A recent press article in the Cambridge Evening News has quoted East Cambs District Council Tory Leader James Palmer as suggesting that the district would be better to join with Norfolk and Suffolk than the rest of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. This strange comment follows the council being the first and only council in the county to back the Government’s plans for devolution to East Anglia.
There is much that could be said about this mistaken approach but four issues stand out:
- Ely and the surrounding villages are linked increasingly by employment to Cambridge. Over the next few years Ely and nearby villages will increasingly be home to people who commute to Cambridge and London. This is less clear cut in the south of the district.
- Solving some of the increasing transport issues around Ely centre on links with Cambridge and need solutions integrated with those of ‘Greater Cambridge’. The Ely Southern bypass and Soham station will not make a significant impact on issues from a growth in commuting.
- Councillors in Ely and the villages in the Northern area of East Cambs need to consider whether their policy on devolution is in effect based on the interests of the South of the district at the expense of the North. Are Sutton, Ely or Haddenham really going to benefit more from a link with Norfolk and Suffolk rathe than a Cambridgeshire wide approach?
- Finally, a practical point – most councilors across the three counties have taken a more cautious view, recognising that whilst devolution might be desirable that the Government offer was flawed - underfunded and dependent on the creation of an Eastern Mayor. They recognise that the deal can be improved. East Cambs’ approach to the negotiation – just say ‘yes please’ is a basic error of judgment.