Tackling homelessness across the city

There’s been much debate in the past week about the sharp rise in the number of people in housing difficulty in the city and the impact of this on our budget.

Peterborough is no different to other cities, but as one of the fastest growing cities in the country we are certainly at the sharp end.

The issue we have is that demand for social housing is far higher than supply and as a result we are having to place more people who require temporary accommodation in bed and breakfasts, and in extreme circumstances, budget hotels.

To put it into perspective, an average of 60 to 90 people per month came to us as homeless in 2012 – this rose to 150 in August.

Changes to the benefits system have had an impact on many families, in particular the changes to housing benefits which see people who are under-occupying their properties penalised.

The introduction of universal credit, which involves individuals being given their benefits directly, has led to fewer private landlords accepting people on housing benefits.

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Time to look at saving on energy bills now autumn is here

With the nights drawing in, Christmas cards appearing in the shops and Strictly Come Dancing returning to our screens it can only mean one thing – the weather is turning cooler and it’ll soon be time to think about putting the heating on (if you haven’t already!).

Cold weather adds pounds to energy bills and as a result many residents often delay putting their heating on for as long as possible.

If you’ve not done so already, then now might be a good time to think about whether you’re getting the best deal from your energy supplier.

We’ve recently hit the 5,000 milestone for the number of households that have switched to the council’s energy tariff – Peterborough Energy.

Formed by the city council and award winning national supplier OVO Energy, Peterborough Energy aims to save residents money by offering competitively priced and fair tariffs.

Collectively our 5,000 switchers have saved £1.3 million on their energy bills. I’m one of them – I switched last year and made an annual saving of £285.

The average saving for dual fuel customers who pay monthly is £248, so it’s definitely worth finding out whether you’re getting the best deal. There’s also a gas and electricity tariff available to city residents with pre-payment meters.

Peterborough Energy

If you decide to switch, it’s a really quick process. All you need to do is enter a few details for a quote and then you can complete the switch online or on the phone. Peterborough Energy will also liaise with your existing energy supplier so you don’t need to.

If you want to find out more visit the Peterborough Energy website or call 0800 408 6706 for pay monthly customers or 0800 408 6710 for Pay As You Go (PAYG).

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We must support and challenge schools following SATs results

It’s fair to say I’ve faced considerable criticism in the past couple of weeks about the performance of primary schools in this year’s SATs tests.

People who know me understand how passionately I care about providing children and young people with the best education possible, which is why the results came as a real blow.

I’ve listened to all the comments that have been made and what is clear is that people don’t fully understand the role that local authorities now have in providing education. Many of our schools run independently as academies and the government is placing more and more power in the hands of individual schools and taking power away from councils.

Our primary role is to support and challenge our schools through our improvement team. We do not teach pupils, nor do we govern schools. These are the facts.

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Rental licensing will improve lives

The past week has seen us reach an important milestone in our journey to improve the city’s private rental accommodation.

Under the new selective licensing scheme, landlords in certain areas of the city will need to have a licence to let out their properties. As of September 1, landlords can now apply online for the licence which needs to be in place by December 1.

Not only will licensing help us tackle rogue landlords in Peterborough, but it also supports property owners that are having difficulties with unscrupulous tenants.

More than a third of the city’s privately rented housing will be included in the scheme – that’s around 6,000 properties. Landlords who are members of an approved national body need only pay £50 for a five-year licence, while other non-accredited landlords pay £600 – which works out at £10 per month over the course of the scheme.

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Peterborough ready to welcome Syrian refugees

Earlier this year we committed to resettle 100 Syrian refugees over the next five years as part of the government’s scheme to resettle 20,000 people across the UK by 2020.

Five families made up of a total of 23 refugees will be coming to live in our city in the coming weeks – 13 of them will be children.

A number of residents told us they wanted to help welcome them to the city, so last week we published a list of items needed to help furnish the houses for the families. 

Peterborough has a proud history of welcoming those that need our help to the city and the response to the donation drive so far shows that this is still very much the case.

We’ve had offers of beds, children’s toys, vouchers for days out, pushchairs, clothes and much more.

Thank you to those that can, and have, supported the arrival of these refugees, all of which will have been living in camps after being forced to leave their homes for their own safety.

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