All eyes on Peterborough as by-election approaches

With the by-election for the Peterborough parliamentary seat taking place next Thursday the national spotlight is firmly on our great city.

So it’s no surprise that I’m taking calls from national journalists, who being London-centric, want to find out more about Peterborough and have looked to me to enlighten them.

And I have enjoyed doing so as it’s allowed me to promote our city on a national stage and to show what a great place it is to start or relocate a business or family, or to visit for a day trip or an overnight stay.

If I had a pound for every time someone told me they visited the city ten years ago and how much it has changed for the better in that time I would be a rich man. But the reality is that it has.

Our city centre has been transformed, with new and regenerated areas for people to sit and watch the world go by, new shops and restaurants. On a sunny day, like we had last week, Cathedral Square comes alive and with the iconic cathedral and the Guild Hall too it’s a fantastic place to spend time. The redevelopment of Fletton Quays, one of the most prestigious riverside developments in the country, is on target and there are firm plans in place to transform North Westgate.

Cathedral square

We have new businesses launching and expanding all the time creating. In 2017/18, the latest figures we have, 4,575 new jobs were created in the city, meaning our unemployment rate is below the national average.

We are supporting house building in every quarter of the city to give us enough homes of every kind to support our residents and those wanting to move here. We’ve rebuilt or expanded every secondary school in the city.

Our road and rail links mean that we are well connected to London, Birmingham, many of the airports – you can now commute to London within 39 minutes.

Of course, growth on the scale we are seeing brings its challenges – it is these challenges that many of the candidates standing in the by-election next week are mentioning on the doorstep.

Many of these issues – poverty, not enough housing for those in need to name just two, could all be helped if we received a proper level of funding from government.

We are having to do so much more with less money – as the fifth fastest growing city in the country with the sixth highest birth rate, that’s no small task.

But as I said in last week’s column, we will continue to keep a close eye on the areas where we know our residents say they need us the most, ensuring that our most vulnerable residents are protected and supported, but also ensuring that our city provides everyone with the opportunity to achieve their goals.

Whoever wins the Peterborough by-election and represents half of our city in Parliament, we need them to understand the huge financial challenges that we face and how they can support us in campaigning for additional funding.

So when you are voting next week, think not about the party the person represents, but about the person that is best for Peterborough and building a better future.

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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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Bowled over by a great summer

This week sees the start of the new school year and although we’re still enjoying high temperatures, autumn is fast approaching.

I think this summer has been one of the best in recent times with prolonged warm weather and lots of fun-filled activities across the city.

This weekend saw two more fantastic events take place – the classic car and vintage vehicle festival and a community fun day in Central Park.

The car show was once again a great success with hundreds of people flocking to the Embankment to admire the many shining chassis and wheeled wonders on display.

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School place planning paying off

This week saw youngsters starting primary school in September receive confirmation of their place, which is always an important and exciting time for children.

The good news is that the vast majority of pupils will be attending their first preference school – out of the 2,821 applications 91 per cent have been offered their first choice.

In total, 98 per cent of pupils were offered one of their three preference primary schools, which is tremendous.

This achievement has been made possible thanks to continued good planning by our Education team, who have worked to create thousands of new school places to keep up with the city’s rapid population increase over the past decade.

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In position to deal with challenges

Last Wednesday night saw our budget for the next financial year and proposed 5.99 per cent council tax rise (including an Adult Social Care precept of three per cent) approved at full council following debate.

As I have previously stated, due to substantial cuts in funding from central government we are in a position where we have to make difficult decisions.

However, we have worked hard to ensure that vital frontline services such as adult and child social care, waste disposal, libraries, winter gritting, trading standards and prevention and enforcement are maintained.

The decisions that were made around the budget in this meeting will ensure we are in a good position to deal with the financial challenges that will come our way throughout 2018/19 and beyond.

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Pupil’s school places for September announced

The wait to learn whether your child has gained a place at the school of your choice can be nerve racking for any parent.

I went through it with my own children and am going through it again now with my grandchildren.

Getting the right school for your child is a key part of them doing well in their education and being able to achieve their full potential. That is why our admissions team works closely with schools and neighbouring authorities to ensure as many parents as possible receive a place for their child at a preferred school.

We have a strong track record of achieving well above the national average for the number of children offered a place at one of their three preferred schools, and I am pleased to see this trend continuing.

This year a total of 2,465 applications were received on time and 98 per cent of pupils have been offered one of their three preferences, with 87 per cent of pupils set to start at their preferred school this September. This is up from 81 per cent in 2014.

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Time to get to work on achieving our priorities

With this week’s annual council meeting behind me and my cabinet selected, it’s time to set to work on achieving our priorities for the year ahead.

Last year was particularly successful – more of our schools are now judged good or better by Ofsted, development is underway across the city including Fletton Quays and we launched our own energy tariff which has seen more than 3,200 residents saving a combined total of more than £800,000.

The Cabinet roles I’ve chosen will ensure that we can build on that success and make Peterborough an even better place to live, work and visit.

I haven’t got space here to tell you about all our priorities, but I’ve hand-picked the ones that I thought might interest you the most.

Giving our youngest residents the best start in life educationally and keeping them safe from harm remains top of our agenda.

We’re constantly banging the drum to recruit more foster carers and adoptive parents, but inevitably we have to use external agencies to meet the demand, costing us £4 million a year.

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