The Cambridge and Peterborough Economic Growth Conference in Cambridge’s Guildhall last week was a first for Cratus. Cratus took on the role of official communications partner, working closely with the organisers – Built Environment Networking. It was a great opportunity for us to be seen and heard by some of the region’s key players from local government and business.
Mayor James Palmer reminded us all of the area’s economic significance. High regional growth of 6.5% and a reputation for technical excellence is piquing the interest of potential European investors, which will of course be critical post-Brexit. Politics, however, must be better at enabling businesses to secure the growth that everyone wanted. Mayor Palmer argued for corporation tax to be cut to 10% – a bold drop from the current 19%. Although how that might sit with sections of the public already unhappy with businesses seen as not paying their fair share of tax was not addressed.
The Mayor’s emphasis on delivering this growth through housing and infrastructure will be music to the ears of our clients. Forthcoming plans for an underground rail network and how that connects to housing growth in Cambridge were of particular interest.
The rest of the day’s discussions focused on what exactly would be required from politics, transport, housing and skills to secure the region’s future, led by some impressive speakers.
Devolution is a great opportunity for regions like Cambridge and Peterborough to take a broader, more strategic view of the area’s needs, to get the attention of central government, and to attract funding and boost the region. That was the view of Antoinette Jackson, the Chief Executive of Cambridge City Council and, having listened to Mayor Palmer that morning, it was hard to disagree. It was quite clear that this still-new layer of government will be crucial going forward as the UK looks to spread prosperity to all its regions.
Regions will, however, need to work together. Transport in particular demands joined-up thinking from local authorities, for example on how the Cambridge-Oxford-Milton Keynes corridor might serve as a piece of the jigsaw connecting East Anglia right through to the Welsh coast.
The housing session panel reached a broad consensus about the need to reduce the cost of building in Cambridge, in part by reducing the cost of land. This will be key to building more affordable homes for the 39% of Cambridge residents currently priced out of the local housing market.
With an enterprising mayor keen to attract investment and government funding, a ‘fundamentally strong’ economy (Adam Poole, British Land) and potentially transformative infrastructure plans in the pipeline, Cambridge and Peterborough is clearly an exciting regional business prospect.
All in all, this was a valuable day for the team and we would be delighted to discuss, with those of you unable to attend, the opportunities in the region and how best to engage with the key decision makers. [email protected] or 0208 629 7190.