Former mayor James Palmer heads new Eastern Powerhouse

Home Secretary Priti Patel with former metro mayor James Palmer (right)

Home Secretary Priti Patel with former metro mayor James Palmer (right) and MP Paul Bristow in Peterborough. - Credit: Terry Harris

Former Metro Mayor James Palmer and his former adviser Charles Roberts have re-united with a campaign to promote the Eastern region.  

They are being supported in the formation of Eastern Powerhouse by ResPublica, that describes itself as an “independent non-partisan think tank”. 

Mr Palmer, defeated in last May’s election, is chair of Eastern Powerhouse and Mr Roberts is described as head of development. 

ResPublica is hosting the launch of Eastern Powerhouse on March 15 at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, London.  

Among those lined up to speak is Mr Palmer, Matt Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk, and Matt Windle, managing director of Lotus Cars.  

Matt Hancock at Hinchingbrooke Hospital today

MP Matt Hancock to address the launch meeting of Eastern Powerhouse. - Credit: Archant

The Eastern Powerhouse aims to do what has never been achieved in the East: to create a narrative for the whole region; a vision for the future prosperity of the people who live here.  

Mr Palmer says the Eastern Powerhouse is “not a public authority or a political organisation.  

Most Read

“We are not set up to deliver funding or government policy. Our aim is to promote the Eastern Region by raising its profile”.  

He said: “As a commonwealth of businesses and local councils, we will be supportive of sustainable business growth, and campaign for investment that shows return.  

“We will work across parties with MPs and members of the House of Lords to increase the influence of the East in parliament. 

“And we will aim to influence government policy. The East of England is home to innovators and entrepreneurs, great scientific and great business minds.” 

Mr Palmer, like Mr Roberts a former leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, added: “In agriculture, technology, and life science, as well as manufacturing and green energy, the East leads the way. 

Board of Eastern Powerhouse 

Board of Eastern Powerhouse - Credit: Eastern Powerhouse

Board of Eastern Powerhouse 

Board of Eastern Powerhouse - Credit: Eastern Powerhouse

“Governments have tended not to look East - voices elsewhere tend to be louder and with more political points to score.  

“Our aim is to redress the balance in favour of investment here.  

“Clearly it will take time to remedy the lack of attention over many decades, but it is important that we take our inspiration by looking at what has been successful elsewhere in the UK.  

Simon Somerville-Large with (right) Charles Roberts

Simon Somerville-Large, managing director and founder of Laragh Homes with (right) Charles Roberts, chair of the Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust. Mr Roberts is now part of the Eastern Powerhouse. - Credit: Laragh Homes

“There is no doubt the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine have had a significant effect on government policy in their areas.  

“The West has created its Western Gateway, whilst Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have devolved parliaments.  

“Until now, the East has looked on without a coherent voice and that simply has to change.” 

He said: The Eastern Powerhouse is business-led, it is democratic, and it will exert considerable influence in Westminster.


“We will promote the East as a region to do business, not only with government, but internationally too.  

“We are all aware of what an incredible place the East is to live, from the epic flat lands of the Fens to the incredible beaches and Broads of Norfolk, and the undulating hills of Suffolk and Essex.  

Home Secretary Priti Patel on a walkabout in Peterborough with James Palmer

Home Secretary Priti Patel on a walkabout in Peterborough with James Palmer - Credit: James Palmer

“To the naked eye, little may have appeared to change here over the many centuries since the Angles became the English. Yet the East is ready to take on the world. And the Eastern Powerhouse is here to do just that.” 

The Eastern Powerhouse says it plans to the leading voice of business and civic leadership across the East of England (Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Greater Peterborough, Lincolnshire, and North Essex). 

Its mission statement says: “It will platform the whole of the East as a single interconnected region, encompassing its coastal towns, rural villages, and world-class cities.  

“The aim will be to showcase the region’s untapped potential and unlock the many opportunities for growth, to convince businesses and government to invest in this burgeoning economic powerhouse.” 

It says the launch will be attended by business leaders, MPs, and policymakers “all united in a vision for unlocking the region's potential”. 

Charles Roberts, former council leader

Charles Roberts, former council leader and former special adviser to Mayor James Palmer. Now part of the Eastern Powerhouse. - Credit: John Elworthy

ResPublica describes itself as an independent non-partisan think tank based in Westminster “that seeks to establish a new economic, social and cultural settlement for the United Kingdom.  

“Our interventions in public policy and public debate have been decisive, and our ideas have been adopted by politicians of all parties”.