Opinion: The centre symbolises the best of politics in the city

​Our future prosperity requires a serious plan for the city centre, writes Andrew Pakes, Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Peterborough.
The visiting group at ParliamentThe visiting group at Parliament
The visiting group at Parliament

This week, I was delighted to be in Westminster for the cross-party launch of Peterborough’s Energy Innovation Transition Centre.

The new centre at ARU Peterborough’s campus represents the best of partnership working, bringing together the mayoral authority, city council and businesses alongside the university.

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The plans fit well with Labour’s mission to drive growth in new industries and technologies with the potential to deliver over 100 new jobs and support hundreds more in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related activity.

I love the fact that the project brings business and public sectors together and recognises our proud history in engineering. I’ve already pledged to fight for the funding we need as our next MP and have met businesses and Labour leaders in Parliament to discuss the project.

The centre symbolises the best of politics in the city.

Big projects like this are never about one person. Never trust a politician who says it is all about them. The word ‘I’ needs to become ‘we’ and ‘us’.

The public are fed up with grand promises and ‘superhero’ politicians who think it is all about them, without any credit for the businesses and public servants who make change happen.

This is also a project we sorely need.

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After 14 years of the Conservatives, the country needs change. One in four jobs in the city are chronically insecure. This means that, without a secure income, families struggle to make ends meet or to get on the housing ladder.

Our skills and wages are still lower than the national average. The number of people starting an apprenticeship each year has fallen since the last election.

This new project complements the Green Technology Centre at Peterborough College that will support students moving into new careers, such as sustainable construction and electric vehicle manufacturing. These are the new jobs that can drive prosperity for families and the city.

If the innovation centre says all that is good about Peterborough, the fate of the regional pool highlights all that is wrong.

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It was clear to everyone that the pool faced challenges, even before the more recent discovery of RAAC. It is an old building and it needed better upkeep. It was an act of cultural vandalism the then Conservative run council shut the pool last year without a plan for a new one.

The new council has now started work on a replacement, but it will take until 2028, at the earliest, before the doors are open.

Over 1,000 people have signed the petition I launched for a new pool last year. I want a new pool to be a symbol of how we can do things differently, bringing people together to co-design the centre with the council. I’ve already called for a swimming pool group to advise the council on its new plans and councillor Farooq, leader of the council, has recently met the City of Peterborough Swimming Club.

A new pool, the expansion of ARU Peterborough and, even, a regeneration of the POSH stadium, will be major game changers for our city.

Together, we can make it happen.