Sharing city’s secrets of success

Our city centre is a real source of pride for me. The work we’ve done in recent years has made it spacious and welcoming and I believe it’s never looked better.

The extensive transformation of Bridge Street through to Cathedral Square and Long Causeway has attracted significant new investment into the heart of our city.

We now have a vast array of new and attractive places for everyone to shop in, eat, have fun or just simply relax in.

And in case you’re thinking, ‘well, John would say that’ – it’s not just me who shares this view.

Last week, we received a phone call out of the blue from BBC Radio Kent, after its producer had visited Peterborough. He was thoroughly impressed with our city centre and described it as having a cafe culture look and feel, reminiscent of a European city.

cathedral square

He wanted us to talk on the radio station to share the secrets of our success, in the hope that these could be mirrored in Chatham.

Cabinet member councillor Marco Cereste spoke to the station on Monday about the work that we and our partners have done over the past decade to help revitalise the area.

He pointed out that ten years ago, the city centre would virtually shut down at 5pm and we have worked hard to inject some life into it after hours to attract more residents, visitors and businesses.

Not ones to be complacent, we’re currently in the process of setting up a Business Improvement District, which will help support and promote city centre shops.

All UK high streets have had a tough few years following the rise of online shopping, so please keep using them. For me, nothing beats browsing for an item in real life. (more…)

A university is closer than ever

Anyone who knows me will tell you how committed I am to seeing a fully fledged-university in Peterborough.

It’s the single biggest thing we can do to stop our talented young people from leaving to build their lives elsewhere and ensures that our businesses have a good crop of people with the skills and talent they need to apply for jobs.

We’re closer than ever to there being a dedicated Peterborough University. University Centre Peterborough (UCP) is continuing to work towards gaining degree awarding powers and research is ongoing into the type of courses which will meet the needs of students and businesses. An appraisal is also underway of the Bishop’s Road site where the development of a new campus for up to 2,000 students is proposed.

pboro uni

Developing an independent university is an exciting but complex process and although I would like it to happen tomorrow, it takes time to achieve.

In the meantime, the number of people studying degrees in the city is increasing year on year, with double the number of young people from our schools starting a degree with UCP in 2018 compared to the year before. That’s fantastic news and proof that more of our young people are improving their career options.

I was also impressed to hear that more than 250 students graduated last year with good numbers achieving the higher grades. Eighty-eight per cent of integrated engineering students and 57 per cent of sociology students achieved a first class honours, which is fantastic.

The undergraduate provision at UCP has also continued to grow with the launch of new degrees in digital arts, digital marketing, electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical and manufacturing engineering and five new business management degrees.

Having a fully-fledged university will result in significant economic benefits for the whole city, and at the rate we’re progressing, it may not be that far into the future that we achieve it.

Click here for more information about the degree courses available in Peterborough.
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Bringing Peterborough’s communities together

Our city is built on a long history of migration. We are diverse, vibrant and proud to celebrate our differences as together these are the things that unites us.

Because of this, we are a welcoming city and on the whole I think that people from different backgrounds get on well together. You only have to attend one of the many cultural festivals we host in the city each year, such as the Italian or Diwali events, to see that. But of course there is more we can all do to bring people together to break down barriers.

John and Barbara Holdich in traditional dress

Last year we were recognised for our community work by the government, who invited Peterborough to be one of five areas to take part in its integrated communities strategy, to improve and showcase successful integration across the UK.

As part of this, we’ve just launched the Peterborough Communities Fund which is an opportunity for people to make a real difference in their community.

Local groups and organisations can apply for funds to deliver projects that bring our communities together, whatever their background, race or religion.

People can apply for grants of up to £20,000 – but we’re equally happy if you just need a few hundred pounds; we know that often just a small amount of funding can make a huge difference.

Applications are invited from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors and we also welcome joint bids from groups who want to bring communities together. Ideas that have the potential to run and run are particularly welcome. (more…)

Peterborough’s people’s company is progressing 

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.

bin lorry

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. (more…)

Excited by move to Fletton Quays

As you may be aware, the council is in the process of moving to brand new offices at Fletton Quays and the first teams have already moved in.

We are becoming the site’s anchor tenant, kick-starting an innovative re-development of this prime area alongside the river Nene which had been derelict for over 40 years.

All our teams will be moved in by the end of August and everyone is excited by the prospect of working in a state-of-the-art building.

Sand Martin House

The Fletton Quays development is the first regeneration project delivered on time and within budget by the Peterborough Investment Partnership (PIP), an innovative partnership between Peterborough City Council and GB Strategic Land Fund.

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New business arrivals land in city

I was delighted to hear that the organisation responsible for improving skills in the construction industry is to move its head office to Peterborough.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is working with Opportunity Peterborough to secure a premises in the city for its new HQ in an effort to bring colleagues and customers closer together.

The agency hopes it will be able to sign a lease later this year with the move completed by January 2020.

It was heartening to hear the CITB’s chief executive state that Peterborough was its preferred location because it is a diverse city with a strong talent pool, a generous supply of modern, sustainable office facilities, supported by excellent road and rail links.

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Digital inclusion workshops open to all city residents

Using the internet and accessing services online is now a big part of many people’s everyday lives, but not everyone can use computers and smartphones as confidently as they would like.

You might not know, but many of our services including council tax, business rates, blue badges, parking permits, as well as school and community transport, can now be accessed via our council website. And to make sure as many people as possible can use these we have set up new Digital Inclusion sessions.

Tomorrow I’ll be visiting Werrington Library to see one of these workshops take place. The free sessions are being held at various community centres and libraries and are open to all city residents.

The digital inclusion officers delivering the training are friendly, knowledgeable and very patient, so everyone can learn at their own pace.

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Roadworks pain will lead to gain

One topic that caused a lot of conversation in Peterborough recently was a plan for an ‘urban beach’ as part of the Fletton Quays development.

The story gathered plenty of reaction after being picked up by the local media, perhaps understandably given I’m pretty sure the words Peterborough and beach have never been mentioned in the same sentence before!

To make it clear, should this proposal for an ‘urban beach’ go ahead it would be funded by Weston Homes, the company behind the build of the apartments at Fletton Quays, and not the city council – as people may have been initially led to believe.

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Help the council to save local water park

You may have seen in the news this week, that the viability of a rapid transport system in Peterborough is going to be considered.

Last week the board of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority agreed to start work on a report to look in to the possibility of a new metro system in Cambridge.

At this stage all we will be doing is taking into account a number of factors, such as improving connections from one area of the city to another,  and considering whether this system could potentially work in Peterborough.

It’s far too early for anyone to say what the outcome will be, but I think it is only right that we consider what sort of transport systems the city may need in 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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