Opinion: ‘We must be careful in the next phase’
Peterborough City Council leader Wayne Fitzgerald gives his view on the council and news and issues affecting you...
In the past year we’ve all longed to see the restrictions on our lives lifted and a return to being able to do more of what we used to enjoy.
On Monday this is what we will get, but we must remember it’s not quite the return to normal that we’ve all been hoping for.
We’ll no longer be required by law to follow the guidance – we’ll be able to choose who we spend time with indoors and where and when we wear a face mask for example - but that doesn’t mean we should stop doing the things that we know keep people safe and reduce the spread of the virus.
The advice from the prime minister is clear – we will be allowed to make our own judgements, but we must continue to follow the good practices that have become common place.
That is because the pandemic is not over, and the reality is that people are still at risk from Covid-19. Rates remain higher than we would like – in Peterborough they have risen 39 per cent in a week and at the time of writing there are 152 cases per 100,000.
The fact remains that we must try and return to a more normal way of life – if we cannot do it now with the warmer weather allowing us to spend more time outdoors, children about to break up from school and our NHS at one of the least busy times of year, then when can we?
We owe it to our economy to try – those businesses that have had their ability to trade hampered by the restrictions.
This summer, get out and about and support our local economy. Spend time at one of our swimming pools, visitor attractions, parks or open spaces. Visit our thriving city centre, the cinema, theatres, libraries and whatever else you liked doing before Covid changed our lives.
When doing so, remember to protect yourself, your family and your community. Meet people outdoors or in well-ventilated places if you can, keep a polite distance from others, wear a mask in crowded places – or where you can’t keep a distance – and wash your hands well and often.
We also need you to get your vaccine – both doses, get a test if you have symptoms of Covid-19 and self-isolate if you are positive or are asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace. Rapid test twice a week if you attend secondary school, if your workplace asks you to, before going to an event and prior to visiting older or more vulnerable friends.
We’ve come so far and we are now in a much stronger place than we were last summer. But the battle is not yet over and we must all continue to play our part and do the right thing as we enter this next phase.
I was amazed to read last week’s PT column from the Labour leader on the council, Shaz Nawaz and his criticism of the Conservative’s financial management.
Our financial situation is well documented, and all should understand the great lengths that we have gone to in order to provide services with less and less funding.
We’ve made our services as lean as possible by providing them differently and through shared services and reduced headcount, we’ve generated income in new ways and have sought additional funding at every opportunity.
We really have left no stone unturned and that is why we received support from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for our current year’s budget.
It’s ok for the Labour leader to throw stones from the side-lines, but it is interesting once again that he and his colleagues offer no real solutions.
So, my challenge to opposition parties is to speak up if they have ideas that might help the people of our city – do the right thing instead of criticising the Conservative administration for 21 years of economic growth and prosperity.
In closing this week, if you were one of the many households affected by the unprecedented rainfall last Friday evening, then you have my sympathy. I, too, was affected personally, and it is distressing.
Some people have since asked if the drainage system in the city is fit for purpose – good question. Our highways team will tell you it is and that even if we had a new drainage system, it could not have coped with the deluge of water that we experienced in such a short space of time. It was the same in London on Monday night.
On both occasions, the amount of rain overwhelmed the drainage system. It was like pulling a plug on a huge bath of water – the water can only drain so fast, and it is the same for our drainage system.
If you were affected by the freak flooding, speak to your insurance company and ask your ward councillors for help too if you need it.
You can find all their details on our website.
And finally, I would like to add my voice to the many others in saying well done to the England football team for reaching the finals of the Euros. It was a tense match on Sunday night, but we fought until the bitter end and we all should be proud of the boys. It’s shown us that our national team has huge potential going forward.