Peterborough’s post-election priorities

Last week’s local elections saw the Conservative Party remain as the largest overall party on the council.

I would like to say a big thank you to those who voted and everybody involved in the organisation of the elections.

The council’s elections team has worked tirelessly in recent weeks and they were helped by hundreds of dedicated folk who staffed polling stations and counted votes on the night, so a big well done to you all.

Our focus now turns to the year ahead and delivering the services that residents told us were important to them when we were knocking on doors in the run up to the elections.

election count

Top of our agenda will be those residents who need our help the most – so keeping children and young people safe and allowing them to reach their potential and supporting adults and older people who need our help to remain living independent and happy lives.

We will continue to work closely with our schools to support them to attract good quality teachers and raise attainment levels. Plans for a university continue to progress and within a year I would expect to see planning permission in place for the university campus building on the embankment.

People who are in housing difficulty remain our priority and we will be working with them to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place and where this is not possible, supporting them to find suitable accommodation. We will also continue to support new house building projects so that we have a good supply of housing of all tenures coming forward to meet the needs of our growing city.

I know that the cleanliness of the city is a priority for our residents and that’s why we launched our own trading company to provide waste collection, street cleansing and other services. Doing so has given us more control over the way these services are provided.

We will continue to invest in our roads and cycleways, particularly in areas of the city where we are experiencing high levels of growth, so that people can continue to travel around our city with ease.

I also want us to work more closely with our residents so that they can help us to improve our communities. We are seeing good examples of this across the city, such as the Good Neighbours Scheme in Castor which supports the elderly. I believe we can help encourage many more initiatives like this, therefore putting our communities at the heart of everything we do.

There is much work to be done over the next 12 months to ensure we can continue providing the services that our residents need, against a backdrop of ever decreasing government funding and the need to make millions of pounds of savings.

As the largest party on the council, with support from our fellow opposition members, I believe that we can meet the challenge. (more…)

Peterborough is leading on the digital front

On Monday Peterborough was highlighted as an example of a city leading the way in providing fast internet speeds to launch the Government’s new Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund.

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Jones MP, chose Peterborough because of our successful partnership with CityFibre to develop the city’s full fibre networks, offering internet speeds 100 times faster than the UK average.

The new fund, which will unlock more than £1 billion, will look to replicate nationally what we have achieved in Peterborough. As the UK’s first Gigabit City, we have 300 sites connected to full fibre networks including schools, council buildings and CCTV cameras, as well as 4,000 businesses.

We know there is still work to do to achieve fast internet speeds city-wide, to all residents and rural areas, and the new fund could help us to finance the further extension of the network to these areas.

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Promoting the importance of good school attendance rates

Headteachers having the option to fine parents for taking their children out of school has been a hot topic since the government clamped down on term-time absence four years ago.

I have great sympathy with parents who try and avoid more costly holidays, and I’m aware that for some families going away during term time is the difference between having a holiday and not because of the huge cost difference.

But last week’s Supreme Court ruling in the case of Jon Platt from the Isle of Wight, who was fined £120 for taking his daughter out of school for a holiday to Florida, has helped highlight the need for parents to heed the rules and for their children to attend school regularly, unless there are exceptional or unavoidable circumstances.

I receive lots of emails and letters from parents who are unhappy that they cannot take their children out of school without the risk of a fine.

But there are very good reasons which are in the best interests of a child’s education as to why the rules apply. It’s so important that children attend school so that they can reach their full potential. It is more difficult for children to do this when they are being taken out of school during term time.

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Peterborough is a diverse but united city

Communities stand together in the face of terrorism. This position couldn’t be clearer at present.

The families of those who lost loved ones during the tragic events in London have been in my thoughts, as I am sure they have yours; but from such terrible adversity does come a ray of positivity, and that is in the steadfast, resolute reaction we have seen.

The best response to horrific attacks as took place in Westminster is to make sure we come together in solidarity and not allow any terrorist activity to divide us.

An overwhelming showing of unity has shone all over the UK in the past week and our great city of Peterborough remains united in defiance against such extremism.

We are fortunate to live in a city that has people from all manner of backgrounds, faiths and cultures, many of whom are working together to help build an even more cohesive, united society.

Community cohesion is about recognising that we may not all be the same, but we treat each other with equality, mutual respect and understanding.

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Council plea for safer parking outside schools

From time to time you get a news story that gets people hot under the collar. It seems last week’s plea from the council for more considerate parking during the school run was one of those stories.

Articles on the PT online and posted on our own social media pages led to streams of comments from people lamenting the chaos which ensues outside many of our schools at either the start or end of each school day.

Some blamed the parents for inconsiderate and dangerous parking, others said it was ruining the area they live in and a good few reminisced on having to walk miles to school when they were a child.

The fact is that we all lead busy lives and often the temptation to take an easier option to save a few minutes here and there is hard to resist.

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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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Peterborough schools judged positively in annual report

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills published his final annual report, prior to his retirement, on 1 December 2016.  

The report highlights, amongst other things, that Peterborough is one of the best areas for the number of schools judged good or outstanding by Ofsted. In the East of England, Peterborough is ranked joint third for the percentage of children attending good or outstanding schools at both primary and secondary level. Translated into real figures the following represents the progress made:

  • 91% of primary school pupils in Peterborough attend good or outstanding schools. This is a year on year increase of 6% and a 31% rise since 2012;
  • 92% of secondary school pupils attend a good or outstanding school. This is a year on year increase of 8% and a 9% rise since 2012.

Contrast this picture with the unvalidated data on education attainment in those same schools rated good and outstanding and you find a picture, at Key Stage 2 (11 year olds) where attainment is one of the weakest in the country. This picture may appear, on the face of it, puzzling and inexplicable but in reality this is not the case and I would like to explain why.  

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Council publishes first phase budget proposals

If you’d told me ten years ago that the money we get from government to provide services for our residents would be cut in half I’d have laughed at you.

Surely rising birth rates, people living longer and the inevitable greater pressure these factors place on our services would mean that our funding would go up and not down.

In an ideal world yes, but the reality is that in the past six years we’ve seen our government funding cut by £54million, which equates to nearly 50 per cent of our grant.   

Last Friday we published our first phase budget proposals which detail how we will close a £19million gap in our budget in 2017/18. Once again we’re ensuring that services for our most vulnerable residents are protected.

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We must support and challenge schools following SATs results

It’s fair to say I’ve faced considerable criticism in the past couple of weeks about the performance of primary schools in this year’s SATs tests.

People who know me understand how passionately I care about providing children and young people with the best education possible, which is why the results came as a real blow.

I’ve listened to all the comments that have been made and what is clear is that people don’t fully understand the role that local authorities now have in providing education. Many of our schools run independently as academies and the government is placing more and more power in the hands of individual schools and taking power away from councils.

Our primary role is to support and challenge our schools through our improvement team. We do not teach pupils, nor do we govern schools. These are the facts.

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