City Council leader John Holdich: Council faces wider funding gap

Cllr John Holdich with a copy of the budget
Cllr John Holdich with a copy of the budget
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In last week’s column I focused on the work we are doing to help homeless families in the city by pledging £4 million to provide new homes in Midland Road and Bretton Court.

I also highlighted how we are actively working with residents in St Michael’s Gate to help address any issues they are having with their accommodation.

This leads me on to the excellent work we have done to bring over a quarter of empty homes in the city back into use over the past 12 months.

Of the 574 privately-owned properties in the city that have been empty for more than six months, 31 per cent (179 empty homes) were brought back into use last year as part of our Empty Homes strategy.

In addition, over the last five years, in which the council has helped to bring 663 empty homes back into use, generating over £3 million for the authority from the government’s New Homes Bonus scheme. I’m very proud of our proactive efforts to tackle this national problem. We have helped provide properties that were previously blighting communities to people who desperately need them. Our stance is to work with owners of empty homes and offer them advice and support, so if you own an empty property and are unsure about your options, please get in touch with our Empty Homes Service by calling 01733 86127 or visiting https://www.peterborough.gov.uk/residents/housing/empty-homes/

Our Phase Two budget proposals were published on Thursday on the council’s website.

They are available to see via www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget. I’d invite you all to look at them and to make any comments through our consultation which starts at the same time.

Writing for the Sunday Telegraph ahead of the Local Government Finance Settlement, LGA Chairman Lord Porter warned core government funding to councils will be further cut in half over the next two years and completely phased out by the end of the decade, leaving local authorities with little choice but to increase council tax income. He went on to say that even this won’t be enough to plug the funding gaps faced by councils.

This is the situation Peterborough City Council finds itself in, while trying to protect vital services to the public.

Our government grants have been cut by 80 per cent over the past eight years, down from £55million down to £10million. Our argument is that this is based on out of date population figures, which as we are the fourth fastest growing city, means we are unfairly funded compared to slower growing areas. Essentially it means that compared to other areas of the country, we are being asked to do far more with much less. Our Phase Two budget proposals will, we believe, protect vital services.

This may not be the case in years to come.

Please, for this reason, sign up for to our Stand Up For Peterborough campaign to help protect the council from further shortfalls in government funding in future years by visiting www.peterborough.gov.uk/standup

This week has marked six months since we introduced two Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) in the city to help crackdown on anti-social behaviour such as littering, spitting and dog fouling.

Early indications suggest that both PSPOs have been successful - so far we have seen a gradual decrease in the number of fines issued for littering in both PSPOs and there has been a stark drop in unauthorised cycling in the city centre.

Finally, this week sees the launch of a positive new service, which the council has been instrumental in setting up to support children and young people with their well-being and mental health.

CHUMS will support children and young people with mild-moderate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as offering preventative interventions for other behaviours such as self harm. This is a really worthwhile initiative and I’m confident that it will transform our emotional well being and mental health services to better meet the needs of children and young people.

Related:

- BUDGET: Council tax now set to rise by 6% in Peterborough to help tackle huge deficit

- BUDGET: Council to save £3.7m after overpaying on loans and receives council tax and business rates boost