‘You’re pushing at an open door’ MP Steve Barclay tells Fenland Council as he urges them to apply for millions of pounds of Government cash available for the region
PUBLISHED: 17:19 02 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:24 02 February 2017
MP Steve Barclay tonight claimed the Government could not have made it clearer that there were millions of pounds of Government cash for Fenland – if the district council goes after it properly.
Mr Barclay said: “I have asked chief executive Paul Medd and other officers at Fenland District Council to publish their full list of pipeline projects for this Government funding now that the amounts available have been announced in Parliament.
“We can now work together to ensure our fair share from each section of the Growth Deal Third Round programme.”
The cash could come from the £37.62 million announced today by the Government for the Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough (LEP) area that includes an enterprise zone for the north of the county.
“The accompanying press note goes even further, adding to ‘the north in areas such as Fenland’. This signal could not be clearer to Fenland to bid for this enterprise zone and to link it to the Wisbech Rail project, on which I will provide a further update date next week.”
The MP said two previous enterprise zones for the area had gone to Huntingdon and Cambridge “so it is now third time lucky for a Fenland bid.
“The Government has clearly indicated its intention that the enterprise zone should be located in the north, and last time said its preference was for an enterprise zone in a rural area, so both now apply to Fenland which is even named checked.”
Mr Barclay said he met with both the Secretary of State for Local Government Sajid Javid, and the Local Government Minister Andrew Percy, who are responsible for allocating this money to LEP and told them of his concerns regarding the LEP’s “lack of funding to Fenland in the previous two rounds, governance and conflicts of interest issues.”
He said the £37.62 million awarded to Cambridgeshire today includes £7 million for strategic transport projects and two obvious schemes for consideration need to be progressing Wisbech Rail and dualling sections of the A47.
There was £6.4 million for skills which he felt bodies like the College of West Anglia should be central to delivering “as should Fenland businesses like Metalcraft who have such a strong record on apprenticeship training”.
A further £12.8 million has been announced for innovation and regeneration, with the aim of “spreading the benefit of the Cambridge Phenomenon” and expanding the agri-tech programme.
Mr Barclay said: “Again Fenland District Council should be pushing at an open door with the LEP as a key area for programmes within this part of the funding package, with businesses in March and Whittlesey capitalising on their existing rail connections to Cambridge if we are to spread this growth beyond Cambridge as the Government seeks.”
Mr Barclay added: “I have also previously highlighted how we have received just one agri-tech grant in four years, and that was linked to the Soham scheme by family connection, so the expansion of the agri-tech funding should also be fertile territory for Fenland businesses.
“Questions regarding the governance of the agri-tech sub-committee remain to be answered, so it is unclear whether our bids for this new funding will be hampered until these are clarified.”
He said today’s announcement also includes £8.72 million for housing; the Homes and Communities Agency has just seconded a very senior member of staff to work with the Wisbech 2020 initiative “so this part of the funding pot should be a key focus for Fenland bids”.
Mr Barclay said: “Tomorrow the LEP is holding a Question Time event in Huntingdon – it is hardly a surprising location for them to choose given the LEP seems to prioritise funding to this district.
“I hope many Fenland Councillors will attend this Question Time to get answers on why our district has received so little to date from the LEP, and how this will change with today’s third round of funding. This will also help inform any questions planned for a future Fenland District Council scrutiny hearing with the LEP (assuming this is planned to learn from the LEP’s responses on the two previous rounds so any mistakes are not repeated).”