At last Thursdays meeting of full council the Liberal Democrats have tabled a motion against the city council providing a £5million to the proposed £1.1 billion upgrade of the A14. Conservative councillor Shapour Meftah voted against this motion.
Shapour says “The Liberal Democrat motion states that the City Council will receive no increase in revenue from this important upgrade. Yet the motion itself admits that an upgrade A14 will help to grow the economy of the city. Inevitably this will increase the business rate take and benefit the council which is a large commercial property owner.”
“This is the only option on the table at the moment. If Jullian Huppert and his party hadn’t been implacably opposed to any upgrade it is highly likely that the upgrade would have been involved in the first trache of infrastructure investment. Okayed by the incoming coalition government. It reflects badly on the Lib Dems that they are trying to kill off this investment that is vital to the economic growth of Cambridge and the surrounding region.”
For a more detailed argument see bellow.
The key to this motion is the assumption that upgrading the A14 will not result in any financial benefit to Cambridge City Council. Therefore the request for a contribution should be rebuffed, potentially blocking the whole scheme.
The motion acknowledges that a full upgrade of the A14 will help grow the economy of the city. This WILL inevitably lead to the city getting more money from business rates. If you don’t believe me, talk to business, the univsersites and local residents. They KNOW that the A14 is limiting the growth of the Cambridge economy. It will help existing companies to grow, the retention of companies getting fed up with the A14 and it will help to attract new business. Let’s not forget that the council is a major commercial property owner, so will benefit.
Therefore I believe that point 2 is not true. Future funds WILL accrue to the City Council.
In addition, there are two major points that the motion completely ignores; the impact on the Alconbury Enterprize Zone and the Huntingon viaduct.
The A14 upgrade is a crucial part of making the Alconbury Enterprise Zone work. Success at Alconbury will feed back to the surrounding region. It is anticipated that there will be £180 million to spend across the LEP region – including Cambridge – to spend on infrastructure. In this light, a £5 million pledge represents a very sound investment.
The Huntingdon viaduct is a key part of the A14 locally. It is ageing and weak, and cannot be expected to take its current traffic load for much more than 20 years. It is therefore essential that the infrastructure is put in place to relieve this pinch point. Any policy that opposes a full upgrade to the A14 has to have a long term strategy for handling the Huntingdon viaduct – a point this motion completely ignores.
Neither the local contributions nor the proposed tolling are ideal, but we have to face the fact that the government’s coffers are empty. We have been talking about upgrading the A14 for a long time, and even before the current economic downturn central government balked at the cost of fixing the problem.
This is the best offer we are going to get. We either need to get behind it – and that means admitting that the upgrade will be beneficial to Cambridge – or live with the consequences of leaving things the way they are.