Combined Authority Mayor and Business Board Chair respond to mini-budget
CAMBRIDGESHIRE & Peterborough Combined Authority Mayor, Dr Nik Johnson, and Business Board Chair, Alex Plant respond to the Government’s mini-budget announced on 23rd September 2022.
Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Mayor, Dr Nik Johnson said:
“This was a budget that was all about kickstarting growth, by any means necessary and not much else. Residents and businesses in our region have been clear, we are in the midst of a cost of living and cost of doing business crisis. I had hoped to see a package of policies that stimulated sustainable growth around all of our regions.
“Businesses are telling me that accessing the right people with the right skills is a barrier to growth. I would like to see skills budgets fully devolved to the Combined Authority and for those budgets to receive a boost. The Combined Authority can then tailor provision to meet the specific needs of local employers.
“We also need well-funded and effective infrastructure to enable our businesses to access the right people with the right skills. Those people need to be healthy, able to travel to work with ease and have access to quality social care when it is needed. Sadly, this mini-budget did not include policies to support these needs. Cambridge South Station has been included in the Government’s list of priority transport projects, but this will be little comfort to the residents living north of Cambridge in our region.”
Business Board Chair, Alex Plant, said:
“This has been a not-so-mini budget, and it is clear that the focus from Government is on economic growth.
“As our area is a science superpower, and one the few net contributors to the Treasury, I am keen to see how the measures announced on Friday can help us to maximise our sustainable, economic growth potential and enhance quality of life. There has been much talk around the proposed Investment Zones and I am interested to see the detail around them and whether this can help to deliver those aims.
“I was pleased to see the Government’s announcement, last week, to subsidise the unit costs of electricity and gas for businesses for the next six months. This will make a big difference to those that have been looking at a difficult winter. However, I do want to caution that businesses have already been receiving elevated bills since April and Government must be careful to not push them to an energy cliff-edge in six months’ time.
“A commitment from Government to review the framework in which major transport and infrastructure projects are delivered is welcome. We need well-funded and effective infrastructure to enable businesses to access the right people with the right skills, particularly for an area of high growth like ours.
“I was also pleased to see that Cambridge South Station and East West Rail (although it is not specified which section) are included within the Government’s accelerated infrastructure priorities. If these and other infrastructure enhancements can be delivered, then there is the potential to unlock rapid economic growth along the Oxford Cambridge Arc and east from Cambridge to Ipswich and Norwich.
“As Chair of the Business Board, I have written to the Chancellor and other Ministers to set out our ambitions for the region. We have listed four priorities where we proposed to work with Government: Rail infrastructure, skills, fiscal devolution, and the Future Fens programme. I look forward to taking these priorities forward over the coming weeks and months.
“Businesses have been clear that our fiscal policy needed to change in response to external factors such as the impact of the pandemic, the climate crisis, Russia’s war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis. This mini-budget certainly represents a major change, whether it will help to drive growth in our economy remains to be seen.”