It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly a year since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK.
The past 12 months have been highly challenging, with the council’s resources severely tested.
I’m extremely proud that we’ve kept frontline services running whilst branching out to help vulnerable residents. It’s been a tough balancing act, but we have a duty to help those in need and we will continue to fulfil it.
The success of our Countywide Co-ordination Hub shows how committed we are to doing this. The hub was launched in April 2020 and has supported many vulnerable people across Peterborough.
This includes providing food parcels, checking in with clinically extremely vulnerable people while they are shielding and, more recently, arranging transport to vaccinations.
Hub staff have made 1,985 calls and emails to 1,400 individuals, resulting in over 3,000 enquires being dealt with.
Just over half of these enquiries were from residents under 65, showing that all ages, not just the elderly, have been impacted by the pandemic.
More than 850 enquiries were from people needing access to food or help with their shopping and getting prescriptions to people self-isolating accounts for 10% of enquiries.
The hub team, which includes re-deployed council staff, have worked with organisations and community groups to ensure residents have access to mental health support, public health information, debt and financial advice, befriending and much more.
Our drive to help those in need has also assisted local businesses. We’ve worked with the government to administer grant funding to firms affected by the pandemic.
During 2020 we delivered over £35.5million in business grants. This benefited around 2,800 local businesses and I’d urge firms to get in touch to see if they are eligible for support.
In the meantime, rest assured that we will continue to keep the city moving forward.
Council to purchase 1,000 new laptops for school children
The pandemic has changed our daily lives and been particularly hard for school children. I’m sure many are currently missing the classroom and their friends.
We know it’s especially tough for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, so we’ve decided to help by purchasing around 1,000 new laptops.
These are specifically earmarked for children and young people who cannot access their school’s lessons from home.
A significant number of local children do not have a computer, meaning they cannot access lessons and online resources, support from their teachers, or even interact with their classmates.
This places them at serious risk of falling behind in their learning and development, so their need for a laptop is urgent.
We are currently working with officers to ringfence funding for the laptops and are confident this will make a positive difference.
Have your say on plans for a Research and Development Centre at ARU Peterborough
Regular readers will know how excited I am about our city’s new University.
With construction under way, I’m counting down the days until September 2022 when its doors will open to students.
The university will greatly benefit Peterborough for generations to come, attracting people, businesses and investors.
I recently had a virtual meeting with a group of businessmen interested in investing in Peterborough. They cited the university as a big attraction, pointing out that any city looking to build one is clearly ambitious and forward-thinking.
They’re not wrong – our regeneration plans are the most ambitious this city has seen for decades, with the university a key component.
Part of our university development includes plans for a Research and Development Centre on the main campus and residents and businesses are invited to have their say on this.
A planning application for the centre, which will be jointly delivered by the Combined Authority (CA) and Peterborough-based business Photocentric, will be submitted later this month and the CA are keen to engage with the community beforehand.
An online survey has been launched, running until Monday 15 February. Visit the ARU Peterborough website to have your say.
Rapid test centres open in Peterborough
Our rapid Covid testing drive is well under way, aimed at testing key workers and those who cannot work from home.
The initiative, focussed on testing those who do not have Covid symptoms, will help track virus cases and drive down transmission rates which are still high in Peterborough.
This week a new walk-through testing site is opening in Bretton specifically to help people with symptoms.
The site at Peterborough Lions Rugby Club will be in place for at least the next three months as part of the Government’s UK-wide drive to improve the accessibility of coronavirus testing for local communities. People who have symptoms are advised to book a test by visiting www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or by calling 119.
This additional testing site will increase our testing capacity in the city, allowing us to identify more people who have the virus. If you have symptoms of coronavirus – a fever, new continuous cough and/or a loss or change in sense of taste or smell – please get a test.