Greater Cambridge City Deal

This article was published in 2013, in Newsletter 107.

A radical change of governance is a possibility for Cambridge and the surrounding area after a County Council cabinet decision in December to apply to the second wave of City Deals. These create a new tier of government for ‘functional economic areas’, in our case the combination of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire district areas. If the bid is successful, and acceptable to councillors in its final form, it would mean a more locally focused approach to decision making.

At present the very disparate County Council makes a lot of the key decisions, transport and highways being the one that most affects us as cyclists. The political make-up of the council means that not a single councillor representing Cambridge city gets to take part in the transport decisions that affect the city, a scandalous position in my view.

‘Transport infrastructure constraints mean that commuters have unreasonably lengthy, unreliable and congested journeys that reduce the attractiveness and reliability of doing business in the area’

from County Council proposal

A Greater Cambridge wouldn’t be an elected body controlling the more focussed area. It would involve the three councils – perhaps in the way Cambridgeshire Horizons did in the planning field until it was closed – but is intended to include greater involvement for stakeholders, though it doesn’t look as though groups like ours can volunteer to be stakeholders! The University of Cambridge, and the Local Enterprise Partnership seem to be the two key non-council bodies identified.

The focus is economic. For people who are concerned about development, that may be a problem. However, cycling is already a massive contributor to reducing congestion in Cambridge and is at levels which are way more than a token that they are in so many places. Further development of cycling in Cambridge and its immediate area has a huge potential to unlock economic benefits. This new structure could help cycling and Cambridge to their mutual benefit.

A board would be established, the Greater Cambridge Economy and Transport Board, to which various powers would be devolved. Ironically, having just abolished the transport area committee which allowed for some joint decision making, these are cited in the bid as evidence for how the councils can work together in this new body. Maybe we’ll end up with more joint decision making than before.

You can read the proposal agreed by the County Council cabinet in December at – see the Appendix in particular.

David Earl