04Policy priority for central government – End the unique ‘triple tier’

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is in the unique situation of a having a metro mayor operating across a two-tier county area. All other metro mayors sit above unitary authorities. Voters in Cambridgeshire therefore have three sets of elections, for three bodies, with overlapping economic powers, each with their own plans.

This institutional framework creates bottlenecks and problems through duplication of responsibilities, and makes it harder to establish a local consensus around policy initiatives. Transport policy is a good example. Cambridgeshire County Council has disagreed with districts over plans for congestion charging in Cambridge city centre despite the support of the districts. Districts can meanwhile close streets and increase parking charges. The mayor and the combined authority add another element in transport policy, particularly around the proposed Cambridgeshire Metro. Progress is still made, but more slowly and expensively.

The mayor should work with councils and the Government to solve this problem. Resources from eight separate authorities of four kinds with conflicting powers, mandates and incentives should be reorganised, and this would bring greater focus, unlock more public resources and improve coordination, as Centre for Cities has argued.19