Aragon – coming to a street near you

This week we unveiled the name of our new trading company which will take over the running of key services from April, including bin collections.

In just over two weeks, you will see refuse lorries emblazoned with the name Aragon Direct Services down your street.

Bin collection schedules and services will remain the same and will continue to be delivered by the same team of frontline staff – there will be little obvious change other than the name.

Cllrs with Aragon Direct van

The difference will be seen in our ability to commercialise the service, so in effect making money by providing services for businesses and other organisations locally and further afield.

The council has constraints on how much profit it can make from commercial operations – this private limited company will allow us more freedom to trade and generate income to help ease the financial pressure that the council is under.

It will also give better value for money and offer more flexibility to our residents. For example, if we get a wet summer and we need to cut our grass more frequently, this can be arranged more easily than if through an outsourced contract.

Our cleaners transferred over to the new company in February and on 1 April they will be followed by the refuse collection team. Street cleaning, grounds and building maintenance services and specialist school transport will then follow in May*.

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Commercial strategy is paying off

This month my Cabinet colleagues and I will be asked to approve the council’s first commercial strategy.

It doesn’t sound the most exciting document I admit, but it’s actually very important as it sets out how we’ll further generate income by selling our services, investing and operating more like a business.

With our government funding only going one way, we couldn’t deliver a balanced budget and provide the services our residents rely upon without generating the income we do.

Last year we made £72million through investments, sharing of services, providing services for other organisations, property rental and fees and charges.

For example, we generated £2.7million by selling the energy produced by our energy from waste plant and our commercial property portfolio which is worth £21million generates an annual income of around £3million – that’s a 14 per cent return.

We share our planning and trading standards departments with other councils, bringing in £4million annually and our £15million loan to Propiteer Hotels Ltd for the building of the new Hilton hotel at Fletton Quays will make us £500,000.

impression fletton quays

Our sharing of services with Cambridgeshire County Council, in particular the chief executive and her senior leadership team, has delivered sizeable savings.

I could go on, but these are just a few of the ways we’re generating income and working in a more commercial way to be able to provide the services you need, despite an 80 per cent cut in our government funding.

And with that funding due to decrease even further in years to come, we have got to find more ways of generating our own income. Our commercial strategy will help us to do that. (more…)

Starting to take back control

This week we celebrated a momentous occasion and welcomed the first staff to our new local authority trading company.

Just before Christmas we made the landmark decision to set up our own company, Peterborough Limited, which I like to call the ‘people’s company’. It will deliver services for residents that were previously provided by Amey.

Bringing services such as waste and recycling and building cleaning back in house gives us greater control over how these services are provided and allows us to better monitor them so that they can constantly improve. It also allows us to provide better value for money.

We’re not bringing all of the services and 449 employees back from Amey into Peterborough Limited in one go, we are doing it in a phased approach to ensure that the best quality of service is maintained.

Building cleaning moved across on Monday and I was delighted to meet some of the staff at the Town Hall. They were all really excited about moving back to the council and the plans that we have to develop these services.

John meets Latco

Waste and recycling collections and passenger transport will transfer on 1 April, followed by building maintenance, street cleansing and grounds maintenance on 4 May.

For residents there will be little obvious change, but we will be striving to ensure that all the services we provide are of the highest quality so that our city is clean and well maintained.

We will also be looking to commercialise the services that we provide, to add to the growing number of ways we are generating income to support our budget. I’ll be able to tell you more about that in the coming months. (more…)

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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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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Looking to tidy up fly-tipping law

Regular readers of this blog will know that fly-tipping is a big bugbear of mine, it really gets my goat.

Fly-tipping blights our communities, impacts on the environment and is completely unnecessary. Waste can be easily collected or disposed of in our city at our household recycling centre. There is no need for it.

One aspect of the law which is causing problems when it comes to fly-tipping is the fact that if someone fly-tips on private land, it is currently the land owner’s responsibility to clear up the mess left behind.

Flytipping in the street

This has always seemed unfair – obviously it’s not their fault and they may not have the means or the time to remove it themselves.

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Anti-social neighbours take note

Nobody likes noisy neighbours and as a council we take any complaints of anti-social behaviour extremely seriously.

We will always look to take action where appropriate and last week our housing enforcement team successfully secured a court closure order which will see two homes in Lincoln Road closed for the next three months.

In this case, the nearby neighbours had had to put up with terrible behaviour by the tenants in the homes for quite some time.

Our officers were able to gather evidence to show the tenants were up to no good, with their illegal activities including drug use and prostitution.

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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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Free bulky waste trial set to be launched across the city

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.

Flytipping in the street

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.

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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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