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Cambridgeshire Mayor asks Chancellor for investment in Haverhill to St Neots transport network

From left: Lucy Frazer MP, Sir Henry Bellingham MP, Jo Churchill MP, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Chloe Smith MP, Steve Barclay MP, George Freeman MP, Mayor James Palmer and Elizabeth Truss MP.(4217021)
From left: Lucy Frazer MP, Sir Henry Bellingham MP, Jo Churchill MP, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Chloe Smith MP, Steve Barclay MP, George Freeman MP, Mayor James Palmer and Elizabeth Truss MP.(4217021)

The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has sent a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for investment in the £2.5bn metro and light rail network that would link Haverhill to Cambridge and beyond.

In his letter to Philip Hammond, James Palmer highlights not just the St Neots to Haverhill (via Cambridge) light rail and metro system, but 19 other key transport infrastructure projects that he would like to see funded.

Mayor Palmer said: "The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy alone contributes a net £5 billion to the Treasury annually, yet East Anglia doesn’t get its fair share of transport infrastructure funding in return.

The submission to the Treasury is about this region coming together with a single, powerful voice and asking for a little bit more back from the significant amount we put in.

“The Government will spend an estimated £56 billion on HS2.

"If East Anglia was given just a tenth of that sort of funding, the road and rail projects it would deliver would absolutely transform our economy and improve lives for so many.

"Not only that, but our strong economy means the Treasury would be repaid its investment many times over in tax receipts in the long run.

“We have recently received the final report of a hugely detailed and in-depth study of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy, which highlights its exceptional growth and innovation, but also the very real risks to that growth in the future.

"Transport infrastructure features heavily among those risks, where if we don’t invest in projects like the A10, the A47 and progressing with a metro for Greater Cambridge and the wider area, the economy will suffer. This is not just an issue for us locally, but should be of concern to national Government as well.

“It is also important to recognise that transport networks and economies across all of East Anglia are heavily interconnected and do not stop at county borders.

"Upgrading the notorious rail bottleneck at Ely, for example, will not just benefit Cambridgeshire, but will also unlock more services, with greater capacity, across Norfolk, Suffolk and beyond.

"If we make the argument to government about these wider benefits, I think it makes the case for such upgrades much more powerful.”

“Myself and MPs across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire recognise that together we are stronger and for all the talk of a Northern Powerhouse and a Midlands Engine, the East is very much an economic force that the Government needs to recognise more.

"We have had some very productive meetings with the Treasury in recent months and we look forward to working with them further to ensure East Anglia reaches its potential as a vibrant and dynamic part of the UK economy."

The request has the support ofMPs across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and following several meetings at the Treasury, ahead of the Chancellor’s final preparations for his Autumn Budget.

The submission states that the projects will improve the economy and unlock jobs and housing growth.

It does not expect the Government to fund every project in full, but is about requesting a fairer share of funding that would help deliver the schemes.

The letter describes the “chronic underfunding” of East Anglia, where in 2017 public expenditure in the region was £8,155 per capita, less than the UK average of £9,159.

The lack of infrastructure investment, the letter says, has led to problems of an overheated property market in places like Greater Cambridge, as well as issues of congestion and slow housing growth in much of the region.

The letter from Mayor Palmer also calls for greater devolution of powers to help the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority deliver these projects.

This includes fiscal devolution – the ability to retain more of the taxes generated to finance such upgrades. Tax increment financing is one example.

Granting the Combined Authority the ability to raise infrastructure funding through land value capture and the power to create Mayoral Development Corporations to drive through big infrastructure schemes is also raised in the letter.

Greater devolution powers were recently supported in the East of England All Party Parliament Group’s own submission ahead of the Autumn Budget, stating it would help deliver the interventions needed to boost the economy.