authority may also co-opt non-voting representatives when needed.
- The LEP has no automatic vote, but the councils have agreed to grant it a vote.
- Decisions require at least 5 members to be present.
- The Mayor (or Deputy Mayor) has a veto.
- No member has a casting vote.
- Decisions are carried by a simple majority of those present except for:
- Decisions on transport plans and allocation of transport-related funding, which require support from at least 5 council-appointed members, including for Cambridgeshire and for Peterborough (the regional Highways Authorities).
- A decision to reject the mayoral budget, strategy or spending plan, which requires support from at least 5 council-appointed members.
Cost of the Combined Authority
The costs of the Combined Authority and Mayor’s office will be met from the annual grant for the first year, then from an additional item on Council Tax bills.
- The annual cost is expected to be £881k.
- Each election will cost £756k.
- The mayor will receive an allowance of £70k.
- No other members of the Combined Authority will be paid.
The General Power of Competence (roughly “you can do it unless there is legislation that says you can’t”) will be granted to the Mayor.
The Combined Authority will appoint at least one member from each constituent council to an overview and scrutiny committee, roughly in proportion to the political make-up of the councils. The chair must be from a different political party to the Mayor. The scrutiny committee may call in decisions for re-consideration by the Mayor or Combined Authority.
The Combined Authority will manage the following funds:
- £20m per annum over 30 years to support economic growth, development of local infrastructure and jobs (£12m for one-off ‘capital’ projects, £8m for recurring costs);
- £100m over five years for housing projects;
- £70m over 5 years to build new council homes in Cambridge;
- bus subsidies;
- concessionary fares;
- bus services operators’ grants;
- ad hoc transport grants;
- integrated block grant for highways;
- Key Route Network* grants;
- other capital scheme grants.
(*not to be confused with the Strategic Road Network – A1, M11, A14, A11, A428, A47 – which is managed by Highways England)
Revenue Support Grant spending will continue to be managed by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough councils until it is phased out in 2019.
The Combined Authority may seek other sources of funding, including from borrowing.
Projects likely to be brought forward owing to devolution
- Rail improvements, including Ely North Junction (a bottleneck on the rail network),
Wisbech–Cambridge rail link, new rolling stock, and improved services between King’s Lynn
- Road improvements such as the A14/A142 junction and upgrades to the A10 and A47.
- Development at Wyton, St Neots and Wisbech.
- Peterborough University, with degree-awarding powers.
- Peterborough Enterprise Zone.
- Integrated job service, skills and apprenticeship budget.
- Integration of health and social care.
Further powers and additional money are likely to be devolved in stages in future (following the pattern of other devolution deals).
As things stand, the mayor will not have a formal role in the Greater Cambridge City Deal. That will continue with its own decision-making board and budget, formally as a joint committee of the County Council. However the Combined Authority and City Deal have overlapping remits, in transport, housing and skills, so they will need to work closely to the same overarching strategy. In the short term this is likely to be achieved informally through discussion at Combined Authority meetings, voluntary agreements, and sharing of officers. In the longer term (e.g. from 2020, when Tranche 2 of the City Deal is due to start – assuming central government renews the deal), it is likely that the two bodies will be merged, but with some funding ringfenced for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire.
Meetings of the ‘Shadow’ (precursor to the) Combined Authority, which set the initial budget, recruited staff, etc may also be found on the County Council website.