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…)

Creating a Smart infrastructure

A modern city relies on good infrastructure to keep it moving, and I don’t just mean roads, buildings and utilities like gas and electricity.

The rollout of Gigafast Broadband across Peterborough by CityFibre is now continuing at pace and is set to unlock huge economic growth in our city over the next 15 years.

Already over 140 kilometres of fibre optic cables have been installed and some of you reading will have already seen this happening on your own street.

Once complete, Vodafone is set to bring Gigafast Broadband (1000mbps) to most city residents by early 2019, making Peterborough the third Smart Gigabit city in the UK.

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Plenty to be excited about

I was delighted to hear that this year’s A-Level results are above the national average for pupils achieving passes for the fourth year in a row.

With results received from all of the city’s 11 secondary schools who had students sitting A-Levels this year, the overall pass rate has remained above the national average at 98.2 per cent, with the national average standing at 97.6 per cent.

The proportion of students achieving higher grades has remained high, with 44.7 per cent of pupils in city schools achieving A* to B grades, sustaining last year’s improvement compared to 42.4 % in 2016.

So I would like to say a big well done to all pupils who collected their results and the their teachers. It’s an exciting time as A-levels open many doors, whether you are remaining in education, taking a training course or entering the world of work.

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Excited by move to Fletton Quays

As you may be aware, the council is in the process of moving to brand new offices at Fletton Quays and the first teams have already moved in.

We are becoming the site’s anchor tenant, kick-starting an innovative re-development of this prime area alongside the river Nene which had been derelict for over 40 years.

All our teams will be moved in by the end of August and everyone is excited by the prospect of working in a state-of-the-art building.

Sand Martin House

The Fletton Quays development is the first regeneration project delivered on time and within budget by the Peterborough Investment Partnership (PIP), an innovative partnership between Peterborough City Council and GB Strategic Land Fund.

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Fairer funding needed for schools

I’ve spoken a lot in the past few weeks about the unprecedented growth in our population and the resulting huge increase we’ve experienced in demand for services.

One example of where the impact of an ever growing population is the most stark is education. In particular meeting our legal duty to provide school places for every child that needs one.

The increase we have seen in the number of school children in Peterborough in the past decade is phenomenal and certainly unprecedented.

SchoolPhotoForLeaderBlog

Peterborough schools are now teaching 7,360 extra children than they were ten years ago – to put it into perspective that’s more than the population of Sawtry.

As a result the council, working alongside city schools, has created around 9,000 new school places to cope with the increase in numbers as well as prepare for future demand.

This expansion programme has cost £300million, however government funding has only partly covered this and the council has had to borrow £100million to ensure that every child in the city has a school place – that works out to borrowing £27,000 every day for the past decade.

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Education review published for Peterborough

Towards the end of last year I made a personal commitment to leave no stone unturned in trying to understand whether there was anything more that could be done to improve the education offered to children and young people.

You may recall that I spoke of a unique set of challenges experienced by schools, which I and many others believed helped to explain why Peterborough is faced with the highly unusual scenario of being one of the best areas of the country for the number of schools judged good or outstanding by Ofsted, yet attainment being one of the weakest.

The task that I set Councillor Lynne Ayres, cabinet member for education for the city council, was to lead a review of education to see whether there was anything more that we, the schools and anyone else involved in education could be doing and to test whether the challenges that many people believe exist in Peterborough are fair and accurate.

This was against the context of changing national legislation in relation to the provision of education generally which, in particular, reduces the council’s role and responsibility in relation to the management of schools and its ability to intervene in the running of schools. The review was also commissioned because of the publication of Key Stage 2 results which placed Peterborough 151st out of 152 local authorities in England.

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Pupil’s school places for September announced

The wait to learn whether your child has gained a place at the school of your choice can be nerve racking for any parent.

I went through it with my own children and am going through it again now with my grandchildren.

Getting the right school for your child is a key part of them doing well in their education and being able to achieve their full potential. That is why our admissions team works closely with schools and neighbouring authorities to ensure as many parents as possible receive a place for their child at a preferred school.

We have a strong track record of achieving well above the national average for the number of children offered a place at one of their three preferred schools, and I am pleased to see this trend continuing.

This year a total of 2,465 applications were received on time and 98 per cent of pupils have been offered one of their three preferences, with 87 per cent of pupils set to start at their preferred school this September. This is up from 81 per cent in 2014.

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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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Lots to look forward to in 2017

As this is my first column of the year I’d like to wish residents all the best for a happy and prosperous 2017.  

There is always a lot going on in Peterborough and I believe that the next 12 months will be no different, with many exciting developments and subjects to focus on.

I think we can all agree that this city has waited long enough for the regeneration of North Westgate and I am committed to seeing this progress in 2017. We announced a few months ago that the council will invest £15million over the next three years to buy land and property so we can take a lead role in its comprehensive redevelopment.

While we are planning for the North Westgate scheme, on the other side of the city centre the planning has finished and work has begun on Fletton Quays. This £120million regeneration project will really begin to take shape over the next 12 months as works to transform the site start to build up steam.

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Reading is one of the most important skills in life

There are few more important skills you can learn in life than being able to read.

Without it, simple things like making sense of the instructions on a packet of food or understanding a utility bill can prove daunting.

Last week the government published its validated key stage 2 results for our primary schools, revealing how many pupils reached the required level of attainment in reading, writing and mathematics.

Although the results show some progress, overall they need to improve and this is why I have commissioned a review to begin in the new year to see if there is anything more the council can do to support our schools to raise attainment.

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