Due to the upcoming local and parish elections there will be no Leader’s blog posts until Thursday 9 May, the week after the elections on Thursday 2 May.
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.
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.
The news that our Children’s Services department has been rated as ‘Good’ by Ofsted inspectors comes as music to my ears.
The latest rating, following a three week inspection last month, represents significant progress on its previous ranking in 2015 when it was deemed to be ‘requiring improvement’.
The inspectors said services for children who need help and protection, children in care and those leaving care was good, that leadership was good and they gave an overall rating of good for the effectiveness of children’s services.
They also praised the ‘stable and effective senior leadership team which has driven improvement at pace,’ with a ‘strong learning culture’.
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.
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.
At Monday’s council cabinet meeting members took the innovative decision to set up a new
Local Authority Trading Company.
As mentioned in last week’s blog, our plan is for this new company to take control of
important services like waste and recycling, street cleaning, and our parks and open spaces
from February next year.
By bringing these services in house it will give the council far greater control over the
performance and quality of waste services. It will save us money and deliver better services.
Following last week’s elections I was delighted that the Conservative Party has taken back control of the council.
We have worked extremely hard to earn a majority and now that the dust has settled we will continue to do so.
We are currently mapping out some new policies which are based around the issues that matter most to the people of Peterborough.
I would also like to pay tribute to two of our longest serving councillors who lost their seats in the elections.
The news that teaching and student facilities will be built on the Embankment as part of the new University of Peterborough is another welcome boost for the city.
The £9.5 million project has been agreed by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and is set to be ready for the first cohort of students in 2022.
This area of the city centre is being transformed right before our very eyes with Fletton Quays progressing at pace and it’s a tremendously exciting time.
The Combined Authority have also agreed that a study looking into the viability of a rapid transport system in Peterborough gets under way shortly.
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 here.
It is little over one month until city council elections take place on 3 May and I am pleased to confirm that Peterborough is one of eight areas in England to take part in a Voter Pilot scheme to help combat electoral fraud.
We chose to be part of the initiative as we have a national reputation for our sterling work in deferring electoral fraud at elections in previous years.
The scheme has been launched by the Cabinet Office and will see us bring in tougher measures to strengthen our postal and proxy voter process.
These include officers hand delivering postal voting packs and completing face to face surveys with postal voters to stress the importance of completing the vote themselves.
The proxy vote is being strengthened, with all proxy voters required to produce photographic identification at polling stations, before being issued with a ballot paper to vote on another’s behalf.
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.
As leader of the council, it’s my role to listen to what residents want and where possible, to deliver initiatives that will benefit us all.
So, it was a pleasure last week to be able to announce a trial for free bulky waste collections around the city.
The three-month trial will begin later this autumn and during this period every home will be entitled to one free residential bulky waste collection of up to ten items free of charge.
It’s being launched in direct response to public concern about fly-tipping around the city. Households will be able to book a collection to be picked up by the council and disposed of to prevent it from becoming an eyesore on our streets.
Fly-tipping is a particular bug bear of mine, as it immediately detracts from the positive look and feel of an area, as well as causing a potential fire risk for nearby residents.
More information on the trial, including the start date, will be issued in the coming weeks so stay tuned.
Running alongside the trial will be a scheme where households can take additional waste to large freighter lorries positioned at different sites around the city.
These collections will be advertised locally and I hope that both initiatives will have a positive impact in keeping our streets clean and improving the environment of the areas in which we live.