Getting back to a more normal way of life is something we all desire, and following the prime minister’s intention to ease restrictions soon, I wanted to remind everyone that you all have a part to play to turn the tide on Covid.
The easing of restrictions will be welcome news for our businesses, shops and bars – many of which have already re-opened to customers and are doing an incredible job in difficult circumstances.
We will continue to do all we can to help the local economy bounce back from Covid and the early signs are that we are doing well on this front.
However, we must bear in mind that virus cases are rising. What we are seeing in Peterborough is very similar to the rest of the country, in that the Delta variant, which we know to be much easier to pass on, is accounting for the increase.
Local hospital admissions remain fairly low and whilst this is good news, we would urge everyone to continue to keep safe.
That means getting vaccinated with both doses – which is the single biggest thing you can do to help us fight Covid. And we need everyone to rapid test twice a week, to track the one in three people with Covid who don’t know they’ve got it.
Rates of infection are highest in the 18-30 age group, so we are appealing to family members to encourage their children and grandchildren in this age range, to get tested.
In particular, we need secondary school pupils to rapid test twice a week, to try and reduce the spread of the virus in our schools. Testing rates in secondary schools have fallen but young people continue to be carriers of the disease even though they may not be aware, so it is really important that students take up the chance to test regularly.
Schools and colleges can supply students with Lateral Flow Test (LFT) kits to self-swab. These can be taken home to complete and should be done twice a week.
One of my main ambitions as council leader is to make the authority more transparent and build up mutually positive relationships with residents and fellow councillors.
An area that I’m keen to make a real difference in is climate change and recycling.
We owe it to everyone and future generations to protect and enhance the environment.
That’s why the council has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030, and we’re actively working to meet this aim.
We’re also fully committed to developing cleaner and greener waste disposal services, helping to boost recycling rates. Regular readers will know that I have instigated free bulky waste collections, to be introduced later this year.
However, my mindset is that there is always more we can do.
With that in mind I will be starting a climate change and recycling workshop, inviting members from all parties to come and talk informally about ideas and opportunities, so watch this space.
One positive environmental story that I can share is the delivery of a new fully electric vehicle for the city’s mayor.
The Jaguar I-Pace Estate 294kW EV400 replaces the 3.0 litre V6 Jaguar XJ which was previously on loan to the council and used for all official mayoral engagements.
The electric vehicle will be used by the mayor of Peterborough, Councillor Stephen Lane, as well as other civic office holders to attend civic and ceremonial events.
Not only will this new vehicle help to save a huge amount of carbon, but it will also not cost us any more owing to the amount we will be saving in fuel costs.
We contacted brown bin customers recently to inform them that the charge for our garden waste service is to increase slightly.
For customers with one brown bin, the charge will rise from £45 to £50 per year and for customers with two bins the charge will now be £75.
This decision was taken as part of the council’s budget setting process for 2021/22 and I want to re-iterate the reasons for it.
As you may well be aware, the level of funding we receive from central government has been drastically cut in recent years, meaning we have to look for savings and service efficiencies where we can.
This is the first increase to the brown bin charge since 2018/19 and it will enable us to upgrade our current fleet of refuse vehicles and develop cleaner, greener services, benefitting residents and the environment.
So, we feel it’s the right thing to do. After all, the service is not statutory and considering the rise only equates to roughly 10p extra per week for most customers, we believe it still delivers excellent value for money.
Finally, I’m writing this before England’s big match with Denmark on Wednesday evening – so I hope by the time you’re reading this the Three Lions have been victorious! If we do win through to the Euros final on Sunday, enjoy the game, but remember to keep safe.