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…)

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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Westcombe’s a real success story

It gave me great pleasure this week to see Westcombe Engineering given national recognition in this year’s Parliamentary Review

The Parliamentary Review showcases best practice that has been seen in the public and private sector in the past year.

Westcombe Engineering has given disabled people in Peterborough active employment opportunities since it launched in 1970 and is one of the city’s big innovation success stories.

For those of you not familiar with the company, it’s a precision engineering specialist with a difference. As well as creating machined components for a wide range of industries, it also equips disabled workers with the skills needed to pursue careers in the wider economy

To give some context to its success, Westcombe Engineering has seen sales over the last two years rise by 40 per cent and it has significantly expanded its customer base.

This council-owned business is a great example of what companies can achieve when they place corporate social responsibility at the heart of everything they do.

Westcombe Engineering Parliamentary review

Rt Hon. David Curry (centre) with Andrew Lesiw and Elisa Bradley from Westcombe Engineering

Key to its success are its skilled, committed and loyal workforce, which gain as much from the business as what they bring to it. This two-way mutually beneficial relationship was something which was realised keenly by its founder, the late Royce W. Westcombe as the ideal business model and is why the business is being showcased as a national example of best practice.

At present it employs 20 people, 13 of which have disabilities, and it has a turnover in excess of £1.5 million.

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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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New Innovation Lab unveiled this week

In his first Autumn Statement as chancellor, Philip Hammond announced plans to help British technology start-up companies by investing an initial £400million into venture capital funds.

This demonstrated an understanding that the UK needs to encourage and spearhead innovation and keep pace with the USA and China.

Supporting entrepreneurs, engineers and inventors is something we put a lot of emphasis on in Peterborough and I am delighted by this week’s unveiling of The Innovation Lab.

This new resource at the Allia Future Business Centre in Peterborough will help turn ideas into realities, in particular for those entrepreneurs who want to make a positive, sustainable impact on the world.

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PES launched with additional powers to tackle issues across the city

When I became leader of the council 18 months ago my post bag was full of letters and emails from residents about issues such as anti-social behaviour, begging, illegal parking and poor quality housing.

I listened to those residents and looked at what we and fellow agencies could do to better tackle these issues, at a time when funding is scarce and manpower is limited.

This week we fully launched the SaferPeterborough Prevention and Enforcement Service (PES) which brings together council, police, fire service and prison staff into a single managed service. The team has been in place since April, however council staff now have the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme powers issued by Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s chief constable to be able to enforce against a greater number of issues.

The idea is that together we can offer a quicker, more visible response to the issues that you have told us impact on your quality of life. Council prevention and enforcement officers, who you might see walking round in new blue uniforms, now have the ability to take action against a wider range of community issues including littering, dog fouling, begging and cycling on pavements. They also retain existing powers including parking and housing enforcement.
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Big savings being made on energy

The month of March may be on the horizon, but the recent frosty mornings have shown that winter isn’t ready to leave us just yet.

The cold temperatures must be partly responsible for the Peterborough Energy scheme reaching another key milestone.

Over 2,000 people have now switched to the energy tariff we offer in partnership with OVO Energy.

These residents are seeing an average saving of £242 a year on their gas and electricity bills and have been switching in their numbers, particularly since the turn of the year. I know one Glinton resident who is set to save £800 a year.

If you are considering a switch to save a few pounds, staff are on hand at the Energy Savings Shop in Bridge Street to help.

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Investing in Peterborough’s economic development

Peterborough is a hothouse for new businesses, suggested some encouraging research this week. The figures predict a record year for start-up companies in the city, with more than 550 new businesses expected to launch between January and March this year.

The number of new companies has grown steadily over the last few years and just shows how our reputation as a great business location is attracting and inspiring new ventures.

There are lots of reasons for that – our world-leading digital infrastructure, access to superior road and rail networks and operational cost-effectiveness of doing business are just a few examples. We’re also building on our strong reputation within a number of important business sectors including energy and environment, digital and creative and the financial industry.

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