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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So much achieved over past year

Let me start off by wishing you all a happy new year.

Early January is a great time for reflection and setting new goals or resolutions for the year ahead.

With that in mind, I thought I’d use this column to look back over the past 12 months.

The past year really has flown by, and I think that’s a sure sign that we’ve got on with business and achieved many of our goals.

One of my proudest moments of 2018 was seeing the opening of the council’s new office building at Fletton Quays.

Cutting cake at opening ceremony

Sand Martin House is a fantastic modern facility, which fully feels like home now to the many staff who moved across there in the late summer and autumn.

Fletton Quays continues to develop at pace, with building work continuing on high quality apartments, a Hilton Garden Inn hotel, leisure and retail offerings.

It’s on schedule to be finished in 2020 and once complete will show everyone that Peterborough is ready for business and investment.

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Highways team on the right road

Keeping the city’s roads in tip top condition is an utmost priority for our highways team and they do a sterling job all year round.

Thanks to their hard work, the council has been ranked as the top highway and transport authority in the eastern region for the second year in a row.

The authority scored highly in the 2018 National Highways and Transport (NHT) survey which asked residents across the country for their views on highway and transport services.

The NHT conducts the survey each year to determine public satisfaction on service delivered by local authorities.

Peterborough City Council was ranked as the best highway authority in the eastern region and nationally, was ranked 27th out of 112 highway authorities.

At national level PCC was given a 55 per cent satisfaction score, with the average being 53 per cent.

I would like to say a big well done to the team and I know that they will continue to ensure that the city’s roads are in the best possible condition. (more…)

Community comes together to help elderly resident

I was heartened this weekend to find out about a Peterborough community which came together to help an elderly man clear his garden.

A Groundforce style army of volunteers descended on a front garden in Glinton, after spotting that the elderly owner was struggling to keep on top of the fast growing vegetation and weeds..

One of the volunteers, who was helped by friends, neighbours and members of the Kingsgate Church in Peterborough said: “He finds it difficult to walk and last week we saw him in his garden attempting to dig up a few weeds. We told him to go back indoors and we would get some help for him.”

The budding gardeners arrived on Saturday armed with rakes, shovels, hoes and plenty of community spirit and spent the afternoon clearing, trimming back and tidying.

They contacted me, as they had filled 25+ black bin bags with garden waste and wanted to know if the council could remove it. We were pleased to help and arranged for Amey to collect the waste this week.

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Much to be proud of in the city

As an expanding city, we have our fair share of new homes, extensions and developments.

So it is only right that the city was recognised at the Local Authority Building Control regional awards ceremony last week with one winning entry and five finalist places.

Scott’s Farm, a private cul-de-sac in Glinton, built by Rutland based firm, Hereward Homes scooped a gold award in the Best Small New Housing Development category. Peterborough also scored highly in many other categories too.

It was also a finalist in several categories including Best Inclusive Building for the Cross Keys Homes Lapwing Court building used as social housing for over 55s, Best Education Building for Hampton Gardens Secondary School and Best Extension for 20 High Street, Glinton.

While attending the ceremony with our head of planning, I met with many developers across the region which were impressed with our city’s growth and regeneration over the last 10 years.

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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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Ensuring every child receives the education they deserve

For thousands of families in the city this is the week when children will be returning to school and some are making the step up from primary to secondary.

Despite our reduced role in many areas of education, it is still very much our responsibility to provide enough school places for every child that needs one.

A few weeks ago I was given a tour of the new secondary school at Hampton Gardens which opened its doors this week.

It’s a fantastic looking school which has been made possible thanks to a £20million joint venture between us and Cambridgeshire County Council.

In the first year there will be 180 pupils, but at capacity it will educate 1,500 pupils from a catchment that includes the Hamptons and Yaxley.

The facilities there are fantastic with state of the art classrooms and technology, bright and airy communal areas and lots of green space.

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Education review published for Peterborough

Towards the end of last year I made a personal commitment to leave no stone unturned in trying to understand whether there was anything more that could be done to improve the education offered to children and young people.

You may recall that I spoke of a unique set of challenges experienced by schools, which I and many others believed helped to explain why Peterborough is faced with the highly unusual scenario of being one of the best areas of the country for the number of schools judged good or outstanding by Ofsted, yet attainment being one of the weakest.

The task that I set Councillor Lynne Ayres, cabinet member for education for the city council, was to lead a review of education to see whether there was anything more that we, the schools and anyone else involved in education could be doing and to test whether the challenges that many people believe exist in Peterborough are fair and accurate.

This was against the context of changing national legislation in relation to the provision of education generally which, in particular, reduces the council’s role and responsibility in relation to the management of schools and its ability to intervene in the running of schools. The review was also commissioned because of the publication of Key Stage 2 results which placed Peterborough 151st out of 152 local authorities in England.

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Peterborough is leading on the digital front

On Monday Peterborough was highlighted as an example of a city leading the way in providing fast internet speeds to launch the Government’s new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund.

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Jones MP, chose Peterborough because of our successful partnership with CityFibre to develop the city’s full fibre networks, offering internet speeds 100 times faster than the UK average.

The new fund, which will unlock more than £1 billion, will look to replicate nationally what we have achieved in Peterborough. As the UK’s first Gigabit City, we have 300 sites connected to full fibre networks including schools, council buildings and CCTV cameras, as well as 4,000 businesses.

We know there is still work to do to achieve fast internet speeds city-wide, to all residents and rural areas, and the new fund could help us to finance the further extension of the network to these areas.

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Helping young people with their future plans

The hot weather heralded the end of hundreds of young people’s secondary education with exams finishing for the majority last week.

Many young people will already be clear about their plans for the future with further education and university applications already in the pipeline.

But for some the summer offers a blank page with adulthood on the horizon and decisions about what to do next.

If you are one of the young people still deciding whether to remain in education or to enter the world of work it’s important to remember that there is plenty of support out there.

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