CPIER report spells out priorities for Greater Cambridge economy

A major report has laid out a host recommendations to help ensure the Greater Cambridge region continues to grow

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) published its final report today.

Commissioned last year by the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority, the authors of the report have been gathering data and information from businesses in the region.

Its findings show the region will be one of the key centres of the national Industrial Strategy; can attract investment and jobs that may otherwise be lost to the UK entirely; and offers significant returns from increased levels of productivity.

However, to ensure this prosperous future, a number of risks and challenges need to be overcome, the report says. It believes local authorities need powers to address housing and infrastructure challenges, and calls for companies to boost their efficiency and pay more attention to the health and well-being of their workforce, and adds that recent high employment growth will prove unsustainable unless these changes are made.

Recommendations include:

  • Infrastructure: Rising costs from an infrastructure deficit that has built up over time threaten the ongoing success of the Cambridge Phenomenon, which represents 67 per cent of the region’s output. Infrastructure issues are most urgent in and around Cambridge and must be dealt with as a first priority if the Gross Value Added (GVA) target is to be reached. Additionally, upgrades across the region are to deepen links between the three economies – rail upgrades, and the full dualling of the A10 and A47, are likely to be especially important here. The report recommends that a range of sources of income for financing infrastructure, including land value capture, should be brought together in an investment fund to leverage private sector investment.
  • Housing: The supply of new housing should be increased, at a minimum to make up for an accumulated backlog.  To expedite this, higher delivery rates which may need to be up to twice the current level will be required to allow sustainable high-pace growth, using a spatial strategy which allows growth to draw from the economic strengths of the cities, while improving transport links. This would see current housing targets rise from around 4,700 to somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 per year. Natural capital in the area must also be enhanced and new developments should be designed to improve existing communities and enhance quality of life for all.
  • Productivity-driven growth: Brexit and other demographic factors threaten the availability of labour at all skills levels. It is essential that local businesses work to improve productivity alongside innovation as an engine of growth. Companies can address productivity in part through working to improve their employees’ skills and health, and deepening networks across the area could spur innovation.
  • Skills: To better respond to local needs across the three economies, full devolution of skills funding needs to be brought forward at the earliest opportunity.
  • Health: Health and well-being was found to be a serious issue in many places, with a real knock-on effect for productivity. The report recommends establishing an Opportunity Area for Health in the north of the region to address this.
  • Market Town Masterplans: These must tie into a Local Industrial Strategy, with companies in these areas being better integrated into the supply chains of Cambridge’s high value businesses. It is estimated around a quarter of the region’s population live in market towns and their vitality will be critical if the region is to meet the goal of doubling GVA.

Dame Kate Barker is chair of the Cambridge and Peterborough Economic Commission (CPIEC), which put together the report, and said: “This area has been growing significantly – faster we believe than official figures indicate.  But to continue this robust growth, both from homegrown businesses and from attracting international firms, major improvements in infrastructure and increased provision of housing of all types will be required.

“We believe that the Combined Authority and local authorities need to work together to build the strong case for more powers and funding to be devolved to the local level, in order to improve the economy while improving the quality of life right across the area.”

The Commission also noted in the review that any Brexit deal should ensure the greatest possible ease for those workers needed for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s businesses and public services. In addition, facilitating trade in goods and services is a high priority.

CPIEC says the priority now is to ensure that the report’s 14 key recommendations and further 13 subsidiary recommendations are taken forward – by the Combined Authority (and constituent councils), by businesses, and by central Government.

To read the report, click here.