Mayor calls for corporation tax cut as conference debates economic prospects for Cambridgeshire and challenges of Brexit

PUBLISHED: 15:32 05 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:32 05 January 2018

 Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Economic Growth Conference

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Economic Growth Conference

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Mayor James Palmer has called for Corporation Tax to be slashed to 10 per cent to enable Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to attract investment.

 Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Economic Growth Conference Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Economic Growth Conference

“We need to cut corporation tax to 10 per cent to make us truly competitive; only then will we see companies setting up here in numbers,” he said.

In a keynote address to a Built Environment Networking conference in Cambridge he said he was “constantly challenging” the government to improve the delivery of infrastructure.

“We should be breaking down barriers to delivering housing and infrastructure more quickly. The Cambridge phenomenon has happened despite political interventions which have in general been negative, constricting development. We have to do our bit but government has to do its bit as well.”

Economist John Kovacs said that the city-region’s development plan target to double the size of the local economy over the next 20 years was not as ambitious as it should be.

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Economic Growth ConferenceCambridgeshire & Peterborough Economic Growth Conference

He also argued that the £600 million over 20 years offered to the combined authority under the devolution deal only amounted to £20 million per annum at today’s prices. To put this sum into context, he pointed out that it was not much more than the £16 million recently invested in creating a new railway station at North Ely.

“One year of funding on just one project is clearly not enough,” he said, adding that the £70 million earmarked in the Budget for affordable housing in Cambridge was also likely to be insufficient.

Heather Smith, chairman of the strategic transport forum of councils in England’s heartland region, said that the western section of the re-opened Oxford-Cambridge rail route was due to be completed by 2023. The route of the central section of the Oxford to Cambridge had not yet been finally defined and was unlikely to be delivered until the mid-2020s, she added.

Smith said that the final route for the Expressway road, linking the two university cities, was expected to be determined in 2019 following the publication of proposals next year.

 Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Economic Growth Conference Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Economic Growth Conference

The conference also heard that the combined authority is pulling together some of the area’s top economic brains in an economic commission to help inform growth plans.

Chief executive Martin Whiteley said that former Bank of England monetary policy committee member Kate Barker would chair the commission. He said it would assemble an evidence base about the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough economy.

He said: “They are providing that advice free from politics. It’s not about depoliticising decision-making but making sure we have objectively about advice so we can tackle things in the right order.”

Adam Poole, asset manager at British Land, warned that Cambridge must not be complacent about attracting investment.

“If it doesn’t happen in Cambridge there are plenty of other places wanting investment. If you are not making positive decisions you are going backwards,” he said.

Rachel Stopard, chief executive of the Greater Cambridge Partnership said that the nature of investment in the area meant that it could be lost to the UK if the city failed to capture it post-Brexit.

“If it’s not in this area, it may not be elsewhere in the UK but could be somewhere in Europe.”

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