by Bridget Smith on 25 November, 2017
Liberal Democrat Leaders have become extremely concerned over the past few weeks about the actions of the Mayor with regard to the Greater Cambridge and Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCPLEP) and the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP, was the City Deal). We have, today, written an open letter, reproduced below, to our MPs voicing our concerns and asking for their intervention.
My own experience of the GCPLEP, is that they got off to a slow start but are now proving to be effective, responsive and above all accessible to people like me who need their input to support my communities. I have been involved in the work they are doing in schools to promote apprenticeships and to link employers with young people and inform young people about the huge variety of employment opportunities. I am also quite involved in their grants programmes some of which are quite unique in their focus on rural business and surprisingly easy to access.
Currently the GCPLEP and the GCP are highly accessible to us and it is relatively easy for us to make contact with them to let them know what our views are and to get responses from them.
The reason I opposed the creation of the Mayoral role was that it created a further level of government and bureaucracy that was inevitably going to be remote from us and difficult to communicate with. There is also a worrying lack of scrutiny over the position and consequently a lack of accountability. The Mayor has enormous powers and it now looks as though he may even have power of veto over the GCP projects. You could argue that this might be a good thing but we potentially end up with no say at all over what he wants to foist on us.
My view is that this is a power grab by the Mayor wanting complete control over all the available big budgets. This is not happening elsewhere in the country where they have Mayors. In those places the Mayor is a facilitator bringing people together to work collaboratively in the best interests of their residents.
Open Letter to Heidi Allen and Daniel Zeichner
Dear Heidi and Daniel,
We wish to bring to your attention our grave concerns over the, now public, intention of the Mayor to subsume the GCGPLEP into the Combined Authority and also the potential risk that the same fate will befall the Greater Cambridge Partnership.
We are aware that the LEP is facing governance challenges, but our recent experience is also that it can be effective at delivering projects and most importantly that it is acting as a truly independent business led body.
Should, as seems very likely, our LEP be taken over by the CA then we shall be the only area in the country without an independent, budget-holding business led body with a remit to be flexible and responsive to the most local of needs. This will be a disaster for Greater Cambridgeshire and we shall be the poorer for it.
Even if the LEP survives in name, it is likely to be only an advisory body which will probably result in many of its key players giving up on it once it has no power and no money.
We are horrified by the sequence of obviously orchestrated events that have led to this situation. The political collusion is worthy of an episode in The House of Cards.
It may well be that there is no chance of saving the LEP, but as it seems likely that the Mayor also has his sights set on the only other big budget holder in your constituencies, namely the GCP, we hope that you may be able to exert some influence to stop the hostile takeover of that as well. Though the GCP has had its troubles we must focus on the fact that its money was allocated to solve specific issues and that it is for us, as the local elected representatives, to decide how it is spent. We have no confidence that concentrating all decision-making power in the hands of the Mayor will ensure that future growth and development is shaped in the interests of the residents that it affects.
Bridget Smith Leader South Cambs Lib Dem Group
Tim Bick Leader Cambridge City Lib Dem Group
Lucy Nethsingha Leader Cambridgeshire Lib Dem Group
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