Growth ambition for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough must be matched by decisive action

Independent Commission stresses national importance of inclusive growth agenda in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

Cambridge UK: Friday 14th September 2018 08:00: The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) has today published its final report[1].

This report evidences the significant contribution Cambridgeshire and Peterborough already makes to the UK economy.  The continued success of the region is of national importance – it will be one of the key centres of the national Industrial Strategy; can attract investment and jobs that may otherwise be lost to the UK entirely; and offers significant returns from increased levels of productivity. 

However, to ensure this prosperous future, a number of risks and challenges need to be overcome.  Local authorities need the powers and funding to address accumulated infrastructure and housing deficits, and to plan appropriately for future growth.  Companies need to boost their efficiency and pay more attention to the health and well-being of their workforce.  Recent high employment growth – which our data suggests could be as much as 3.3% per annum – will prove unsustainable, unless these changes are made.

The report identifies three distinct economies – the Greater Cambridge area, Peterborough and the fens – and highlights the need for policies and delivery arrangements to be tailored to meet the needs of each, while developing mutual strengths. The Mayor’s Devolution Deal with Government included a target to increase economic output by nearly 100% in the next 25 years, from £22bn to £40bn.  The report highlights the actions needed to achieve this and secure a productive, equitable and prosperous future for the region.

The Commission calls upon central government, the Combined Authority, local authorities and businesses to accept and implement its recommendations and believes this area could become an exemplar of devolution for the UK.

The recommendations include:

  • Infrastructure: Rising costs from an infrastructure deficit that has built up over time threaten the ongoing success of the Cambridge Phenomenon, which represents 67% of the region’s output. Infrastructure issues are most urgent in and around Cambridge and must be dealt with as a first priority if the Gross Value Added (GVA) target is to be reached. Additionally, upgrades across the region are to deepen links between the three economies – rail upgrades, and the full dualling of the A10 and A47, are likely to be especially important here. The report recommends that a range of sources of income for financing infrastructure, including land value capture, should be brought together in an investment fund to leverage private sector investment.
  • Housing: The supply of new housing should be increased, at a minimum to make up for an accumulated backlog.  To expedite this, higher delivery rates which may need to be up to twice the current level will be required to allow sustainable high-pace growth, using a spatial strategy which allows growth to draw from the economic strengths of the cities, while improving transport links. This would see current housing targets rise from around 4,700 to somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 per year. Natural capital in the area must also be enhanced and new developments should be designed to improve existing communities and enhance quality of life for all.
  • Productivity-driven growth: Brexit and other demographic factors threaten the availability of labour at all skills levels. It is essential that local businesses work to improve productivity alongside innovation as an engine of growth. Companies can address productivity in part through working to improve their employees’ skills and health, and deepening networks across the area could spur innovation.
  • Skills: To better respond to local needs across the three economies, full devolution of skills funding needs to be brought forward at the earliest opportunity.
  • Health: Health and well-being was found to be a serious issue in many places, with a real knock-on effect for productivity. The report recommends establishing an Opportunity Area for Health in the north of the region to address this.
  • Market Town Masterplans: These must tie into a Local Industrial Strategy, with companies in these areas being better integrated into the supply chains of Cambridge’s high value businesses. It is estimated around a quarter of the region’s population live in market towns and their vitality will be critical if the region is to meet the goal of doubling GVA.

Dame Kate Barker, Chair of the CPIEC commented: “This area has been growing significantly – faster we believe than official figures indicate.  But to continue this robust growth, both from homegrown businesses and from attracting international firms, major improvements in infrastructure and increased provision of housing of all types will be required.” She continues “We believe that the Combined Authority and local authorities need to work together to build the strong case for more powers and funding to be devolved to the local level, in order to improve the economy while improving the quality of life right across the area.”

The Commission also noted in the review that any Brexit deal should ensure the greatest possible ease for those workers needed for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s businesses and public services.  In addition, facilitating trade in goods and services is a high priority.

The priority now is to ensure that the report’s 14 key recommendations and further 13 subsidiary recommendations are taken forward – by the Combined Authority (and constituent councils), by businesses, and by central Government.  The CPIEC will continue to engage as required to ensure Cambridgeshire and Peterborough can fulfil its vision to be the leading place in the world to live, learn and work.


[1] The  Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Commission (CPIEC),  was established by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) in June 2017, to provide a robust and independent assessment of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy and its potential for growth.