Town Hall View: Report paints a promising picture

The scene in central Peterborough as the Holocaust memorial and wreath laying took place in January 2014. EMN-140317-155857001

The scene in central Peterborough as the Holocaust memorial and wreath laying took place in January 2014. EMN-140317-155857001

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I spend a lot of time telling people how great our city is and how much we’re achieving. We’re attracting new homes, businesses are investing here which is creating new jobs, and unemployment rates are down.

You don’t have to take my word for it – all you need to do is look at the latest Centre for Cities report, published on Monday, which rates the performance of 64 cities across the country.

Cllr Marco Cereste

Cllr Marco Cereste

I can’t deny it was disappointing to learn that we’re no longer the fastest growing city in the country by population, after being pipped to the post by Milton Keynes. However, it doesn’t come as a surprise and that’s for one main reason - Milton Keynes has a university. We are well on our way to securing a university for Peterborough and once we do I believe this city will grow in a way that far exceeds anything we have seen so far.

Overall, the Centre for Cities report shows that we are growing, growing in the right way, with more housing, less unemployment and a good proportion of private sector businesses.

I was at the launch of the report at City Hall in Westminster on Monday. Afterwards I spent time talking to fellow council leaders and chief executives about Peterborough and it was clear from my conversations that our voice on the national scene is so much louder than it once was. People are finally starting to realise that our city is a great place to invest and has huge potential.

The key to our success is not just population growth. The report highlighted some really interesting facts about Peterborough. For example, almost 70 per cent of homes have superfast broadband – that’s really encouraging as good internet access is so crucial, in particular for businesses. We are also ranked sixth amongst cities with the highest number of patents granted. This is a good indicator that there is business growth and innovation taking place in our city.

Our housing growth figures are promising too. We’re ranked second amongst cities for our housing stock growth figures, with 800 new homes built between 2012 and 2013. A good supply of new homes is crucial so that we can attract people to live and work here.

We know that people want to buy homes in Peterborough. Only this week we ranked fifth in the country for the number of people making use of the government’s Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is based on our own mortgage support scheme launched in 2011. Of the 512 loans agreed, 418 were first time buyers, which is really encouraging.

The Centre for Cities report provides a good outlook for the jobs market too. We ranked eighth amongst cities for the highest proportion of private sector jobs. Our average weekly earnings is £480, which is better than neighbouring cities including Leicester and Nottingham, and dispels the myth that we have a low wage economy.

We’re also ranked fifth for the reduction in the number of Jobseekers’ Allowance claimants since 2008 with 690 fewer people claiming the benefit. This is really encouraging as it is important we support people to raise their aspirations, by supporting them to gain employment.

This year’s report, which uses data from the past ten years, paints a really promising picture. I believe that our city has really taken off recently, so we can only be optimistic about how we will rank against other cities in years to come.

I’d like to remind people there will be a service in St John the Baptist Church in the city centre on Tuesday (27 January) to mark the national Holocaust Memorial Day.

It’s so important we continue to mark such an important day and remember the suffering and sacrifice of the millions killed in the Holocaust and other genocides.

We must never forget these atrocities and the people that were killed and must continue to share their stories with generations to come.

If you would like to attend the service, it begins at 12noon. There will also be a performance by St John Fisher Catholic High School students in Cathedral Square from 11.40am.

- Peterborough City Council leader gives his view on the council and news and issues affecting you