Conservative Party opinion: 'We must continue to make progress', writes councillor Wayne Fitzgerald

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Wayne Fitzgerald talks decision to remove city flower beds, Princess Anne visiting Peterborough and, of course, the Full Council meeting in his latest column

The Annual Council Meeting takes place on Monday and in the past week or so I have been asked a few times about our plans for the future, so I have been giving a lot of thought to the task ahead.

In simple terms it’s pretty much the same as it has been for the past year. My role is to keep the council on the straight and narrow and to avoid government intervention.

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We have made good progress by realising over 50% of the £27m savings that we need to make this financial year, and if we remain on track, I am positive we will achieve the full amount by year end.

HRH Princess Royal's visit to Read Easy at Central Library.HRH Princess Royal's visit to Read Easy at Central Library.
HRH Princess Royal's visit to Read Easy at Central Library.

We start next year with a £5 million deficit on the horizon already, so our financial challenges will remain into the future.

We will continue to follow our Improvement Plan, which will get us to financial stability, and our Independent Improvement and Assurance Panel will continue to provide external advice, challenge and offer expertise to the council in driving forward the development and delivery of the plan.

However, at the same time I want to encourage economic growth and prosperity and create new jobs, more quality housing for people to live in, and better education for our children.

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We also want more businesses thriving so that we can continue to build a booming city, as through this growth we will achieve our financial salvation.

I also want to protect as many services as possible, so the impact on communities across the city is minimalised.

We cannot go to the government cap in hand and ask for more money, we have to be masters of our own destiny.

That is why the political stability of the council is so important, if we want to realise the success we know we can achieve.

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In the past week there’s been a fair amount of media interest in our decision to reduce planting across the city.

This is not a decision that has just been made; it was agreed at the council meeting in March when the budget for 2022/23 was passed by a majority of members.

As part of this year’s budget-setting process, we had to look forensically at every area in which the council spends money to close a £27 million gap.

Thankfully we were able to, but this included making savings which we wish we did not have to, but were necessary to ensure we can still meet our statutory responsibilities, such as providing for the elderly and vulnerable adults and supporting children in care and families in crisis.

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That said, we have several irons in the fire which will allow us to continue planting in a way which doesn’t affect our budget.

At Itter and Central Parks, the Friends’ groups are planting shrubs in some of the old beds and so wing areas with wildflowers.

We’re also developing a sponsorship scheme which will allow businesses to pay for planting at sites across the city.

As you can see, we are doing lots to try to make sure the city looks as floral as it would usually be in the spring and summer months, whilst making the necessary savings to ensure we can continue to support those residents who need our help the most.

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It was only last year that HRH The Princess Royal visited Peterborough to find out more about 3D-printing firm Photocentric, which has won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise on three occasions.

This week she was back again, visiting one of our libraries to celebrate the work of Read Easy, the national charity which provides free, confidential one-to-one reading coaching for adults to learn to read.

Her Royal Highness spent an hour at Central Library in the city centre meeting volunteer coaches and readers along with library staff, local dignitaries and those involved with improving literacy levels in the region.

We remain committed to working alongside partners and charities such as Read Easy to raise literacy levels among people of all ages in Peterborough.

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We want to make sure that everyone in the city can enjoy the many benefits of reading, from improved attainment to better wellbeing.

If you would like to contact Read Easy Peterborough, please call Chris on 07563 961612 or email [email protected]