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Consultation shows support for devolution

Councillors have welcomed the outcome of a public consultation on proposals to devolve power and hundreds of millions of pounds of funding from Westminster to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

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The consultation was launched in July and finished in August. It included a proportionally representative Ipsos MORI phone poll of 2,280 residents as well as an online survey which 1,500 people completed, plus comments from business, community groups, parish councils and other organisations. 

The scale of the response has surpassed similar consultations in other devolution areas.

In addition the Ipsos MORI poll results have a 95% confidence level.

Government has asked areas across the UK to take advantage of new devolution deals but have stated in order to get the benefits, the Combined Authority must have a directly elected mayor.

Results from the consultation show that the majority of people support devolving powers from Government. This is especially true for putting decisions over areas such as transport, jobs, housing and skills into the hands of local people.

There was strong support for the proposed devolution deal and an elected Mayor in the MORI poll, where more than twice the number of people supported a Mayor than opposed one. 

Equally the business community has voiced strong and clear support for devolution and for a mayor.

However, those who responded via the online poll were less convinced about an elected Mayor, and there were concerns about the potential for the proposals to create additional bureaucracy.  

Each of the eight Cambridgeshire and Peterborough partner organisations will be meeting in late October and early November to decide whether they should press ahead with the proposal.

Fenland District Council leader Cllr John Clark said: "I'd like to thank everyone in Fenland who responded to the consultation. We realise that they make up only a comparatively small sample of the population and that some concerns remain, particularly about a new mayor. At the same time, we believe that the proposed devolution deal has the potential to bring considerable benefits to the whole of this area. All these factors will be taken fully into account when we debate the proposal again at our full council meeting on November 3."

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Steve Count also thanked all those who took part. Speaking as Chairman of the partnership, on behalf of all Council leaders in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and the Chair of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, he said: "We are very pleased to see so many people taking the time to give us their views and the clear support they have shown for the concept of more decisions being made by local and not national government.

"The leaders of the partner organisations who are part of this proposal believe this is a good deal and will bring much needed infrastructure and housing to the local area. We will all be reporting the results to our council and board meetings and encouraging them to press ahead with devolution. 

"We have also heard the concerns and reservations some people have expressed about additional bureaucracy and an elected Mayor.  If the councils and the Enterprise Partnership agree to support the proposals, we are all very clear that we will also need to implement the new arrangements alongside other public sector reforms and with the minimum of bureaucracy."

The consultation showed that around 63 per cent of people surveyed as part of the MORI poll had heard of devolution in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

The Ipsos Mori poll, which has a 95% level of confidence that the views expressed represent those of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough population, found:

●     Support for the principle of devolution - 55% for and 15% opposed

●     Should powers be devolved from Government to District, City and County Councils as part of a Combined Authority - 61% for and 15% opposed

●     Support for a mayor as part of a combined authority to access the benefits of the proposed deal - 57% for and 25% opposed

The online poll which was self selecting and invited people to have their say found:

●     Support for the principle of devolution - 55% for and 37% opposed

●     Should powers be devolved from Government to District, City and County Councils as part of a Combined Authority - 44% for and 47% opposed

●     Support for a mayor as part of a combined authority to access the benefits of the proposed deal - 31% for and 59% opposed

Business and stakeholders gave clear support for devolution, a combined authority to access the deal and an elected mayor.

The community was also asked a series of questions around governance, and also about whether they backed certain powers and funding being decided locally around transport, housing, jobs and skills. It was clear from the results in all surveys that residents supported decisions being made locally.

A report on the consultation has been sent to the Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, so that the Government can see the level of local support for the proposals. The full report to Government and other background information on the devolution deal can be found at http://www.fenland.gov.uk/devolution and at http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/devolution

Article added September 7, 2016