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James Palmer and Nik Johnson show there is more to unite than divide them

Both believe Cambridgeshire has massive potential still to unlock for jobs and growth

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There is a certain irony in the fact that today James Palmer, the former Mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (CAPCA), chairs a debate entitled ‘This House believes that… Investing in Cambridge is the only way to have growth in the East’. Mr Palmer is in Cambridge – at the Hilton in Downing Street – where the annual conference of the organisation he chairs, the Eastern Powerhouse, is holding its annual conference.

Next week the man who succeeded him as Mayor, Dr Nik Johnson, is off to Leeds to head what CAPCA describes as a unified ‘Team Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’ approach to showcase the region at UKREiiF, the UK’s biggest trade and investment conference.

Both, in their separate ways, believe Cambridgeshire has massive potential still to unlock for jobs and growth, although Peterborough MP, Paul Bristow, has accused Mayor Johnson of putting Cambridge ahead of Peterborough.

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When CAPCA first announced their participation in the Leeds conference, Mr Bristow criticised Peterborough City Council for not sending its own, and separate, delegation.

“Everybody knows that we’ve got a mayor (Nik Johnson) that is focused on Cambridge, so it seems extraordinary that our council (Peterborough City Council) won’t be at this conference,” he tweeted.

“We need to be selling Peterborough and our potential. I would expect people from the council to be flying the flag for our city.”

Norfolk MPs Chloe Smith and George Freeman are among those attending the Eastern Powerhouse conference in Cambridge.

But the Eastern Powerhouse has also attracted to its conference Alan Whitehead, Labour MP for Southampton Test and Shadow Minister for Energy Security.

Chloe Smith, the MP for Norwich North, said: “We are already a big economy, but we can do more.”

Chloe Smith, the MP for Norwich North, said: “We are already a big economy, but we can do more.”

“We have committed to establish the Great British Energy, so we can invest in Green Energy, and this could have a big impact to the East of England, through the flow of funds in local authorities,” he said.

Ms Smith, the MP for Norwich North, said: “We are already a big economy, but we can do more.

“I share the Eastern Powerhouse’s vision of further growth; and this requires collaboration. We are set to maximise the region’s opportunities, and we need to do it all together.”

The conference theme is ‘Supercharging Growth’ in the East’ and the Eastern Powerhouse believes this is about “rising above the politics and focusing on generational growth for the region”.

CAPCA, meanwhile, is pinning its hopes on the money, and investment for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, coming through events such as UKREiiF.

UKREiiF, which runs May 21-23, gathers more than 12,000 delegates, 1,500 investors, hundreds of local authorities, Government ministers, shadow ministers and senior Westminster officials.

CAPCA says it is sponsoring an exhibition pavilion “to ensure good representation and amplify the interests of the region nationally and globally.

“The region’s significance to the UK economy – one of the few areas outside of London to make a net contribution to the Exchequer – means that its continued, sustainable growth is of national importance.

“The 2017 Devolution Deal which established the Combined Authority also set the challenge of doubling the size of the region’s economy by 2042”.

Alan Whitehead, Labour MP for Southampton Test and Shadow Minister for Energy Security

Alan Whitehead, Labour MP for Southampton Test and Shadow Minister for Energy Security

A CAPCA spokesperson, clearly alluding to the criticism by Mr Bristow, said it was their independent improvement board that supported the principle of working in partnership with constituent councils “to develop a ‘one-voice’ approach for advocating and influencing on behalf of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

“The Combined Authority, Business Board and representatives from local councils will showcase the region’s strengths and potential for investors, highlighting Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as an exceptional destination for living, working, learning, and investing.

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“That includes its status as a global hub for science and technology and with strengths in sectors like agri-tech, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and engineering, and digital and IT.

“The case for investing in underpinning infrastructure, including energy, water and transport will also be made”.

CAPCA’s pavilion will host a series of panels and discussions.

Topics include how to balance the growth of the Cambridge economy with the needs of the community, Levelling Up in action in Peterborough, the importance of agri-tech in future food security, and how to revitalise market towns.

Mayor Dr Nik Johnson said: “Our presence at UKREiiF is another sign of the Combined Authority’s continuing improvement – being more than the sum of the region’s parts to make the pitch nationally and globally for the investment our region needs to grow sustainably and ultimately improve everyone’s lives.”

Al Kingsley, chair of the Combined Authority Business Board, said: “We face a raft of global economic challenges and so it has never been a more important time to make the case for investing in the fantastic opportunities that exist in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”

The collective pitch has been developed in close collaboration with authorities in the region, and attendance at the event is part of the commitment to increasing investment, good jobs and prosperity across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The Combined Authority and partners will promote the region as one of the best places in the country to live, work and do business.

UKREiiF, which runs May 21-23, gathers more than 12,000 delegates, 1,500 investors, hundreds of local authorities, Government ministers, shadow ministers and senior Westminster officials

FACT FILE – THE EASTERN POWERHOUSE

The Eastern Powerhouse (EPH) describes itself an independent, business-led, membership body that represents the entire East of England.

Our goal is to drive economic growth, investment in skills, innovation, and transport to enhance productivity across the region.

By collaborating with the private sector, universities, colleges, local authorities, and political parties, the EPH serves as the unified voice of business leadership in the East of England.

Our core mission is to maximise the region’s assets and unlock growth opportunities for investment, achieving local, national, and global impact.

FACT FILE – UKREiiF

UKREiiF claims to have become “the must-attend event in the industry”

It says the sheer number of regional combined authorities, local councils, and government departments that attend UKREiiF every year – as well as the largest investors, developers, and end-users from across the UK (and internationally) – supports this statement.

Key players, influencers, and decision-makers within the investment and real estate markets are preparing to gather in Leeds.

Our mission statement: UKREiiF connects people, places, and businesses to accelerate and unlock sustainable, inclusive, and transformational investment.

It says the Leeds conference will feature

  • 12,000+ Event Attendees
  • 2,500+ Fringe Event Attendees
  • 800+ Speakers Across 30 Stages
  • 40+ Stages
  • 150 Exhibitors
  • 100+ Fringe Events
  • 250+ Local Authorities Attending
  • 1,500+ Investors Attending
  • 750+ Occupiers Attending
  • 500+ Developers Attending

 

James Palmer (left) opening today’s Eastern Powerhouse conference in Cambridge and (right) Mayor Dr Nik Johnson visiting Middle Level Commissioners ahead of a tour of the St German’s pumping station.

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