Opinion: ‘Put your questions to me directly’

Peterborough City Council leader Wayne Fitzgerald gives his view on the council and news and issues affecting you...

Sunday, 4th July 2021, 11:55 am
Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, right,  during a visit to the university site at Bishop's Road.
Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald, right, during a visit to the university site at Bishop's Road.

Everything I am aiming to do as council leader is focussed on improving things for residents, local businesses and visitors.

As part of this drive, I want us to develop more of a connection with the people who elected us as councillors in the first place.

The council has always aimed to be open and transparent about what we do, but I want us to be even more so.

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One of the ways we are going to do this is through the ‘Ask the Leader’ online sessions, which launched this week.

The meetings will take place on the final Tuesday of every month, giving people a chance to put questions and concerns directly to me, my cabinet team and officers in an informal setting.

The first session took place this week and was a very useful and thorough discussion with residents about a number of issues they had been in touch with. These included anti-social behaviour in the Burghley Road area, kerbside parking in the city, concerns around the impact of a planning application for Great Haddon, plans for installing more electric car charging points and investing in our rural communities.

If you missed the meeting (and in fairness there was an important football match being played at the time!) you can watch it back on the council’s YouTube channel and we’ll be sharing it on social media.

If you would like to take part in the next ‘Ask the Leader’ session on Tuesday, July 27, please email your question to [email protected] and we will be in touch nearer the time to let you know if we can take your question at that session.

This session is firmly for residents or local businesses and intended to be more informal and welcoming to those who’ve possibly never attended a council meeting but want to engage in issues that affect their everyday lives.

Another of my key priorities is to help build back better in Peterborough

The past year has been incredibly challenging for everyone, but the city’s future is bright and there is plenty to look forward to.

One of the developments I’m most excited about is the new university. Construction is well under way and last week I paid a visit to the site to check on progress.

Things are coming along nicely and in just over a year’s time, in September 2022, the facility’s first teaching centre will be open, realising an ambition this council has had for some time.

The university will play a central role in the city’s future development– we are going to get bigger and better and provide more opportunities for our residents.

It will also help us address some pressing current issues.

Namely that Peterborough has above average levels of unemployment and child poverty, while the city is also a higher education cold spot, with only 32 per cent of the population having degree-level qualifications, compared to a national average of 43 per cent.

I can’t wait to see the university open its doors, along with the many benefits it will bring.

Look out for a short video on our social media channels recorded on my tour of the site, including a really impressive fly-through of the university site and what the buildings will look like once completed.

On the important subject of creating opportunities, I was delighted to hear that Westcombe Engineering, which is part of the council, has taken on its first work experience student via a new partnership with City College Peterborough aimed at helping young people with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Charlie Dalhousie, who has autism, began his eight-week placement with the engineering firm last week. During his three-day-a-week placement, as well as gaining experience in the workplace, 18-year-old Charlie will learn about the different aspects of the business and try his hand using the different machinery and technology.

The programme, which lasts a year, is aimed at young adults aged 16-24 who want to achieve sustainable employment opportunities and follow a meaningful pathway equipping them with the skills they need for work and life.

Supporting young people with starting their careers is at the very heart of Westcombe’s core principles and I look forward to seeing more young people benefit from this wholly worthwhile experience.

I was also delighted to see that school attendance in Peterborough remains positive, with latest figures placing us in the top 15 authorities in the country.

So, I would like to say a big thank you and well done to everyone involved in education locally – pupils, parents, teachers and staff – you have all done us proud in what has been the most testing of years.

With the long school summer holidays just around the corner, I would also like to remind pupils to continue to follow the national guidelines and test themselves regularly.

Testing rates in secondary schools have fallen but young people continue to be carriers of the disease even though they may not be aware.

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.