A university is closer than ever

Cllr John Holdich
Cllr John Holdich

Anyone who knows me will tell you how committed I am to seeing a fully fledged-university in Peterborough, writes Peterborough City Council leader cllr John Holdich.

It’s the single biggest thing we can do to stop our talented young people from leaving to build their lives elsewhere and ensures that our businesses have a good crop of people with the skills and talent they need to apply for jobs.

We’re closer than ever to there being a dedicated Peterborough University. University Centre Peterborough (UCP) is continuing to work towards gaining degree awarding powers and research is ongoing into the type of courses which will meet the needs of students and businesses. An appraisal is also underway of the Bishop’s Road site where the development of a new campus for up to 2,000 students is proposed.

Developing an independent university is an exciting but complex process and although I would like it to happen tomorrow, it takes time to achieve.

In the meantime, the number of people studying degrees in the city is increasing year on year, with double the number of young people from our schools starting a degree with UCP in 2018 compared to the year before. That’s fantastic news and proof that more of our young people are improving their career options.

I was also impressed to hear that more than 250 students graduated last year with good numbers achieving the higher grades. Eighty-eight per cent of integrated engineering students and 57 per cent of sociology students achieved a first class honours, which is fantastic.

The undergraduate provision at UCP has also continued to grow with the launch of new degrees in digital arts, digital marketing, electrical and electronic engineering, mechanical and manufacturing engineering and five new business management degrees.

Having a fully-fledged university will result in significant economic benefits for the whole city, and at the rate we’re progressing, it may not be that far into the future that we achieve it.

For more information about the degree courses available in Peterborough visit www.ucp.ac.uk

It’s always nice to welcome government ministers to Peterborough to showcase our city. On Monday the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, visited Westcombe Engineering, our social enterprise which creates employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

She was given a guided tour by Andrew Lesiw, the company’s managing director and spent time talking to staff about their roles.

It’s been a highly successful past two years for Westcombe, experiencing 40 per cent growth and winning the Manufacturer of the Year (under £25m) category at last year’s prestigious Made In Central & East England manufacturing awards.

We’re immensely proud of Westcombe, so it was fantastic for them to showcase themselves to Amber Rudd and she was thoroughly impressed by the whole operation.

I was particularly pleased that she recognised and praised the support the council has shown Westcombe over the years.

You may have seen that our trading standards officers have been involved in an operation with HMRC, police and Immigration Enforcement to tackle the illegal cigarette trade.

Thousands of suspected illegal cigarettes and a large quantity of suspected counterfeit tobacco were uncovered in shops in the Peterborough and Wisbech areas.

Officers were accompanied by three detection dogs from Wagtail UK who sniffed out shelves, store rooms, cupboards and counters.

Illegal cigarettes and tobacco pose serious health risks because the ingredients are not regulated properly, and in cases where duty hasn’t been paid, legitimate businesses will be out of pocket.

Anyone who has any knowledge of suspected illegal tobacco sales can report it, anonymously if necessary, to Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Trading Standards by calling 01733 747474 or by emailing trading.standards@peterborough.gov.uk.

We’ve just published our final set of budget proposals for 2019/20, which means we have once again delivered a balanced budget for the year ahead.

You can read the proposals and comment on them by visiting www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget.

Year on year we have achieved the savings we need to by being efficient, effective and continuing to generate additional income.

However, we still have significant savings to find in the future.

We will continue to do everything we can to protect services, our city’s infrastructure and growth in what is a challenging landscape.

But like every council across the country, we have many difficult decisions to make in the years to come to continue to be able to deliver a balanced budget.