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Targets set out for Cambridge-Peterborough mayor to address region’s ‘unique challenges’

Cambridge and Peterborough’s new metro mayor must focus on introducing a congestion charge, addressing low skill levels and developing a housing and business needs plan when they take office in May, a new report by Centre for Cities has said.

The analysis from the think tank described one “quick policy win” that would set the tone for the incoming mayor’s time in the role before they turned their eye to two long-term strategic priorities for the city-region.

The report follows news earlier this month that an £800m devolution deal to the region had been approved by DCLG, leading the way for the soon to be established Combined Authority to grow into an economic power engine for the region, spearheaded by a mayor who residents will vote for on 4 May.

This deal made Cambridge and Peterborough a significant region as it became the first non-metropolitan area in the country to receive a devolution deal.

Andrew Carter, deputy chief executive of Centre for Cities, said that the mayor faced “unique challenges,” when they took office, including addressing Cambridge and Peterborough’s specific issues as well as preparing the region’s economy for the UK’s exit from the EU.

The first “quick win” policy was found to be funding improvement to public transport and addressing Cambridge’s traffic problem by introducing a congestion charge in the city.

“Introducing a congestion charge would help to manage traffic in the city more effectively, and would also generate revenue which can be used to improve public transport in both Cambridge and other parts of the region,” Carter explained. “For example, increasing bus links to less well connected rural places, and investing in better cycle networks.

“This would not only cut down on traffic, it would give people across the region better access to jobs and opportunities in the city.”

One of the longer-term priorities that were identified as crucial was developing a spatial plan to meet housing and commercial needs. Carter commented: “Cambridge is one of the least affordable cities in the UK and has an acute shortage of housing, and so the mayor should use the new devolved housing fund to support more homes being built in the city.

“In contrast, the big challenge for Peterborough is attracting more high-skilled businesses and jobs, and so the new mayor should invest in making the city centre more attractive to firms – for example, by improving office space, transport links and public space.”

Finally, addressing Peterborough’s low skill levels was highlighted as a challenge for the mayor and the council.

Carter cited the figures that fewer than half of pupils in Peterborough currently get five good GCSEs, which is one of the lowest rates in the country – whilst the city was home to a relatively small share of residents educated to degree level.

“The mayor should work with the area’s new Education Commissioner to improve educational attainment in the city’s schools, especially in Maths and English,” Carter urged the incoming mayor.

“They should also invest in training for people already in work in the city, with a particular focus on improving numeracy and literacy skills. This will be vital in giving young people in the city the best possible career prospects, and in attracting better paid jobs to the area.”

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