Countdown begins as devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough looks increasingly likely - and we could have our own mayor

Cambridgeshire County Council devolution debate:

Cambridgeshire County Council devolution debate: - Credit: Archant

A devolution deal involving just Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is imminent and could be agreed in principle as early as Friday.

County council leader Steve Count said today he was waiting for confirmation that the Government has accepted a separate devolution arrangement for Norfolk and Suffolk.

However it remains likely that should the Government accept the revisions – that would include elected mayors for each area- they would still combine on major strategic issues.

Cllr Count admitted “timescales are tight” since Friday is the deadline if Government is to put in place the necessary legislation to enable the first elections for regional mayors to take place in 2017.

He said discussions with group leaders were continuing and there was a need “to interlock for a full picture. Until we match up it’s like an incomplete jigsaw puzzle”.

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The county leader said it had been a hectic time and there were other deadlines to follow but an agreement in principle soon would allow councils to begin a full period of consultation.

Cllr Count, also a Fenland district councillor, is expected to give his Tory minority group details on Thursday

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A consequence of the likely change could mean Cambridge City Council coming back into the devolution fold.

Cambridge City Council leader Lewis Herbert is still awaiting details but said devolution would be on his Labour group’s agenda tonight.

But he said today he was still uncertain about many aspects of the deal and was unable to predict his colleagues’ reaction to it.

“We only found out last Wednesday that the Government was going to listen to a Cambridgeshire/Peterborough deal,” he said. “It has not been physically possible to arrange a special group meeting to discuss it.”

Cllr Herbert said the geography of the new deal “is clearly what we have been seeking but much more is required. For example we want to discuss in detail the issue of affordable housing.”

He said Labour “operates in a random democracy where my colleagues will take a view”.

However he still felt a “sticking point” could be the issue of an elected mayor although he agreed “devolution does hold a lot of potential”.

Cllr Herbert said he had not heard from Cllr Count who he felt would be busy “carefully choreographing his plan to talk to other group leaders on the county council”. The Tories at Shire Hall do not have an overall majority and any agreement by the county council would need the support of at least one block of opposition councillors.

The Cambridge city leader was also critical of the “ridiculous time scales” being suggested for agreement on devolution.

He said when the original announcement was made there were then long periods of silence before it suddenly came back on the agenda last week.

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