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.
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*.
This will save the council considerable yearly running costs, at a time when every penny is needed to cope with rising demands in adults and children’s social care and to keep open vital services such as libraries, parks and open spaces.
The alternative would be to close them, something we have strived to avoid.
We faced a similar situation with our library service, where we needed to make a saving. We managed to keep every library in the city open, for longer hours, by introducing self serve technology.
Each of the centres would need to be operated as a social enterprise by a constituted group who would be responsible for overall management and generating a profit sufficient to cover day to day running costs and on-going repairs and maintenance.
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.
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…)
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.
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…)
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.
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…)
Our city is built on a long history of migration. We are diverse, vibrant and proud to celebrate our differences as together these are the things that unites us.
Because of this, we are a welcoming city and on the whole I think that people from different backgrounds get on well together. You only have to attend one of the many cultural festivals we host in the city each year, such as the Italian or Diwali events, to see that. But of course there is more we can all do to bring people together to break down barriers.
Last year we were recognised for our community work by the government, who invited Peterborough to be one of five areas to take part in its integrated communities strategy, to improve and showcase successful integration across the UK.
As part of this, we’ve just launched the Peterborough Communities Fund which is an opportunity for people to make a real difference in their community.
Local groups and organisations can apply for funds to deliver projects that bring our communities together, whatever their background, race or religion.
People can apply for grants of up to £20,000 – but we’re equally happy if you just need a few hundred pounds; we know that often just a small amount of funding can make a huge difference.
Applications are invited from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors and we also welcome joint bids from groups who want to bring communities together. Ideas that have the potential to run and run are particularly welcome. (more…)
Following the landmark decision taken by our cabinet in December, we are on track to set up our first Local Authority Trading Company.
This signals a major new direction for delivering many council services and will be a ‘people’s company’ improving the services we provide for residents and businesses across the city.
We are now working with staff to deliver a new company that invests in them and the services we provide.
The transfer of services will follow a phased approach: First to launch is building cleaning, then passenger transport and waste and recycling collections in April. Finally, building maintenance, street cleansing and grounds maintenance in May.
This will help to manage the complexity and scale of the task which involves the transferring of 449 employees, and all the assets and vehicles associated with these services. It will ensure a smooth transfer and minimal disruption for residents. (more…)
There is an old saying that every great city is only that way because of the people who live there.
Well, Sunday’s Civic Remembrance service in the city centre demonstrated just how great the people of Peterborough truly are.
I’ve not seen Bridge Street so packed for a long time – there must have been thousands of people who came along to pay their respects.
This year’s event was especially poignant as not only did Remembrance Day fall on a Sunday but the occasion also marked 100 years since the signing of the Armistice which led to the end of the First World War.
We were anticipating big crowds and put up a giant TV screen in Cathedral Square so that people could watch the military parade along Bridge Street, wreath laying by the war memorial and two minute silence which was impeccably observed.
We also streamed live footage from the event on the council’s Facebook page and I’m informed that many people watched this online.
So I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who came along – you are a credit to our wonderful city.
I know that the servicemen and women who attended were deeply touched by the huge turnout and saw firsthand that the people of Peterborough will never forget those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.