Mayor must“build the university”

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

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Whoever wins the race to be the first Mayor of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, it’s imperative that this city and its needs, are understood and taken seriously.

Like it or loathe it, we have had a unitary authority for many years which has put the city first.

We may not like some of the decisions that were made in our name, like the fountains or the closure of care homes, but they were made by Peterborough politicians, acting, they believed, in the best interests of the city and its residents.

Let’s face it, there are not many places that care enough to help people wash their young in the city centre!

There is a very real danger though that Peterborough city council will be usurped by the new combined authority, as more and more powers are transferred over the coming years.

Should that occur, our voice and our concerns will be heard less and less, as the needs of Cambridge and others take precedent.

It happened before, when Peterborough was part of Cambridgeshire county council and must not be allowed to happen again – it’s one of the main reasons we became a unitary authority.

The new Mayor must send out a strong message early on, a grand statement of intent if you will, one that screams, “Peterborough matters.”

Before he or she is seduced by those who want an Underground for Cambridge, or by others who desire a metal horse for Wisbech, the new mayor must first announce a proper, fully-fledged university for Peterborough and a time frame for delivery.

This would immediately win confidence and show that he or she was taking the future of this city seriously.

A university isn’t for everyone, nor is it a cure for all our ills but the boost it would deliver to our economy and local business is enormous.

Peterborough teenagers would be able to continue their education, without moving away and many thousands of others would be enticed here to help fill the skills gap that we currently have in the city. Just look at how Lincoln and others have benefitted from having their own university in recent years; more people equals more money to spend and it’s no surprise that Lincoln’s night time economy is vibrant and varied, whilst Peterborough’s requires a shot in the arm, despite any number of recent improvements.

If I was the new Mayor of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, my first photo call would be on Friday, wearing a hard hat, stood in the middle of North Westgate; my preferred location for the central building of the new university.

To work properly it must be situated in the centre of the city and North Westgate kills two birds with one stone; delivering both the final piece of the city centre jigsaw and an advanced centre of learning that has been promised for decades. It would be more than a gesture, it would be a statement of intent, a message to all in the county that Peterborough’s future is as important as anybody else’s.

I challenge the new mayor to prove that Peterborough matters – build the university.