Celebrating the Year of Reading

Reading is one of the most important skills that you can teach a child and will define how well they achieve educationally and throughout their whole lives.

Barbara and I would read to our children every day when they were young until they were old enough to read for themselves. Even then we would encourage them by buying books and taking them to the library, which I do now with my grandchildren.

The other morning on my way into work I listened to a report on the radio about the level of disadvantage experienced by a child at school if they have not been read to from a young age. Many of them will struggle more than children who have experience of reading and may never make up this delay in their learning.

In Peterborough reading levels are lower than the national average. I want that to change, and quickly, so that every child in the city has the same opportunities to share a love of reading. That is why we launched Vision for Reading last year with our partners at the National Literacy Trust, Vivacity and City College Peterborough.

The campaign asks everyone in the city – teachers, parents, businesses and others – to play their part in helping children to develop a lifelong love of reading which in turn will improve their life chances.

Boys reading books

As part of it we’re supporting parents to prepare their children for school by, for example, reading to them at home, we’re training reading buddies in schools who can read with children and we’re celebrating the Year of Reading which launches on 22 June.

Everyone is invited to attend the launch in Cathedral Square between 10am and 4pm where there will be storytelling, free books to take home, activities and more.

The event kicks off a year-long programme of events that will include The Space Chase summer reading challenge, Roald Dahl Day in September, writing competitions and story trails. You can find out more by visiting www.peterboroughcelebrates.org.uk.

The year will culminate with a striking trail of book-shaped benches across Peterborough created by schools, community groups and businesses in association with creative producers Wild in Art.

Whether you’re a parent, business owner, or teacher, please support our campaign to get every child in the city enjoying books from a young age. For our children it will lead to improved life chances and for our businesses it will mean a better qualified workforce of the future.

Raising reading levels will always be harder for us in Peterborough than for many other areas because of the number of different languages spoken in our schools and a higher than usual number of children starting and leaving school mid-year.

But it is a challenge that we must meet and together I believe that we can. (more…)

Help to end loneliness epidemic

Have you ever experienced loneliness? I’m not talking about occasionally on an afternoon, but weeks, or even months and years of craving human contact.

There’s been much in the media recently about a national ‘loneliness epidemic,’ but one article in the Daily Telegraph in particular caught my attention last month, in which the new Loneliness Minister, MP Mims Davies says communities have a moral duty to look after the lonely and vulnerable.

As a council, there’s things we can do to help this. Indeed, I helped to set up one of the first friendship clubs in Peterborough 16 years ago in my ward of Glinton and allocated £10,000 to replicate this across the city.

There are now 11 friendship clubs in Peterborough which meet every week to offer company, home-cooked meals, information and advice on everything from setting up a Facebook account to Skyping friends and family.

But there’s also a lot that you as an individual can do too – and for those of you who haven’t set a New Year’s resolution yet, this is a good one!

Studies by the Mental Health Foundation show that volunteering and doing good for others can actually be beneficial to our own wellbeing.

There are over 197,000 people living in Peterborough. If just 0.1% of us decided to volunteer a couple of hours a week to help the lonely and vulnerable in our city, that would be nearly 200 extra volunteers across Peterborough.

The Age UK friendship clubs are looking for volunteers right now. Contact them on 01733 352212 or email friendshipclubs@ageukcap.org.uk.

Ladies at Friendship Club

If you haven’t got time to make a commitment as a volunteer, then just take five minutes to knock on the door of an elderly neighbour, family member or friend. Check they are okay and to ask if there is anything they need. Human contact means so much to those who are lonely at this time of year.

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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…)

Time to switch energy provider?

Over the past week we’ve had two definitive signs that winter is well and truly on its way.

The first was the clocks going back at the weekend and the darker evenings and the second was the mention of frosty mornings on the weather forecast. If you haven’t put the heating on at home yet, now’s the time to adjust the thermostat and beat the winter chill.

And if you’re one of the millions of UK households that haven’t switched energy providers in the past year, I’d like to make a suggestion that could save you a considerable amount of money this winter.

Peterborough Energy Logo

Peterborough Energy (delivered in partnership with energy supplier OVO) is the council’s energy tariff available exclusively for city residents. Over 10 per cent of the city have made the switch over the past two or so years, saving more than £1million between them.

When I switched over three years ago, I saved £300 off my annual fuel bill and continue to make savings each year. Just search for Peterborough Energy online, or arrange a free home visit by calling 01733 642272.

At a time when our budget is plummeting it’s these kind of innovative partnerships which have enabled us to continue delivering great opportunities for our residents, saving them money in the case of Peterborough Energy.

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City has it all from beer to opera

I often use my column to talk about how we are striving to improve life in Peterborough for all whether it’s investment in the city centre or plans to generate new jobs or housing.

Equally important is making sure our city is a great place to live and the kind of place people want to visit.

We’re in the midst of one of the busiest periods of our events calendar and this week has seen the return of one of the city’s most popular events.

Thousands of visitors from far and wide will be attending the Peterborough CAMRA Beer Festival over the course of five days, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Many of the breweries who make up the festival are local to the area and I met with one, Mile Tree Brewery, last week.

John Holdich on the Embankment with Mile Tree BreweryStanding by the river with Mile Tree Brewery

The brewery is relocating from Wisbech to Peterborough and is toasting the move by dedicating a beer to the city.

I met with Richard from the brewery and he told me the beer’s name, Quays, was inspired by the new Fletton Quays development as he wanted to link to Peterborough’s growth. I’ll raise a glass to that!

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Investment announced for partnership to help local schools

In December I made a commitment to leave no stone unturned in the city’s challenge to raise educational attainment.

It’s for this reason I’m pleased to announce that we are investing £150,000 in a partnership with a city-based not-for-profit organisation, Success for All, who will be working with a number of our schools.

Success for All works with more than 60,000 children in more than 130 schools across the UK which face similar challenges to schools in Peterborough. They do this by transforming the way children learn, encouraging pupils to work more collaboratively and changing the way teachers interact with pupils in the classroom.

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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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