Say no to cuts and protect services

This week I launched a campaign which calls for fairer funding from the government and crucially for the support of as many people as possible in getting our voice heard.

The campaign asks everyone in the city – residents, businesses, council staff, community groups and organisations – to do something very simple, Stand Up For Peterborough and Protect Our Vital Services.

The time has come for us all to take a stand, a united stand, regardless of our political allegiance. I owe it to the people of Peterborough to lobby government and I would be failing in my duty as leader if I did not.

We are having to do more and more with less and less money from the government and I believe Peterborough no longer receives a fair funding deal and our residents are being short-changed.

For our voice to be heard, and for this to be reflected in our government funding, I need the support of as many of you as possible.

It is so important for us to join together in a campaign such as this, so I was pleased to see council staff, residents, people representing charities, businesses and community groups, the Mayor, Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya and representatives of most of the political groups on the council attend the launch event outside the Town Hall on Monday. It’s fantastic to get this kind of cross-party support on an issue and the fact we have shows how severe the situation has become in all our minds.

Stand Up For Peterborough Campaign Launch

I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in our city in recent times, but we cannot continue to see our government funding fall at such an alarming rate and continue to provide the same level of services that we currently do for our residents. Our government grant, the Revenue Support Grant, will have reduced by 80 per cent over seven years by 2019/20 with no regard for our huge population growth and the unprecedented increase in demand for our services.

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The battle to balance the budget

Last week the council published the first phase of proposals which sets out how we’ll look to deliver a balanced budget over the next three financial years.

These plans, which are now out for public consultation, begin to close a gap in our budget which will reach £39.7million by 2020/21.

I’ve written a lot about our growing financial challenges in recent weeks. Especially about how our government funding will have been cut by 80 per cent between 2013/14 and 2019/20 at a time when demand on our services, and therefore costs, are increasing at an unprecedented rate.

The biggest emerging pressure in recent years has been the dramatic rise in homelessness which has been made worse by government policies around benefits and tax changes to private landlords.

We’ve heard recently that one in every 189 people in Peterborough is homeless and the city is ranked 46th in the country for the number of people in temporary accommodation. What is shocking is that in some places in the country it’s now one in 25 people.

Even though we’ve already seen a rise in homelessness of 200 per cent in two years, we expect this to increase further, and therefore as part of the budget we have proposed to spend an additional £10million over the next three years to help those households that need our support.

We are also developing a pipeline of potential accommodation to be used either as temporary or permanent housing. This week we announced plans to convert a former office building in Bretton into at least 40 flats. We’re also looking to purchase homes in the city to house homeless families.

A few people have asked me how our lobbying to government for fairer funding is going and I’ll be writing more about that next week.

This first phase of proposals is a starting point which we will be building upon in phase two, launched in January. For now we want people to read our proposals, understand the very difficult financial situation that the council faces, and tell us what they think.

Have your say on the budget proposals

People are able to comment by visiting the council’s budget consultation page. Hard copies of the consultation document are also available from the receptions of Town Hall, Bayard Place and all city libraries.

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Ready to meet the challenge

Tomorrow the papers announcing our phase one budget proposals for 2018/19 will be published.

This will be your first opportunity to feedback on the proposals, the second opportunity is in the new year. Find out how to take part in the budget consultation on our website from 5pm tomorrow.

As I’ve said to you before in my blog, this will be one of the most financially challenging years yet for the council as we try to balance unprecedented demand on services with dramatically falling levels of government funding.

It’s important to state these are the phase one budget proposals and we will get a better idea of our funding once the Local Government Provisional Finance Settlement is published just before Christmas.

We have accomplished much over recent years despite continued budget reductions and we’ve done this by investing in partnerships, seeking alternative funding and really doing all we can to stand up for this city we live in.

I just want to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve done…

  • We’re in the process of receiving a multi-million pound investment to help establish an independent university, thanks to this area’s devolution deal.
  • Peterborough is one of the best areas in the country for housing stock growth, with more than 4,600 new homes built between 2011-16.
  • We are a city which continues to be very attractive for commerce. Over the past year Opportunity Peterborough has attracted 14 new businesses and we’ve created an extra 2,685 jobs.
  • Our schools continue to be rated well by Ofsted with over 88 per cent of pupils attending a school which is either good or outstanding.
  • We have invested in community facilities such as The Green Backyard and Dementia Resource Centre.
  • Unlike many other councils, all our libraries remain open with extended opening hours.

As a consequence, we’re really making our name known on the UK map for being a forward thinking and innovative city which is thriving. Please take your time over the coming weeks to have your say in ensuring this continues to be the case for years to come.

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Time to switch energy provider?

Over the past week we’ve had two definitive signs that winter is well and truly on its way.

The first was the clocks going back at the weekend and the darker evenings and the second was the mention of frosty mornings on the weather forecast. If you haven’t put the heating on at home yet, now’s the time to adjust the thermostat and beat the winter chill.

And if you’re one of the millions of UK households that haven’t switched energy providers in the past year, I’d like to make a suggestion that could save you a considerable amount of money this winter.

Peterborough Energy Logo

Peterborough Energy (delivered in partnership with energy supplier OVO) is the council’s energy tariff available exclusively for city residents. Over 10 per cent of the city have made the switch over the past two or so years, saving more than £1million between them.

When I switched over three years ago, I saved £300 off my annual fuel bill and continue to make savings each year. Just search for Peterborough Energy online, or arrange a free home visit by calling 01733 642272.

At a time when our budget is plummeting it’s these kind of innovative partnerships which have enabled us to continue delivering great opportunities for our residents, saving them money in the case of Peterborough Energy.

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