New mayor will be good for city

John Holdich

John Holdich

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In my column last week I mentioned the importance of your vote to our democratic process and, with this in mind, I guess there can’t be many folk unaware of last week’s elections for Combined Authority Mayors, writes Peterborough City Council leader cllr John Holdich.

Although the national and local media covered the event for weeks; the voting turnout across our region was low, but higher than expected and I am pleased to say we now have a new elected Mayor, Councillor James Palmer, in place for our Combined Authority.

I think it’s worth reiterating just how important this milestone is for the future of our great city.

The new devolved Combined Authority will unlock millions of pounds of new Government funding, alongside decision making powers being transferred from Westminster.

This means that a greater number of important decisions will be made locally rather than by Central Government.

The new Mayor will chair the Combined Authority and will be the link between us and Central Government.

By having this new Mayor in place, the Combined Authority will now receive many millions of pounds annually from the Government and I have listed below just a few ways this money could be spent.

It will allow us and other councils in the county to plan road and rail improvements together, that will benefit everyone, including people living in the urban and rural areas.

We will also have more money to spend on improving public transport, in particular to help our rural communities and young people access jobs. We need better rail links to Norwich, Cambridge and Stansted airport and devolution puts us in a much stronger position to secure that investment in quicker and more frequent services.

It will give us access to a £100 million housing fund, to be invested over the next five years, to build more homes in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

We can take on responsibilities and funding from government that will give us a greater say in how skills training is delivered and, importantly, tailor our learning and skills opportunities to the needs of our residents and employers. We will see investment to enable University Centre Peterborough to attain Taught Degree Awarding powers and in the longer term, to establish an independent university.

Currently many of our young people have to leave Peterborough to achieve their chosen degree which is a great shame.

The crucial aspect is that we, and representatives from Councils across the County, and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership will be making the decisions, not Westminster, because we are best placed to understand the real issues we face.

An innovative new bank is about to open its doors in Peterborough.

As part of an ambitious planned growth programme in the UK, Peterborough has been chosen by Metro Bank as their latest and, one of their biggest stores (I’m told they don’t call them banks). At a time when other more well-known banks appear to be closing branches across the country, I think it’s great news that the first new bank in over 100 years is actually establishing stores back into our High Streets.

Founded in the UK in 2010; they apparently offer all the normal services and financial protections one might expect from a traditional bank but will be open 7 days a week, for longer hours and they promise a much quicker service. I’ll bring a dog too because he’ll get free biscuits; Chairman Vernon Hill is reported to have said “customers think if we take care of their dogs then we’ll also take care of them” That’s food for thought...and lets hope they live up to their promises.

Finally this week, I thought I’d outline the new GCSE grades which are being phased in, starting with some of this summer’s exams.

The new GCSE courses include much less coursework than before; being designed to be more rigorous, with exams taken after two years of study, rather than in modules with exams along the way.

New-style GCSEs in English and maths will be taken by the current Year 11 students - these exams will be graded in the new way, with nine as the highest mark and one the lowest. Grades nine, eight and seven are broadly equivalent to an A* and A with six, five and four being in line with B and C grades.

I understand for most other subjects the new grades will be awarded from the summer of 2018. A third wave of 9-1 graded GCSEs will be taught from September this year, with exams in 2019.

The effects of these changes mean that it will be very difficult to compare the results of this year’s children with those achieved in previous years.

To finish, I would like to wish all students who are taking their exams, the very best of luck.