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First two-tier area agrees to elected mayor

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There will be a directly elected mayor overseeing a two-tier area after all of the councils in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough voted in favour of the region’s devolution deal.

Cambridge City Council was the last to vote on the issue last night after Cambridgeshire CC had approved it earlier in the day, overcoming a division within the council that saw 37 members vote in favour and 26 vote against.

It is the first area where all of the two-tier authorities have signed up to become full constituent members of a mayoral combined authority. 

The approval of all seven councils involved in the deal will now set in train a process whereby the government will lay legislation in parliament to officially form the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and allow for a mayoral election to take place in May.

This is in stark contrast to Norfolk and Suffolk and Greater Lincolnshire, the only other two-tier areas to so far agree provisional devolution deals with the government. Both of these have collapsed in recent weeks after some councils voted against proceeding andcommunities secretary Sajid Javid withdrew the offer.

As with the West of England devolution deal, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayoral term will now run for four years – it had originally been proposed to run for three years before moving to a four year cycle. All of the other combined authorities across the country with mayoral deals will have an election next year and another in 2020.

One of the unique elements of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s devolution deal is a £70m pot of funding which has been ring-fenced for use to build about 500 new council homes in Cambridge city over five years. About £10m has been set aside to replace any of the homes which are subsequently sold through the right-to-buy scheme.

A further £100m for affordable housing to be built across the region over five years is also included in the deal. The combined authority will be able to mix the type of tenures including affordable rented and low cost home ownership. Cambridge City Council said in a statement that “a substantial proportion of this funding” would be set aside for homes on the outskirts of Cambridge and were “likely” to be built by housing associations.

Cambridge City Council’s leader Lewis Herbert (Lab) said: “Devolution will bring real benefits for Cambridge residents and the most important of these is funding for affordable housing for rent.

“At least 500 new council homes will be built in Cambridge plus hundreds of additional housing association rental homes for the Greater Cambridge area, helping us to address the local housing affordability crisis.”

The region will also get an investment fund worth up to £600m over 30 years and more control over skills and apprenticeship budgets.

By signing up to the devolution deal Cllr Herbert said the region now had “a real opportunity to work together to press for more devolution from government” in the future.

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