Opinion: ‘Supporting community a high priority’

Nick Sandford, Lib Dem group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

Sunday, 19th December 2021, 10:10 am
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As this is my last Speakers’ Corner column of 2021, I would like to wish all PT readers a happy Christmas and let’s hope we see some brighter news on the pandemic front before the end of the year.

If you have not already done so and are eligible, please do go and get your “booster jab”: it will protect you but also help to protect others who may be more vulnerable.

Last weekend, the Church of the Holy Spirit (CofE) church that I attend ran its annual Christmas Fayre in conjunction with a much larger event being run by the Cresset.

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It was a great success, raising much needed funds but also attracting hundreds of people from the community, all being encouraged to wear face coverings of course. I know that at this time of year in particular, churches and other groups are particularly active putting on events for the community.

In my own council ward of Paston and Walton, the congregations of All Saints Church, Paston, and the Open Door Community Church are very active and today (Sunday afternoon 3pm) I am hoping to attend carol singing at the refreshment kiosk in Itter Park.

Across the wider city, for many years the Salvation Army has put on a Christmas lunch for elderly people who live alone. And I should, of course, add our city has many different faith groups who also do many things to engage with and support their communities.

Throughout the Covid pandemic, the city council and its partner organisations have done a great job in trying to ensure that people experiencing problems due to being asked to self isolate or shield are able to continue to access vital services.

We know that regrettably the pandemic is still with us but so is the Coronavirus Community Support Hub, which can be accessed online at https://www.peterborough.gov.uk/healthcare/public-health/coronavirus/coordination-hub or by telephoning Peterborough 747474.

Support for their communities is also a concept that is high on the priority list for Liberal Democrat councillors in Peterborough, across Cambridgeshire and throughout the country.

Liberals in the 1970s pioneered “community politics”, which is not just about consulting and engaging with residents but also seeking to empower people to deliver real change in their area.

Lib Dem councillors in Peterborough deliver regular newsletters called “Focus”: so look out for them if you live in an area with Lib Dem councillors. We also carry out regular surveys to find out the views of local people.

But more than that, our councillors on the city council do all they can to make the council less secretive and more responsive to the views of residents.

We have pushed for reforms to the way the council works, for example proposing that all major decisions should be made in public by committees, rather than in private by just the leader and a few leading Tory councillors, as happens at present.

The natural environment is one aspect of the council that is crying out for more community involvement. Recently I attended public tree planting events on the John Clare recreation ground and on the Itter Park playing fields, where local environmental charity PECT encouraged local people to join together to plant tree saplings to help improve their local environment.

PECT is also organising wildflower planting in Paston, in Gunthorpe and in other parts of the city this winter to help transform green spaces and make them work harder for both people and for wildlife.

Nene Park Trust already provides a fantastic amenity for local people, but they are now planning to use some grant aid funding to get out into the urban communities of Peterborough and help individuals and community groups take on management of small areas of local green space. That could be great for empowering local people, improving the local environment at the same time, and help the council save money… all at the same time.

And finally, I would like to wish a happy retirement to Gillian Beasley, who is leaving the city council after nearly 20 years as chief executive.

She has worked tirelessly for our city during that period and is fully deserving of the award of Freedom of the City, which was given to her at the December full council meeting.