Opinion: ‘We have good services for families’

Wayne Fitzgerald, Conservative Group leader on Peterborough City Council and leader of the council writes...

Sunday, 8th August 2021, 1:40 pm
ity council leader Wayne Fitzgerald.

It’s always nice to get good feedback about the services that we provide and this week it was the turn of children’s services.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19 we have continued to support children and families who have needed our help – it’s always one of our top priorities.

So it was great to read the findings of an Ofsted inspection of our children’s services this week which concluded that overall, we provide good services for children and families.

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Inspectors reported that the council is a ‘conscientious corporate parent that looks after most of the children in its care well’ and that senior leaders and social workers understand children’s experiences and consider their views, needs, wishes and feelings.

They also found that we fully consider how we place children into alternative living arrangements, so they are less likely to have to move around, and children are supported by social workers who know them and their histories.

After a year like no other, it’s good news that Ofsted has confirmed what we believed to be the case – that our services deliver good outcomes for children and young people in care. This is one of our most important priorities, as part of our desire to offer every child and young person the best possible start in life.

Naturally, there were areas where we can improve our services further, and we will focus our attention on these, but I am incredibly proud of the commitment and dedication our staff have shown, as well as our foster carers and partners.

More good news - I’m pleased to report that the Combined Authority has unanimously approved a £100,000 contribution towards the master planning process for the Embankment area of the city centre. This shows that Mayor Dr Nik Johnson, his team and I are working together to deliver better outcomes for the city and the county.

We have also announced this week the name of the independent consultant team which will lead the masterplan process. Stantec and Barton Wilmore will begin its work this month and 
submit its final report in early 2022. There will be extensive public consultation over the autumn with residents and stakeholders such as ARU Peterborough and Peterborough United Football Club.

In addition, I have released a feasibility study on the Embankment completed earlier this year to ensure the process is fully transparent – you can view it on our website. If you recall, I also published the non-legally binding Memorandum of Understanding signed between Peterborough United Football Club and Peterborough City Council in February 2020 in the interests of transparency.

No decisions have been made yet on what the embankment plans will include, however, we do know that we want it to be safe, usable and accessible for the public.

As part of continued growth of the city, I am pleased to see that the Peterborough Investment Partnership has submitted a planning application for the redevelopment of the Northminster site.

This part of the city centre has long needed investment, so it’s great that we are now moving at pace. The plans include 335 new affordable homes, commercial space for food and drink outlets and a revamp of Laxton Square. In terms of the market, we are in active discussion with property owners about the relocation of the market site and its tenants.

When I became leader, I said I wanted redevelopment and growth of the city to continue, but I wanted it quicker. If this planning application is approved, building work could begin next year – I would call that pretty quick.

Next Wednesday (my birthday!) I look forward to meeting Chris Heaton-Harris, Minister of State for Transport, to open the new GB Railfreight offices on Maskew Avenue. I look forward to sharing with him our plans to make walking and cycling even more appealing.

Despite what some members have said in the past week, we do have plans to improve walking and cycling routes in the city. Anyone who attended the cabinet meeting in July and heard the discussion around the recommendations from the cycling and walking member group will know that we are committed to providing solutions that keeps motorists and those cycling and walking apart safely, but also in a way that does not cause chaos for the city.

And finally, we’re just 10 days away from the change in the self-isolation rules for those who are double vaccinated and identified as a close contact of a positive Covid case.

From August 16, people who are double vaccinated won’t need to self-isolate if they are a close contact of a positive case as long as they are rapid testing daily.

If you’re double vaccinated you can also travel abroad more freely and get into more events. But most importantly, two vaccinations remains the best way to prevent serious illness and hospitalisation, so do the right thing and get yours!

Anyone over the age of 18 can get the Covid-19 vaccine free of charge. Book online at www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19 or by phoning 119.

You can also get your vaccine from one of the many walk-in centres and pop up clinics in your area - find out where by visiting: www.the
vaccinators.co.uk