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…)

Sharing city’s secrets of success

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.

cathedral square

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…)

Looking at new ways to provide waste and recycling services

This week the council and its partner Amey have announced their intention to end the waste and recycling contract and establish a new way of providing services.

It’s one of a number of budget proposals for 2017/18 announced tomorrow (Friday) which, including measures agreed at the end of last year, look to save around £28million to allow us to deliver a balanced budget in times of increasing demands for services and ever reducing government funding.

It’s too early to say how waste and recycling services will be provided in the future, but it is likely to be a joint venture partnership with a private organisation. What’s important is that any new arrangement will allow the council more control over how services are provided and ensure that a percentage of commercial income generated is returned to us to provide services for residents.


Consultation on devolution deal

Yesterday our region was mentioned as part of the Chancellor’s budget speech.

As some of you will be aware discussions between councils covering Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Norfolk and Suffolk have been taking place with government recently.

These talks have now resulted in a devolution deal for East Anglia from the government.

The offer is to transfer a number of powers and funding from central government so they can be decided locally. The government wants councils to form an East Anglia Combined Authority which would cover the areas just mentioned.

My decision to agree to debate this offer from government now allows every city councillor the opportunity to have their say on whether the proposed deal benefits the city and our residents.

It can only be right that a deal of this magnitude and importance is open to extensive public scrutiny so that we can listen to views from across our city before councillors decide if this is the right deal for Peterborough.

A public consultation will therefore be held and a final decision on whether we become part of a combined authority will be decided by Full Council – this is when every city councillor votes on the issue.

The government’s deal is worth more than one billion pounds of new money to support economic growth in East Anglia over the next 30 years. As well as new decision making powers for the region on issues such as investment in infrastructure, growth, house building, jobs and skills.

For Peterborough, the deal includes commitments from government to develop an independent university in Peterborough. You can read more by visiting our website.

Peterborough City Council would keep its sovereignty and continue to deliver a vast range of services as we do currently – even if we are part of a combined authority. 

I’m keen to hear as many views as possible from residents and businesses. So when we launch the consultation I would encourage you to take part and have your say.


It’s new year – how about a new you?

It’s the time of year many of us resolve to make a fresh start and change our lives for the better.

If you want to get fit, stop smoking, recycle more, or lend a helping hand in your community then there are lots of facilities, groups and services in Peterborough to help you reach your goal.

Getting fit…

Peterborough’s leisure provider Vivacity is offering no joining fee at its six gyms during January.

The facilities available to use at the gyms – in particular, at the new Vivacity Premier Fitness in Hampton – are superb. These include swimming pools and state-of-the-art fitness equipment.

If you like to set yourself a goal, runners are already lining up to be part of the Perkins Great Eastern Run 2016. A record number of people have pre-registered for the event, which falls on Sunday 9 October, you can register your interest for the half marathon and fun run using the online form.

My wife and I were among the 7,000 people that took part in last year’s event, by completing the 5k Anna’s Hope fun run which takes place alongside the half marathon.


Lots to look forward to in our city

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and are getting ready to see in the New Year – whether you’re at home, with family and friends, or out and about in the city.

There is certainly a lot to look forward to in Peterborough during 2016. We will continue to support the development of the city and ensure it is a great place for people to live, visit and work in.

Regeneration work continues

We can expect progress to be made on the Fletton Quays site by Town Bridge in the new year.

CGI image of new development at Fletton Quays
Proposed Fletton Quays development

I also look forward to sharing details of the next stage of works for the city centre’s public realm. This will include Lower Bridge Street and follows the completion of Green Square, in Long Causeway.

All this regeneration is having a positive impact on the number of people choosing to live in the city centre. This will continue next year with the eye-catching Hereward Tower apartments on the market, and similar schemes in and around Priestgate already under construction.

The positive growth that Peterborough has experienced is attracting businesses and new jobs. We expect to announce further new names in the coming months. Watch this space.

We will see the further roll-out of new technology to keep the city clean while reducing spend by moving the ‘Glutton’ waste collection machines out into the communities. While, our new city-wide enforcement teams will be out tackling anti-social behaviour from April.

Waste will be high on the agenda with the official opening of our Energy Recovery Facility in Fengate. The facility means that rather than sending waste to landfill it will be turned into electricity. This will save the city £1million every year for the next three decades.