Impassioned pleas by two local councillors set out why East Anglia devolution could help Soham

Cambridgeshire County Council devolution debate:

Cambridgeshire County Council devolution debate: - Credit: Archant

Impassioned pleas by two county councillors on behalf of Soham featured in Tuesday’s devolution debate at Cambridgeshire County Councils.

Devolution for East Anglia rests on a knife’s edge after the council snubbed Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and told him his deal simply wasn’t good enough.

During a stormy two hour debate, Cambridgeshire councillors voted unanimously (64 for and one abstention) for further talks on a package they felt had been rushed through and without proper consultation.

Despite county council leader Steve Count having put his signature to the earlier agreement – interrupted by Mr Osborne as a more ringing endorsement than turned out to be the case- the deal, for now, is in the long grass.

Councillors at Shire Hall want a better, unspecified, deal for Cambridgeshire that is likely to include forensic examination of the post of mayor of the new authority.

Councillor James Palmer, though, said the debate was a disappointment and councillors should recognise it was only a discussion at this stage and the authority should look wider than Cambridgeshire.

He spoke of a housing market in Cambridge becoming over heated and “pathetic infrastructure and so on”.

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He said: “This council has not delivered. It’s taken 27 years to get a by pass for Ely”. On Soham station he said he had to “grind my teeth” simply to get the county council to draw up a plan for its re opening.

He said it was all well and good for people in Cambridge with easy access to public transport but not so in his district.

“I cannot understand the insularity of this council,” he said.

“Not everybody in this council relies on Cambridge –Cambridgeshire can be truly great but if we continue to ignore the periphery, continue to ignore Fenland then we will continue to have failures.”

He said: “The (devolution) deal is not perfect but the Government wants us to put our feet under the table and discuss; this is phase one

“If you are concerned about the people of Cambridgeshire you will vote for this motion and also encourage our leader to get his feet under the table.”

“There is a deal to be done here, make no mistake,” said Cllr Palmer.

Councillor Mike Rouse spoke of the hold up to getting Ely north junction improved and felt “this devolution deal might accelerate that because it might support development in Norwich.

“We want links through to Soham, links to Newmarket and beyond

“Then you have freight traffic right through Ely – there are massive implications for infrastructure

“If we develop the infrastructure we can develop the wealth and spread the prosperity throughout East Anglia.”