Opinion: ‘Ready to step up when time comes’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

Sunday, 9th January 2022, 3:15 pm
Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party during a visit to Peterborough City Centre.

On behalf of the Labour Group, I would like to wish everyone in Peterborough a Happy New Year.

After the turmoil of the past 24 months, it’s to be hoped that the coming year will be a much happier time.

As I have stated in previous columns, history provides some reassurance: all pandemics eventually come to an end.

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There is some evidence that Omicron is less potent than its predecessors, despite its increased transmissibility. It’s clear that vaccination works: a recent study from Israel suggested that getting a fourth jab could increase antibodies five-fold.

If need be, there is yet another step that can be taken.

There are challenges ahead to be sure; I am dismayed that the current Government seems to believe that we shouldn’t reinstitute shielding for the vulnerable. Until the precious goal of herd immunity is secured, this is reckless.

Furthermore, the Government appears to be under the impression that once the pandemic is over that we can just go back to “normality”. They have not read their history: previous pandemics were harbingers of economic, technological and social change.

There is no reason to believe that this one will be any different.

People are not suddenly going to go back to commuting to the office once the “all clear” is given. Why should they? Commuting to an office makes less sense if your colleagues are distributed across the country or throughout the globe.

This has significant consequences for retail, hospitality and commercial property. Has the government taken this into account? Evidence is scant.

Here in Peterborough, 
we need to face the financial challenges the Conservative administration has accrued.

It’s clear that the piecemeal and hasty cuts that have been implemented are coming nowhere near addressing the challenges that face us. The administration must have a complete rethink of how it conducts its affairs. However, they generally oscillate between complacency and panic; this is not a great basis for rational policy making.

The Labour Group will continue to develop its policies and put them to the people of Peterborough.

In the absence of an effective administration, we will provide an effective opposition.

As much as the administration finds scrutiny uncomfortable, and dislikes accountability, that is our role: we will continue to ask the questions that need asking and demanding clarity instead of continued fudge.

The Labour Group is also preparing for the day when the Conservative administration is relieved of office; we intend to be ready to deploy our policies from day one.

I would thus like to finish on an optimistic note: yes, our city and our country have been turned upside down in recent years.

It’s been a struggle and people would not be wrong in feeling like that there has been a confused and confusing response from government both at a local and national level.

However, help is available, and it is on the way.

We will get out of this mess; a better time is just around the corner, provided we choose to make it happen.