James Palmer: “The challenges as metro mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have been significant, but so have the opportunities”

We’ve invited each of the metro mayors to reflect on their time in office so far. Here, James Palmer writes about the first six months of his mayoralty  

James Palmer
James Palmer

Metro mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

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The last six months feels like a remarkable journey. It was a great honour being elected as the first directly elected Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in May and I’ve found it a fascinating role over the past six months. The challenges have been significant but so have the opportunities.

Since my election the Combined Authority has allocated significant funds to develop plans to progress my key campaign priorities. These will take time to come to fruition but I’m confident we can deliver. I’m also focused on the need to secure concrete wins in the short term to demonstrate to the often-sceptical public, the real value that the new Mayoral Combined Authority can bring.

I’ve been pleased with the positive dialogue I’ve had with the six other “metro mayors” (including Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London). I’ve seen a fair bit of all of them since my election but late last month all seven of us came together for the first time to discuss our priorities. Despite representing often very different areas and coming from different political parties it was eye opening how similar the challenges are that we all face. It was clear to me that there is great value in us all coming together and speaking with one voice when we can.

There was clear agreement when we all met that devolution needs to go further and faster. We are one of the most centralised democracies in the world and this desperately needs to change.

Though in general I’ve been pleased by the solid support I’ve received from Government, it’s also clear that parts of Whitehall are not fully on board. This needs to be challenged.

Assembling the new team at the Combined Authority has taken time and we’re still some way to being fully staffed. However, we have some great people in place and I’m increasingly confident about what we can achieve over the next three and a half years. The Mayoral Combined Authorities need to be about doing things differently. Their very creation demonstrates that there was something about the way we were being governed locally before that was falling short. That was certainly the case here in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

In the short term there is a challenge to fully define the new Combined Authority’s and the Mayor’s relationships with all local authorities across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as well as the Government. Once this is achieved, attention must turn to building on the devolution agreement that is already in place. We will only be successful in doing so if we can point to a real record of achievement under the current agreement.

Over the past six months the challenges have been many but the huge opportunities that devolution brings for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough makes it absolutely worth it.

 

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