Opinion: Doing all we can to help support you, says council leader Wayne Fitzgerald

The cost-of-living crisis is impacting everyone. Collectively it means that we all have less money to spend each week than we did six months ago.
Money is tight for lots of people but the council is doing its bit to help.
Photo by PAMoney is tight for lots of people but the council is doing its bit to help.
Photo by PA
Money is tight for lots of people but the council is doing its bit to help. Photo by PA

For some people the impact has been profound, particularly those that may still be struggling as a result of the pandemic.

We want to do all we can to support those people who are in the greatest need and one of the ways we are doing so is through our Household Support Fund.

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In March the government announced the extension of the fund and Peterborough was awarded an additional £1.8million. We’ll be using the money in several different ways, focussing on pensioners, families with children and other households in need.

This week applications opened to pensioners as part of a scheme we are running in conjunction with Age UK Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Anyone who is of pensionable age by September 30, 2022, who lives in the city council area can apply for support.

Last week we launched a similar scheme for residents aged 18 to 66 who are struggling to pay for food or household fuel. The eligibility criteria are on the council’s website, but you also need to have children under the age of two, or children not in receipt of free school meals.

This support is available in addition to £703,633 which has been set aside to provide families with food vouchers over the school holidays and eligible families will receive £45 per child to cover the summer holidays. If you think you might be eligible, please get in touch with us.

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On Monday afternoon I boarded a train for the Local Government Association annual conference in Harrogate. It’s the first in-person event since 2019 so I was looking forward to hearing more about all the great ideas and best practice being used elsewhere which we could use in Peterborough. I’ll report back next week on what I find.

Before I made the journey up north, I attended a meeting of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority where funding was unanimously agreed to build a pedestrian bridge over the Nene, connecting Fletton Quays with the Embankment.

The £3,427,800 Active Travel funding is only part of what we need to make the bridge a reality, with a bid into government for the remaining £6 million from its Towns Fund. I’m pleased to see this project coming to fruition, as it has been a long time in the planning.

The Combined Authority board also unanimously approved the proposal to draw down £750,000 of Active Travel funding for improvements to the Green Wheel cycle way around the city. While it is primarily a leisure route, some parts lend themselves to commuting so it is important we invest in it as part of our plans to get people out of their cars.

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Both these initiatives will be a great boost to getting people in and out of the city, segregating cars and cycles and pedestrians – which is what we’re all trying to achieve.

We have said for some time that we have one of the fastest growing populations in the country and census 2021 data released this week has shown that to be true.

A 17.5 per cent rise in the population over the past 10 years means the city is now home to 215,000 people – that’s an increase of more than 32,000 in a decade. This is more than twice the growth of the east of England (8.3 per cent), in a national picture which saw the east grow faster than any part of the UK.

An accurate gauge of the city’s population is more important than ever before, following this week’s announcement by secretary of state for Levelling Up Michael Gove MP, that later this year local government is to get a two-year funding settlement.

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We have consistently made the case to government for the need for appropriate funding to support our growth, but we have also taken matters into our own hands and are working hard to become a fully sustainable council, so we can continue to provide the essential services our growing population needs.

The development we are supporting across Peterborough will provide a good environment for people who live in our city, and our new university will support the skills needed for us to become a high wage economy.

In last week’s column I spoke about the difficult decision to fell an oak tree in Bretton. The felling of the tree was due to take place yesterday and naturally it caused a good deal of upset for residents who wanted to see it remain.

I will say again that it has been a hugely difficult decision to make and one that we wish we did not have to. Later in the year we will be planting 100 young oak trees to mitigate against the environmental impact of our decision.