Town Hall View: There are tough decisions to be made

Cllr Marco Cereste
Cllr Marco Cereste
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Peterborough City Council leader Marco Cereste gives his view on the council and news and issues affecting you...

In November we published our first phase of budget proposals which begin to address a £25million gap in our budget next year.

At the same time we launched the Budget Conversation to understand how people feel about our initial proposals and to help us shape our second phase of proposals to save the remaining £8million necessary to balance our budget next year.

For the past few weeks I have been urging people to take part in the Budget Conversation so that we have the best chance of agreeing a budget that as many of our residents as possible support.

So far we’ve received 168 responses to our online questionnaire and we’ve handed out a good number of paper copies. It’s not a bad response, but we want to hear from as many residents as possible ahead of the close of the consultation at 5pm a week today (Thursday, December11). In particular we want younger residents to tell us what they think, as two thirds of responses so far have come from people aged over 45.

We have been very honest about the situation that we face this year. With so many savings to find our room for manoeuvre is very limited and it is unlikely that everyone will get the exact outcome they would like.

Our government grant has been cut by nearly 40 per cent (£44million) in the five years up to the end of 2015/16. Coupled with additional demands for services and national changes, such as the introduction of the Care Act which places additional responsibilities on adult social care, we face an enormous challenge of finding savings of nearly £25million to balance our books, while continuing to invest in the city to ensure it is a great place to live, work, visit and stay.

There are tough decisions to make about how we spend our money, but we can only try and please the majority if we know how you feel. So if you’ve not done so already, please read the proposals published so far and take part in the Budget Conversation. You can complete the online questionnaire on our website, or you can pick up a paper copy of the questionnaire from Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions or from any library in the city.

Last week I hosted a visit from the chief executive of Public Health England, Duncan Selbie.

We used the visit as a chance to tell Mr Selbie about the good work taking place to improve the health and life expectancy of our residents, as well as some of the challenges that we face. In particular, our complex mix of nationalities has posed a challenge for improving public health as different communities have varying lifestyles and issues.

We gave Mr Selbie a tour of Central ward so that he could see some of the issues first hand and spoke to him about how PHE could better support us to improve the health of our residents.

We are determined that Peterborough increasingly becomes a place where people want to live and raise families and to spend their leisure time. However, we also recognise that quality of life does not exist without the ability to enjoy good health and health care services. We take our responsibilities for public health extremely seriously and will continue to do all we can to encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles.

I was delighted this week to learn that the government will be investing £300million in improving the A47, one of the most important roads in our region.

A fully dualled A47 would vastly improve journey times, improve safety and significantly boost our economy, making the city a more attractive place for businesses to invest. It would also support the many existing businesses who rely on good road links and lose money sat in traffic.

Peterborough is well known for its excellent transport links. However as the city grows it is crucial that we invest in our roads to ensure they are able to support an increase in traffic and the support of the government is crucial to achieving that.