Following the landmark decision taken by our cabinet in December, we are on track to set up our first Local Authority Trading Company.
This signals a major new direction for delivering many council services and will be a ‘people’s company’ improving the services we provide for residents and businesses across the city.
We are now working with staff to deliver a new company that invests in them and the services we provide.
The transfer of services will follow a phased approach: First to launch is building cleaning, then passenger transport and waste and recycling collections in April. Finally, building maintenance, street cleansing and grounds maintenance in May.
This will help to manage the complexity and scale of the task which involves the transferring of 449 employees, and all the assets and vehicles associated with these services. It will ensure a smooth transfer and minimal disruption for residents.
Fantastic amount raised by campaign to support rough sleepers
Towards the end of last year we helped to launch a new campaign to support rough sleepers in getting off the streets for good.
The Safer Off the Streets partnership has been a huge success, with many people supported into accommodation since its launch in October.
For these people it’s the first step off the streets and a new chapter in their lives, which will see them feeling part of the community and give them a sense of hope for the future.
And what’s more, the campaign has so far raised over £4,000 to support the work of the partnership.
This is a fantastic amount and will help us all to engage with rough sleepers, providing support and opportunities to turn their lives around.
Some of the people we have worked with featured on BBC One’s Inside Out programme on Monday night. If you didn’t see it, it’s available to download on iPlayer, and is worth a watch.
It offers a very good summary of the work we and our partners do to help those sleeping rough on our streets and the process we go through to help ensure people accept our offer of help.
I want to reiterate, there is no need for anyone to sleep rough in Peterborough – there is a bed available for everyone and sufficient support measures such as the Garden House day shelter and various night shelters.
If you would like to make a donation, please use the contactless card window outside the Argo Lounge in St Peter’s Arcade, which allows people to make instant secure £3 donations.
You can also make donations through the Safer Off the Streets website and collection boxes in city centre locations.
High stakes for High Streets
Finally, the current state of high streets up and down the country has been a matter of much recent debate.
The sad sight of diminishing footfall and empty units is a national problem with many contributing factors.
I strongly believe that high streets have a vital role to play and would urge shoppers to ‘use it or lose it’ as the old saying goes.
Here in Peterborough, our retail vacancy levels are lower than the national average (9.9% vs 11.3% respectively) but we are actively working to attract new businesses and keep the city centre vibrant.
We are in the process of setting up a Business Improvement District (BID) in the city centre, which would see businesses come together to attract investment and develop opportunities for new projects, networking and idea-sharing.
There are currently over 200 BIDs in place up and down the country, with several having achieved notable success and we think the scheme can have a positive impact here.
On this subject, I often hear the council criticised for charging too much rent or business rates and would like to set the record straight.
We are not responsible for setting business rates, this is done by central government. Whilst we do charge rent on a small number of city centre units, the vast majority of retail buildings are privately owned.