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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