Opinion: Our Community Assets need a proper overhaul, can we secure a brighter future for them?

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So, a lot has happened since my last column, writes Lib Dem Group leader Christian Hogg.

We now have a new team running the Town Hall, congratulations to Cllr Farooq and his cabinet. They now have the daunting task of clearing up issues created by the two decades of Conservative rule, before they can create a new vision for the future.

First up has been the Localities Review, which has started the process of looking at 79 of our community assets, such as community centres, libraries, and others. This had been restarted earlier this year to look across the council’s estate of buildings and look at usage, provision of services and outstanding maintenance.

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It has now been agreed by the Cabinet that centres can now be made aware that they are being reviewed and the outcomes they are potentially facing. The Liberal Democrats will continue to push for the list to be made public as soon as possible. Council officers, along with Cabinet are insistent that no decisions have been made yet and centre operators along with user groups and the public that wish to make a case for their future, will be able to do so.

Cllr Christian Hogg - Leader of the Liberal Democrats Group on Peterborough City CouncilCllr Christian Hogg - Leader of the Liberal Democrats Group on Peterborough City Council
Cllr Christian Hogg - Leader of the Liberal Democrats Group on Peterborough City Council

Make no mistake the reason this review is happening is because the community assets have deteriorated over the last decade, due to a lack of investment by the previous Conservative administration, who preferred to concentrate on large vanity projects, like the East Station Road development, Empower solar panel project, and the North Westgate development, instead of investing in our local neighbourhoods and facilities like the Regional Pool.

We now have an opportunity to look at securing a future for our loved centres and libraries, this means for our communities we need to pull together and work with those centres to produce a plan that shows the impact and value of the services they provide and help secure them not just to keep going, but towards a much longer secure future that helps them secure funding to push forward to bigger and better things.

The users of Eye Library and Youth Centre have already launched their campaign to secure a future, it was heartening to see so many people turn up to get their voices heard, I believe they have already secured over 500 signatures on a petition. This is a building that the Conservative cabinet approved on the council’s disposal list in July, despite the fact the review was still yet to make any decisions on outcomes. Thankfully in conversation with the new Peterborough First Cabinet, we were able to get them to agree that ALL the properties on the review would come back to the cabinet to be looked at on completion of the review.

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The current situation with the cost-of-living crisis and the pressures of modern living, means we need good, fit for purpose community facilities delivering relevant and much needed services to enhance and support our neighbourhoods. Even if there is a recovery in the country’s economic position, we need to reverse this decade’s decline in the provision of community services. Saving costs in this area is a false economy and only increases the demand on Adults’ and Children’s Services and our NHS which as we all know is already buckling under a rise in demand alongside a decline in capacity under this Conservative Government.

So, what can you do to help? Reach out to your local centres and ask how you can help, get involved in some of the activities that they provide, either as a helper or as a user. We are in great danger of losing that sense of community and togetherness that Britain was always famous for. Let's reverse that trend and build back our city to one where we care for each other and make our city a better place to live, work and bring up our families.

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