In last week’s column I spoke about the urgent need for an uplift in our government funding to allow us to continue meeting the growing needs of our residents.
In the space of three days we received two announcements about millions of pounds of extra funding that could be coming our way for things like schools, care for the elderly and regeneration.
I’d like to say that the government is an avid reader of the Peterborough Telegraph and responded directly to my column, but in reality I think it’s the result of persistent pleas from this council and many others across the country for urgent recognition of the desperate funding shortages in local government.
In the Spending Round announced in Parliament last Wednesday we learned that extra money will be provided for education, adult social care and homelessness – in all these areas we have seen huge rises in demand.
The number of people reporting to us as homeless in particular rose by 43 per cent in 2016/17 and has continued to rise ever since. We’re doing lots to meet this challenge – buying our own homes, partnering with Cross Keys Homes on a joint venture to build homes and working with landlords to make more homes available for rent, but we desperately need more funding to meet the growing need.
We’re yet to know exactly how much extra we will receive in each area, but for education we expect to see an additional £2.9million for schools. This is great news, but of course schools will need to factor pay increases and inflation into that which reduces the net gain. We also expect to receive in the region of £2.4m to provide education for children with special educational needs.
Then on Friday we received further good news from the government that we are one of a number of areas chosen to bid for funding of up to £25million from the New Towns fund.
It’s a further example of how our behind the scenes lobbying is starting to pay off, with recognition that we are growing without the investment to back it up.
The government has said it wants the money to be used to boost our economic growth prospects, with a focus on transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture.
We’ll now be working together with partners to put together our bid, but we won’t be starting from scratch. We already have plans in place which this money could be used for, to accelerate our planned growth in future years. For example, we are already on track to be the third Gigabit city, this money could take this even further. Plans are also progressing at a pace now for a Peterborough University – a funding boost could help us to deliver more and quicker.
It’s heartening to know that our pleas are being heard, but I will continue to lobby those in Westminster so that Peterborough is at the forefront of their minds when allocating additional funding in the future.