Peterborough’s empowered community

Not so long ago the services we provided for residents were largely paid for by the government or by people like you as council tax.

Times have changed – our main government grant now makes up just 2.47 per cent of our total budget.

Nowadays almost a fifth of our budget – £72million to be exact – is money generated by the council, to fund the vital services that we provide for an ever expanding population. 

We do this by, for example, selling the energy produced from our energy from waste plant, renting out our buildings and sharing expert teams such as trading standards and planning with other councils.

On Monday cabinet members will be discussing a scheme that has generated the council a hefty profit and offered some of our residents free energy.

Almost five years ago we partnered with Empower Community Management LLP to deliver solar panels on residential properties across the city and the UK, investing £23million capital funding in the process.

It’s been a real success story for the council, with thousands of residents benefitting from the installation of solar panels at no cost to themselves and free energy. Importantly, it’s also generated a hefty return on our investment – £2.6million in the past four years. This is money we have been able to use to provide valuable front-line services for residents at a time when government funding has been drastically reduced and demand for services has grown rapidly.

fitting solar panels

The loan was only ever short term – that’s the reason we have received such a good rate of return on it – and we are now close to passing our investment in this scheme to a company that will repay our loan and continue to manage the solar panels to the benefit of those already signed up.

Without income generating projects such as this, we couldn’t deliver a balanced budget and provide the services that you and thousands of other residents rely upon.

We’ve got plenty more ideas too, which I will tell you about as soon as I am able. (more…)

No simple answer to homelessness

No one should have to sleep rough in our city. There are always enough beds in our shelters and hostels to make sure this is the case.

However, reducing the number of rough sleepers is not as simple as just providing beds.

Each rough sleeper on our streets has their own individual story to tell. And as such, needs individual support to help them into accommodation.

Did you know that the average life expectancy of a rough sleeper is just 47? That’s a good 30 years less than the national average and this is why our ultimate aim is to support those sleeping rough in getting off the streets for good.

Back in the autumn we teamed up with partners to help to launch the Safer Off The Streets campaign, aimed at ending rough sleepers in the city once and for all.

The scheme features a number of initiatives which are already making a positive difference.

These include a new contactless card window outside the Argo Lounge in St Peter’s Arcade, allowing people to make instant secure £3 donations.

In just over two months, £2,345 has been pledged to the partnership and many rough sleepers have been supported in getting off the streets for good, which is a fantastic start!

If you haven’t already made a donation, please visit the contactless card window at Argo Lounge or visit the donations page on the Safer Off The Streets website.

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Peterborough prepares for Christmas

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is now less than two weeks away, but then again 2018 has flown by at some pace.

If like me you leave your Christmas shopping until the last minute, then I’m sure the next few days will be busy as you prepare for the big day.

Please do be aware, however, that over the Christmas and New Year period, our council offices will be closing their doors.

Our main offices, including Sand Martin House, Bayard Place and the Town Hall will be closed from noon on Monday 24 December until Wednesday 2 January 2019, with no face-to-face services available.

Peterborough Offices

However, the council’s call centre will open from Thursday 27 December to Monday 31 December between the hours of 9am and 5pm and there will also be support in place for key services.

Our office buildings and call centre will open as usual on January 2.

The other key change to remember is that black and green bin collection days alter between Christmas and New Year. Full details about office closures and bin collection changes available here. (more…)

Peterborough’s bright future

Let it grow, let it grow – Fletton grows

We are at an important moment in Peterborough’s future development as a city.

Earlier this year, the first stage of the Fletton Quays development was delivered. It will be complete by 2020.

And just last week, a planning application for North Westgate, which will include office accommodation, homes, cafes, restaurants, a hotel and a public square was signed off by planners.

Future peterborough

These two important milestones, represent a new age for Peterborough, as it looks to transform into a larger city and a destination in its own right.

Over the next 15 years, our population will grow from around 200,000 to 235,000. That’s a massive increase of over 17 per cent.

We are literally building the future. The infrastructure and landmarks our children and our children’s children will come to see as iconic to our city’s look and feel. That’s why it’s important we get it right.

LDA Design is a Peterborough based landscape architect company, which specialises in redeveloping urban areas so they work best for the people that use them.

To give you an idea of their credentials, LDA were the brainchild behind the Olympic Park in London and its post-games transformation, the University College of London’s pioneering new campus and have won hundreds of awards for what they do.

Now they have kindly agreed to lend their services to the council free of charge, to create a 20 page development framework – or blueprint – of what our city should look like in 2035.

As a Peterborough based firm with city born and bred owners, they have a vested interest in making this their most exciting and innovative creation yet.

The blueprint welcomes visitors to our city with a large plaza outside the train station, guides them through North Westgate, through the city centre and out to an arena/concert hall by the river.

After watching 2035’s equivalent of Ed Sheeran, you could then either catch a water taxi to Nene Park, pop up to the new university campus further up the Embankment, or grab a gin a tonic at the distillery at the Fletton Quays development and POSH stadium.

It’s a bold design, packed full of retail, leisure and entertainment features. But it’s one which will help secure our future as a larger city destination, boosting tourism and opportunities for local residents.

The design will be on our website from next week for you to look at and comment on.

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Sizable funding received from Central Government

This week we received three sizeable pots of money from Central Government.

Our bid for £1million to become an Integrated Pilot Area was successful. It will boost opportunities for young people, improve opportunities for work and continue to develop community cohesion.

We’ve also received £1.5million of funding to improve our roads after last year’s bashing from the ‘Beast from the East’.

Lastly, we’ve teamed up with eight local authorities and AgilityEco to secure £6.5million to install central heating for the first time in up to 1,500 homes, including those at St Michael’s Gate.

Not bad for just a week, let’s hope next week is the same!

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A credit to our wonderful city

Armistice 100

There is an old saying that every great city is only that way because of the people who live there.

Well, Sunday’s Civic Remembrance service in the city centre demonstrated just how great the people of Peterborough truly are.

I’ve not seen Bridge Street so packed for a long time – there must have been thousands of people who came along to pay their respects.

This year’s event was especially poignant as not only did Remembrance Day fall on a Sunday but the occasion also marked 100 years since the signing of the Armistice which led to the end of the First World War.

Remembrance Parade

We were anticipating big crowds and put up a giant TV screen in Cathedral Square so that people could watch the military parade along Bridge Street, wreath laying by the war memorial and two minute silence which was impeccably observed.

We also streamed live footage from the event on the council’s Facebook page and I’m informed that many people watched this online.

So I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came along – you are a credit to our wonderful city.

I know that the servicemen and women who attended were deeply touched by the huge turnout and saw firsthand that the people of Peterborough will never forget those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.

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Peterborough in the papers

Fakes send out serious message

Peterborough has hit the national headlines not once, but twice this week. The Sun and The Mirror picked up on a story which you might have seen in this paper last week about 1,000 imported teddy bears which were destroyed by our Trading Standards team.

While they looked nice and cuddly, the eyes and noses on the teddy bears were badly designed and could easily fall off, creating a choking hazard for babies and young children.

There is serious message here – please be careful when buying toys in the run up to Christmas.Fake Teddy Bears

On Monday, our city made the national headlines again, this time for taking part in a postal and proxy voting pilot for the local elections in May 2019.

You might remember, Peterborough was part of a similar pilot last year which lead to a 47 per cent reduction in postal vote rejection rates.

It will focus on the importance of individuals completing their postal vote themselves and requiring anybody who has been appointed as a proxy to vote on someone else’s behalf to supply photographic ID at the polling station.

We take the issue of election fraud extremely seriously and are committed to ensuring that all elections are fair processes.

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Remember in November

Christmas lights switch-on

With the clocks going back, temperatures dipping and being greeted by frozen car windscreens in the mornings, this week has certainly felt a lot like winter!

However, one of the best things about this time of year is the build up to Christmas beginning, which leads me nicely on to a big event coming up soon.

Our annual Christmas lights switch-on always attracts huge crowds to the city centre and I’m sure this year’s occasion will be no different.

Christmas switch-on 2017

The event takes place on Friday November 16 with a fun-filled lineup of entertainment from 4pm until 8pm which all the family can come and enjoy.

This is the first time it has been held on a Friday, so make a date in your diary and why not combine it with some Christmas shopping or a nice meal out?

The big switch-on is happening at 7.30pm when myself and the city Mayor will be joined by Father Christmas (how does he find the time right now?) to press the button.

Once the city centre is beautifully lit up, the evening will be rounded off with a burst of fireworks.

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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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