MP Steve Barclay calls for Fenland Council to get legal advice on whether they can axe controversial £800,000 contribution to A14 upgrade
PUBLISHED: 23:15 15 March 2017
MP Steve Barclay wants Fenland District Council to take legal advice with a view to axing £800,000 promised in 2014 to help pay for upgrading the A14.
The NE Cambs MP believes it would fire a warning shot across the bows of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership for allegedly snubbing or delaying investment in Fenland.
The controversial proposal was steered through by the then leader Alan Melton after Fenland Council was told it wasn’t expected to contribute to the estimated £15 million cost of a new bridge at Kings Dyke, Whittlesey.
But Mr Barclay is fuming with the LEP over a mountain of issues ranging from conflicts of interest to Fenland allegedly being the poor relation of funding decisions.
He wants council officials to look at whether the £800,000 agreed towards the cost of the A14 – to be paid from 2020 in instalments- is legally binding “and if not whether it would be appropriate or counter productive to cancel this payment.
“Councillors supported this allocation on the basis that the LEP said it would help accelerate the deliver of Kings Dyke cross. Yet three years later just £160,000 out of the £8 million has been spent by the LEP.”
The MP said: “This is part of a pattern of funding for Fenland being delayed, suggesting a lack of urgency from the LEP.”
He also believes Whittlesey is not getting a fair deal over plans for a visitor centre celebrating – among other things- the major archaeological discovery from the Bronze Age at Must Farm.
“Whilst the LEP plan to spend £7 million on a scheme linked to this discovery, Whittlesey town councillors say no commitment has been made for any of this funding to be spent in either Whittlesey specifically or Fenland more generally,” said Mr Barclay.
A site at Flag Fen for a visitor centre was being proposed by Vivacity – a Peterborough arts and culture charity- with funding from English Heritage and the Lottery yet Whittlesey has effectively been snubbed.
“No part of this funding has been earmarked for Fenland according to the Whittlesey councillor leading this project within Fenland,” he said. “It would be helpful if the LEP would clarify what funding they intend to allocate for firstly Whittlesey and second Fenland as a whole from this £7 million.”
The Kings Dyke crossing has been beset with land acquisition issues but the county council said last month it was on track to go out to tender this month.
The LEP – handed Mr Barclay’s allegations as part of a 24 page report sent to the National Audit Office - said they were compliant with all Government policies and legislative requirements.
A spokesman said: “We would be happy to answer any further questions the National Audit Office or Government may have regarding the matters raised.”
Earlier this week Rod Cantrill, the Lib Dem candidate to become the county’s first elected mayor, called for the LEP chairman Mark Reeve to step aside from involvement in devolution pending an inquiry.