Former Peterborough City Councillor Charles Swift - who was the longest serving councilor in the country when he stepped down - says he fears for the future of the authority
Charles Swift OBE
“On April 1st 1998 Peterborough became a unitary authority divorced from Cambridgeshire County Council, leaving City Councillors responsible for all services from cradle to grave.
Your locally elected councillors would have total accountability endorsed by City Council 19th May 1997. A promise made to all electors: ‘We will provide services internally rather than externally.’
Has that promise taken place? The answer is emphatically NO.
Ninety per cent of our council services are run at present by 20-plus different agencies in theprivate/charitable sector on long term leases of 20-30 years.
Our Chief Officers are jointly employed with Cambridgeshire County Council, others with local districtcouncils, inter-woven daily co-operation. We have sold off our housing stock, some 11,000 properties for £4,650 each.
At present, millions of pounds of council assets (the family silver) are up for sale.
We are closing all the departments that gave apersonal daily service to the most vulnerable - now told to go online. We are moving the Town Hall staff to Fletton Quays.
I feel sorry for those local candidates in the forthcoming May elections. The die is cast, all the major decisions have been taken for the next 20 years plus.
The only major decision that they will have to play a part in, and the writing is on the wall, is the abolition of what is left of Peterborough City Council which could be done overnight, and with other Councils in the Cambridgeshire County Council made into one, if local government is to survive at all.
It is NOT the fault, I hasten to add of present Councillors of all political persuasions, but Governments past and present and the sanctions and dictatorship that they impose that has brought local authorities to the dissemination of their services, and in many cases close to bankruptcy.
I believe sincerely that there is a method in theirmadness, for be aware in the last couple of years the Government have already set up another structure of local governments in Cambridgeshire. We now have the Mayor of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire and the long term aim is for them to run ALL services that were in the previous Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council. If only we could put the clock back to those early years when I entered local government, and we built up politics apart, no problems in education, health and welfare and social services, housing no homelessness, no waiting and councillors were looked upon and acknowledged for their achievements and held in high esteem.
The councillors at present have no bright future, but I wish them well.’