Opinion: ‘Time to get smart on Covid safety’

Wayne Fitzgerald, city council leader and Conservative group leader on Peterborough City Council writes...

Sunday, 7th November 2021, 1:45 pm
People are being encouraged to go out and get their flu jab and Covid booster shot.

With the clocks going back and darker nights drawing in, it’s certainly beginning to feel a lot like winter.

It’s also true that Covid-19 remains among us and although local case rates have stabilised lately, they remain much higher than national and regional averages.

The high rates prompted the council to apply to the government for Enhanced Response Area status, which was granted and became active this week.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The ERA status allows us to push for additional support to increase and target vaccination roll out to 12-15-year-olds, accelerate booster vaccinations for eligible groups and increase vaccination rates in areas with the lowest uptake.

We’re now urging people to use their common sense and help protect vulnerable people, the NHS and other vital services as we move into winter, which is traditionally the time when they come under the most pressure.

So once again I would remind you all to follow national safety guidance to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

The single biggest thing you can do is by getting the Covid vaccine if you have not already done so. Booster jabs are now available for those most at risk, as well as the standard flu vaccine.

Regular rapid testing is also recommended, especially for secondary school pupils and anyone going out and about regularly. You can collect rapid testing kits for home use from several places including pharmacies, libraries and sites across the city – find out more at www.peterborough.gov.uk/rapidtesting

Wearing face masks in enclosed indoor spaces along with social distancing and regular hand washing are also recommended.

The last thing we want is to move back to tighter restrictions – so by acting now, we can make a difference and help keep our hospitals working, our children in schools and our economy functioning.

This week the government published two reports about the council following a review of our financial situation.

In a nutshell, the reports recognise the huge challenges we have faced in recent years, but say we must do more to achieve financial sustainability. That means being able to provide the services our residents need with the money we have available, either from income including Council Tax or external funding.

This, of course, is something we have known for some time and we have recently accelerated our efforts to achieve this. As a result, many of the recommendations identified in the report we are already working on, such as reviewing our capital programme and strengthening the council’s Audit Committee. We believe that our budget will still balance so will not be seeking any further financial support in-year.

Myself as council leader and all other members, regardless of political party, must take on board the seriousness of these reports and set about implementing some of the recommendations which will mean difficult choices ahead. I want to invest more in services for residents and see the city continue to prosper and grow, but we will need the finances to do so.

Regular readers will be aware of how immensely proud I am of our ongoing redevelopment work in Peterborough. Our city centre skyline is changing spectacularly, with construction of the new university progressing at pace.

The university will benefit this city for years to come and that’s why I was absolutely delighted with a successful funding bid for the facility.

It has been confirmed that we will receive £20 million from the government’s Levelling Up Fund for combining additional teaching facilities at the campus with the development of new cultural facilities. At the centre of the development is a new landmark cultural asset called The Living Lab, which will be 
located within a second ARU Peterborough teaching building.

The new teaching building will provide STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education to thousands of students, helping to produce a higher-skilled workforce to help generate high quality economic growth and attract cutting-edge industry.

By investing in education and developing the skills we know are needed, we are investing in the long-term development of our city and the prosperity of future generations.

Finally, I would like to encourage residents to safely attend two forthcoming events – one poignant and one celebratory.

To mark Remembrance Day, the city’s civic Armistice event takes place on Thursday, November 11, at 10.45am, in Bridge Street, and the Remembrance parade is on Sunday, November 14, at 10.45am. Both events will be live streamed on the council’s Facebook account.

The much-anticipated annual Christmas lights switch on is returning this month. It takes place on Friday, November 19, from 5pm-7pm, in Cathedral Square, and promises to be a fun-filled event to warm the spirits.

If you are going along to either event, please follow safety advice to stop the spread of Covid – wear a face covering in crowded spaces, only attend if double vaccinated, take a rapid test before attending and social distance where possible.