Opinion: It's not a time for divide and rule

Peterborough MuseumPeterborough Museum
Peterborough Museum
​A year ago, this week, Liz Truss crashed the economy and thousands of people in Peterborough are still paying the price through higher mortgages, interest rates and food bills, writes Labour Group leader Dennis Jones.

​The Tories have really messed things up in Westminster and Peterborough.

After 23 years in charge of the council, the Tories had to call in government advisors to help dig them out of the financial hole they are had created two years ago.

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The official advisors said: “...the financial challenges facing the Council are significant and urgent. The financial difficulty that led to these requests has been clear for some time”.

From chaos in Downing Street to chaos in the Town Hall, the Conservatives have caused financial pain for everyone. From the costly scandal of the Cathedral Square fountains to no plants in the parks, this council has created a mess.

And, make no mistake, we are still in a mess. The budget ‘blackhole’ means more cuts and higher charges for residents. Increasing the cost of parking permits, bulky waste collections and car parking are all on the cards.

This week, the Tory Cabinet nodded through a controversial decision to hand over Peterborough Museum and Flag Fen to a new operator to save £2 million pounds; a decision driven not by what is best for the city but to cover up the financial hole they have created.

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Our heritage and culture represent the best of Peterborough. It links our fine industrial heritage and agriculture and historic past with our present, along with the future for our city and the people who live and work here. These latest proposals come alongside a wider decline in the provision and support for leisure and culture in our city. The deal is for five years. What will our city look like in that time? Can the new company hand back the keys without penalty as Vivacity did in 2020 when they realised they could not make ends meet?

Major changes like this are surely too important to rush and risk getting wrong. We have seen heartfelt pleas by the Peterborough Civic Society and Peterborough Museum Society about the proposal being considered by the council.

Yet did the Cabinet listen? No. They didn’t even respond to the civic society.

You may recall that it was the same with the hydrotherapy pool. The pool closed without consultation which has left their users and our city bereft of support from that gem of a facility with nothing, privately or publicly owned even remotely on the horizon to replace it.

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And people are suffering as a result. Knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing is short term and short sighted.

National cuts have forced many of these choices on local authorities but after 13 years in charge in Westminster and 23 in charge of the council, it’s a bit rich for the Tories to try and hide from their own record. Without question, further tough decisions lie ahead.

We need ambition and a vision for the city, especially when it comes to our arts, culture, leisure facilities and the city centre. Labour would like to see a Heritage Commission for Peterborough, bringing together the main stakeholders involved in our cultural and leisure assets, to work alongside councillors and officers. to consider our options. This is the time to bring people together to form a consensus rather than divide and rule.

Money may be tight, but, working together, we can build a better Peterborough.