I had the privilege to chair last night a very productive and constructive debate about how we finance the vital A14 improvements needed to help our economy and reduce the terrible number of accidents on this road.
I don’t think I need to explain to anyone reading this blog why the A14 needs improvement and the benefits it would bring.
In fact I don’t even have to explain that to Government. They absolutely get it and want the A14 to be improved.
Even Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire that he supports and is committed to the expansion of the A14.
It was clear at the Summit that the Treasury and the Department for Transport representatives were willing us to succeed.
But they also made it very clear that the only way it was to succeed in this time of financial challenge was if authorities and partner organisations help fund it.
No one at that meeting was left in any doubt that if we don’t help with funding then the A14 improvements will not be coming. Government will fund the bulk of it, there will have to be some tolling for most of the rest and then a local contribution.
The summit involved Councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships that are affected, or rather blighted, by the A14. It was a mature debate about how we might come together to achieve this. I was very pleased that there was widespread support for the principle of local funding, looking at the whole of the A14.
Quite rightly some Councils asked for more information so they could make an informed choice and something I have pledged support to provide.
What concerned me today was the attitude of our over excitable Cambridge MP Julian Huppert. All I care about is Cambridge he told Chris Mann on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire – like a schoolboy stamping his foot. I don’t like tolling and if you do it, don’t do it in my backyard.
Let’s hope none of his residents have to drive on the A14 to get to work or find they don’t have a job because businesses won’t come…or worse have to suffer the loss of a loved one.
No one likes tolling, but Government is clear it is needed to help deliver this. What we have to make sure is that through traffic is encouraged by physical measures not to use the new local roads that will be created. Will an HGV driver really want to drive through the centre of Cambridge and pay the costs in time and money that would incur.
Julian claims he has been calling for improvements for the last ten years and like a petulant child blames the Tories. Forgetting he has been asking for the road to be tweaked while his own leader agrees with most people who have suffered on it that it needs more capacity. Not to mention his own Government are telling us in no uncertain terms that if local contributions don’t come forward no scheme will be delivered.
I could point out that this is a Government managed road and it has been the County Council that has constantly pushed for this to be upgraded. Indeed in the last 20 months I have been leader the A14 improvements have been moved from on the scrap heap to a reality that is within reach.
But like the Summit, this is about a mature debate. I have been really impressed with the attitude of all the Councils that were there.
The A14 improvements are far too important to be bogged down in childish politics. I look forward to taking the good work started at this summit further with colleagues across the eastern region for the good of us all.
Its all very well saying local authorities must pay Nick, but what about the local economies either end of the A14 who will gain the most economically from the upgrade. Also what other councils in England are being asked to fund major roadwork’s in the National Roads Programme?
The authorities either end are contributing including Norfolk, Suffolk and Northamptonshire. To the North Fenland are on board as is Essex to the south. The LEP will be a contributor.
This is a new model of funding which is being looked at as a way forward for other road schemes. I would prefer not to have to contribute locally but if the choice is no upgrade its a no brainier.
There is some logic to it. The upgrade will provide additional land value, increase receipts from CIL, the new homes bonus and s106 agreements. So those that benefit need to chip in.