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Mayor Dr Nik Johnson’s statement ahead of the Combined Authority Board meeting on Wednesday 29th November


Mayor Dr Nik Johnson’s statement ahead of the Combined Authority Board meeting on Wednesday 29th November

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Mayor, Dr Nik Johnson’s statement ahead of the Combined Authority Board meeting on Wednesday 29th November.

At the meeting the Board will be asked to approve going out to consultation on the draft 2023-25 Corporate Plan Refresh, draft 2024-25 budget (including Mayoral Precept proposals) and the draft Medium Term Financial Plan 2024-25 to 2027-28.

“This Thursday, subject to Board-approval of the Draft 2024/25 Budget, the Combined Authority will begin a six-week public consultation on proposals that include £80m of new capital investment, and a huge leap forward in bus services region-wide.

“As a Board, as well as considering our revenue options for the years ahead, we will also look to agree an ambitious package of invaluable infrastructure projects across the region. For example, our draft budget contains a very welcome additional £3m for much-needed pedestrian safety measures at the A10’s BP Roundabout. That means we’d then have £6m available and would at last be able to do as resident-led campaigners have been calling for and make this junction safe for everyone. We’ve also managed to find the money needed to improve Whittlesea Railway Station – some may recall that these works had been budgeted for previously, but it turns out that money was reallocated at the tail-end of the previous administration, hence why nothing happened. Nevertheless, our proposals will mean the money is guaranteed, and as Mayor, I will do everything I can to ensure real and urgent progress is made.

“On that ‘huge-leap-forward’ for buses, last year, in another sign of the unsustainable pressures that public transport systems are under, the combined authority had to step in at very short notice and rescue 23 routes that the then bus operator felt no longer capable of running. Our choice was either see communities cut off from the rest of the region or find a way to invest in saving what for many is an essential public service. That’s why we introduced the £1 per month Mayoral Precept. As successful as this measure was, we’re still up against those pressures, and if anything, with inflation having wreaked havoc, they’ve gotten worse. At the same time, demand for better public transport continues to grow as people rightly want to be able to rely on buses, safe in the knowledge that they can build things like a working day, medical appointments, or the school-run around them.

“It’s no secret that public services up and down the country are under enormous financial pressure, and with cost-of-living crises affecting near enough every household, decisions about how to fund essential improvements cannot be taken lightly. For us here in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough it comes down to either leaving things as they are and watching a broken system fall apart or begin to build up our abilities to deliver the types of enhanced services that a huge majority of residents have made clear they support.

“My argument is that for less than 10p a day per average household the combined authority can invest £11m per year in our bus network, enabling more routes and more frequent services, serving far more people more conveniently than is currently the case. What’s more, this will accompany a huge reduction in the price of travel for everyone under the age of 25, with bus fares cut in half from £2 to £1.

“I believe that we can’t afford to do nothing. To me that’s not responsible government. As I see it, the collective benefits of a better bus network vastly outweigh the modest cost to households with quality public transport helping unclog our roads, clean up our air, and massively increase equal access to the wealth of social and economic opportunities that our region presents. I think that’s a price worth paying, and in the weeks ahead, as part of our extended consultation process, I’d like to hear from you, so do please have a look at what we’re proposing and let us know what YOU think.”