Conservative opinion: We are moving in the right direction, writes council leader Wayne Fitzgerald

Since I took over as leader just over a year ago it has been my number one goal to get the council onto a stable financial footing.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 24th June 2022, 12:06 pm
Council is moving to a stable financial footing
Photo by PA
Council is moving to a stable financial footing Photo by PA

It is essential if we are to ensure Peterborough continues to go from strength to strength and to give residents the best opportunities.

This week we had some good news on that front, with our independent Improvement Panel issuing its first report on how we are meeting the aims of our Improvement Plan – the document that details how we will get to where we want to be.

The report says what we expected it to, that we have made good progress but are not yet out of the woods.

It’s good to receive confirmation that we are moving forward in the right direction and are closer to financial stability than we were six months ago when our plan was signed off by Full Council.

We knew from the start that although there might be some quick fixes, it would take time to deliver long-term changes and transformation. This report shows that we have made progress in so many areas, delivering a balanced budget in the current financial year without external support, achieving an underspend in the last financial year which has helped bolster our reserves and in looking at how we can transform our services longer term, so they are financially sustainable.

As the report concludes, there are still significant risks to be managed and areas of work that need to be undertaken, but with the continued support of our staff and all elected members working together, we can achieve the aims set out in our Improvement Plan and continue to improve the lives of everyone living in our city.

On Monday morning I was interviewed on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about the improvement in our financial situation and I was asked for an update on the hydrotherapy pool.

I told listeners that we were investigating an alternative option which would offer those that needed it access to hydrotherapy in the city.

We are still dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, but I can now tell you that we are looking to trial use of the teaching pool at the Regional Swimming Pool later this year so that it can be used for hydrotherapy.

I’ll tell you more when I am able to, but I hope this will be a solution for people in our city who benefit from hydrotherapy.

This week we had to announce the difficult decision to fell a tree in Bretton.

It’s been a very hard decision to make and one we wish we did not have to, but we have no other option unless we want to spend six figure sums of taxpayers’ cash.

The professional advice we have received is that the tree is causing structural damage to a nearby home. In addition, a further home is also raising a claim against the council and potentially another three homes could follow suit. The cost of underpinning just one of these homes could be around £150,000.

If the tree is left to continue growing, further damage could be caused, bringing the bill much higher.

If we took no action, we would effectively be risking hundreds of thousands of pounds in taxpayers’ cash – money which could be spent on other essential services like schools and adult and children’s social care.

I never want to see trees removed in our city, or anywhere for that matter, they are a vital part of our environment. But I’m afraid on this occasion we cannot avoid it.

We will be planting 100 young oak trees – up to two metres high – this autumn/winter to mitigate against the environmental impact of our decision.

And finally, this October sees the return of the popular Great Eastern Run after a two-year break because of the pandemic.

There is a real buzz amongst the running community about this year’s race and more people are signing up every week. Don’t forget, if you’re a regular half marathon competitor then our race is a good one to try and beat your best time as the course is largely flat.

If you would like to enter the main 13.1 mile race, or the 5km fun run, visit www.greateastern.run