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…)

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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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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Confidence in the city’s economy continues to grow

If you read last week’s Peterborough Telegraph then you may have seen that online retailer Ocado is to open a distribution hub in the city creating up to 230 jobs.

The news is hot on the heels of high street giant House of Fraser receiving planning permission to build a distribution centre, generating up to 1,000 jobs.

We have a good track record in Peterborough for attracting new businesses and jobs. We’ve seen 373 per cent jobs growth during the past 100 years, ranking us second out of 57 cities in England and Wales.

In the past three years alone Peterborough businesses have added almost 7,000 jobs to our economy and our private sector jobs market is now one of the most buoyant nationally, helping to push unemployment rates to the lowest level since the early 1990s.

It’s certainly been a good few years, but this year is turning out to be exceptional, with 2,096 jobs announced so far. They’re from a real mix of industries too, including retail, food, healthcare and engineering.

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Proposed £600 million fund to improve transport

Last week I shared with you what I think are the benefits for residents and businesses of our proposed devolution deal with government from the perspective of education and training.

This week I’d like to focus on growth and in particular how devolution could benefit our transport and housing.

Let me start with transport, that’s our roads, train and bus services and how we connect with surrounding towns, rural areas, Cambridge and beyond.

We’re fortunate to be really well situated on the A1M and East Coast Main Line. However, businesses tell us that transport connectivity needs improving so people and freight can move around more freely with better connections to the east and west of our city and between Peterborough and Cambridge. Transport delays for businesses can cost them dearly, as it often means they miss deadlines.

If the proposed devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough goes ahead, we’d have access to a new £600 million fund (£20million annually) to improve transport and infrastructure across the county.

Town Hall

Having access to this kind of money will allow us and other councils in the county to plan road and rail improvements together that will benefit everyone, including people living in the urban and rural areas. In addition, having certainty over the money we will receive in future years will help us plan projects longer term, ensuring we get best value.

We’ll also have more money to spend on improving public transport, in particular to help our rural communities and young people access jobs. Virgin Trains, which runs the East Coast Main Line, is planning to introduce new high speed trains next year which will reduce the journey time from Peterborough to London to under 40 minutes. But we also need better rail links to Norwich, Cambridge and Stansted airport and devolution will put us in a much stronger position to secure that investment in quicker and more frequent services.

If we can also improve journey times by upgrading the roads and having better bus services then it should make Peterborough an even more attractive place to live, whether you work in the city or commute elsewhere, and to invest.

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Give us your take on future vision

In the past three years Peterborough businesses have added almost 7,000 jobs to our economy and our private sector jobs market is now one of the most buoyant nationally.

Only this week we were rated the fifth best place in the country to work by recruitment firm Glassdoor, which ranked towns and cities on how easy it is to get a job, how affordable it is to live there and how satisfied employees are working there. We finished higher than the likes of Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol.

It’s clear that confidence in the city’s future is growing. Only recently major retailer House of Fraser announced plans to open a distribution centre here, creating up to 1,000 jobs.

We have to make sure this confidence continues and that we retain and attract new businesses from a wide variety of sectors, whilst at the same time giving our residents the chance to acquire the skills they need to work for those businesses.

I believe that we can achieve exactly that if we press ahead with our proposed devolution deal with government.

As part of a combined authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough we can take on responsibilities and funding from government that will give us a greater say in how skills training is delivered and, importantly, tailor our learning and skills opportunities to the needs of our residents and employers.

For example, we would have control over funding to provide 19+ adult education, as well as the Apprenticeship Age Grant which incentivises employers to offer apprenticeships. With the latter we would be able to ensure opportunities are available in the employment sectors where they are most needed.

The government has also given its commitment to support the review of post-16 education and training. This is crucial as it will allow us to understand what skills our businesses are looking for in their employees and whether our schools and colleges are meeting those needs.

In addition, we will see investment to enable University Centre Peterborough to attain Taught Degree Awarding powers and longer term establish an independent university. Currently many of our young people have to leave Peterborough to achieve their chosen degree which is a great shame.

The result of all this is that our residents and anyone else choosing to further their learning here will be able to gain training and qualifications that will enable them to build a life for themselves in Peterborough. Our businesses will have a wealthy talent pool to choose from.

Town Hall

But it’s now over to you to tell us what you think so that councils and the secretary of state can consider your opinions when taking decisions later in the year. You can read more about the proposals and take part in an online survey on the council website. The consultation closes on 23 August.

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Investments are starting to pay off

More and more we are getting clear indications that our investment in the growth of the city is paying off.

This week it was the announcement by House of Fraser that it will be opening a 750,000 square foot distribution centre in the city, generating up to 1,000 new jobs for our residents.

This is great news for Peterborough’s economy and is a huge vote of confidence in our city.

It’s not a stroke of luck that one of the best known high street names is investing in our city, but thanks to our fantastic position, close to many of the major routes and cities, and the investment we have made in our infrastructure to ensure we’re attractive to companies wanting to do business here.

Artist impression of the new House of Fraser distribution centre
Artist impression of the new House of Fraser distribution centre

You may recall that one of the main reasons we expanded the Fletton parkway was to improve access into the city from the south, in particular to support growth sites such as Gateway Peterborough. The benefits of that scheme far outweigh the £4.5million we paid towards the £18million project, in terms of job creation, investment in our community and the additional money we stand to make from business rates. Less than a year after completion, this has materialised with House of Fraser investing at Gateway Peterborough.

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