Standards will remain high

This week Cabinet voted to authorise the end of our contract with Amey and to give permission for the range of services they deliver to be split up and offered to different providers.

When the original contract was drafted, the situation in Peterborough was very different to what it is now. By transferring these services from in-house to an external provider (originally Enterprise Ltd) we were able to generate year on year savings for the first years of the contract.

Amey subsequently inherited the contract five years ago, when they took over Enterprise. And they have done a good job. They saved us money and have ensured that our streets are clean, our parks, open spaces and property are maintained and have provided a good standard of home to school transport and catering.

However, it’s now come to a time that the contract is no longer fit for purpose on either side. The council’s budgets have got tighter and the number of homes in the city increased rapidly. From around the start of the contract with Enterprise we are now collecting more than 15,000 more bins per fortnight for instance. In addition, from a council point of view, we have been for some time looking to drive up recycling rates in the city to our target of 60 per cent.

We will now be able to split the contract up and offer it to different providers in a bid to get better value for money in these areas, more control and greater opportunity to generate income.

Regardless of what happens, residents should be assured that these services will continue to the same high standard until August 2018, which is when the transfer will take place. A smooth transfer is key for us, which is why we are pledging up to £500,000 to ensure that everything takes place in time for this to happen.

We are also aware that this will be an uncertain time for Amey staff and we are committed to working with them as they consult with staff on any proposed changes.

As you may be aware, the government issued its Provisional Local Government Financial Settlement earlier this week.

As this paper goes to print, we are still in the process of working out exactly what this will mean for our 2018/19 budget, but early indications show that councils won’t be receiving significant amounts of extra funding.

This is another reason why we are urging you all to support our Stand Up For Peterborough campaign to deliver fairer funding for the city by signing the online form on our website or writing to me directly. I will update you more on the effects of the financial settlement in the New Year in this column.

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Fairer funding needed for schools

I’ve spoken a lot in the past few weeks about the unprecedented growth in our population and the resulting huge increase we’ve experienced in demand for services.

One example of where the impact of an ever growing population is the most stark is education. In particular meeting our legal duty to provide school places for every child that needs one.

The increase we have seen in the number of school children in Peterborough in the past decade is phenomenal and certainly unprecedented.

SchoolPhotoForLeaderBlog

Peterborough schools are now teaching 7,360 extra children than they were ten years ago – to put it into perspective that’s more than the population of Sawtry.

As a result the council, working alongside city schools, has created around 9,000 new school places to cope with the increase in numbers as well as prepare for future demand.

This expansion programme has cost £300million, however government funding has only partly covered this and the council has had to borrow £100million to ensure that every child in the city has a school place – that works out to borrowing £27,000 every day for the past decade.

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City has Christmas treat in store

Walking around the city centre last week, I stopped and paused for a few moments and felt immensely proud to see how it has developed.

The investment that we have made in areas like Cathedral Square, Bridge Street and Long Causeway have really paid back dividends and the overall atmosphere is now busy, vibrant, and inviting, especially with the Christmas decorations in the evenings.

While other towns and cities are struggling to keep shops open, we have very few empty units and lots of new businesses coming, such as Squiggles and Joules to Queensgate in the new year and many more planned. In just the past few months we’ve seen Metro Bank open its doors and new places to eat and drink including Middletons and Lightbox on Bridge Street.

Peterborough City Centre

It’s not an understatement to say that Peterborough really is open for business and this is the reason why it’s so good for Christmas shopping.

As well as being easy to access by car, bike or train, our city now has an excellent range of shops, restaurants and events, such as the Christmas market. All this means that even if you are not a natural shop-o-holic, you can run through your entire Christmas present and food shopping list relatively painlessly.

Christmas Market opening in Cathedral Square

As many of you will know the Christmas market will open in Cathedral Square on Friday and I for one will be taking advantage of the opportunity to find some hidden gems and to fill up on bratwurst while searching for a present for my wife Barbara.

It’s a difficult task finding something original to buy for the woman you’ve been married to for 53 years. I think my source of original and romantic ideas has finally been exhausted, so if anyone has any inspirational thoughts, please pass them on!

While you’re in the city centre, make sure you take the time to travel to our city market which is open throughout the year and is a great place to wander around.

Don’t forget, the market is open right up until Christmas Eve, so you can pre-order Christmas turkeys, buy wrapping paper and stock up on all your festive fruit and veg while bypassing the supermarket and supporting our local economy.

Sticking with the Christmas theme, I was pleased to attend the annual Teddy Bear Ride Christmas party at The Fleet on Sunday for children who are in the care of the local authority. It was a fantastic event for a great cause.

What impressed me the most is when 50 people on push bikes zoomed up laden down with teddy bears and presents for the children. It was a lovely moment which really restored my faith in human nature and the smiles on the faces of the children were wonderful.

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Let’s Stand Up For Peterborough

Last week I launched a campaign calling for the support of as many people in the city as possible as we lobby the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for fairer funding in order to protect frontline services.

It’s early days, but I am really impressed with the support we have received so far from city leaders and residents who have said they want to Stand Up For Peterborough and protect our vital services.

Stand Up For Peterborough Campaign Launch

As of yesterday, we had received more than 75 pledges of support which included comments such as ‘I am supporting this campaign as I know how stretched services are in Peterborough’, ‘Help save Peterborough before it goes under – such a lot to be proud of but it’s now really buckling under the huge strain of such a growing population’ and ‘Peterborough is a great city and we need more funding to keep it that way’.

Many of the comments are heartening to read, as they demonstrate how proud people are of our city. However they all recognise, like me, that we cannot get by with the same level of funding that we currently receive and that if we don’t receive a fairer share the city will suffer.

We’ve also had some great support from city leaders – MP Shailesh Vara will be taking the campaign to the highest level possible, whilst MP Fiona Onasanya has said she will do all she can to achieve fairer funding.

Their links with those who hold the purse strings in Westminster are crucial if our campaign is to be a success.

A highlight of last week was taking the campaign to a national audience, when I was interviewed as part of the budget coverage on BBC News. It was a great opportunity for me to explain the impact that ever reducing government funding could have on our city and the services we are able to provide.

We’ve also had good support from the local media, including the Peterborough Telegraph. I agree with the editor’s comment from last week, that we are not the only council with its cap in hand. But as he says, we all need to bang the drum for the city and work hard to make DCLG look again at its funding levels.

If you’ve not done so already, you can support Stand Up For Peterborough by posting a comment on our website or by writing to me at the Town Hall, Bridge Street, Peterborough, PE1 1HL.

You can also keep up to date with the campaign by following @PeterboroughCC on Twitter and on Facebook.

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