Opinion: ‘We need much better leadership...’

Councillor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peterborough City Council, writes...

Sunday, 28th November 2021, 3:15 pm
PM Boris Johnson

I wasn’t going to mention Boris Johnson’s ‘road crash’ speech to the CBI but this is the second ‘road crash’ he has had in as many weeks!

Boris, by his own admission, ‘drove the car into the ditch’ over his initial defence and subsequent U turn (not the first I hear you say) of Owen Paterson.

So, why do I mention it now? Because the ancient proverb (many countries lay claim to it) is that “a fish rots from the head down” meaning when an organisation or state fails, it is the leadership that is the root cause. This week, Dominic Raab has tried to defend the indefensible by telling everyone what an ebullient character he is.

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Maybe. But we need to see real leadership at national level and his own party are struggling to support his poor decision making.

At local level, all party leaders, financial leads and deputy leaders are tasked with working with the current administration as a Financial Sustainability Working Group.

The current administration started a campaign to “Stand Up For Peterborough” five years ago in the face of devastating cuts to the grants given to Local Authorities such as ours. It did not last and here we are, five years on, with mounting financial pressures.

I am pleased that the Labour Group on Peterborough City Council are behind me in trying to help the administration to make better use of the increasingly finite resources at our disposal. We must work together for the benefit of the city and the people who live and work here but why on earth has it taken so long? Our MP chose to vote with the government as Boris Johnson narrowly succeeded in getting MPs to back his social care cap for England, despite a significant Tory rebellion.

The rebellion was led by those MPs who represent constituencies who argue, quite rightly, that poorer people will lose out from the change.

Peterborough is a far from affluent city. Council taxes raised by the city are lower than neighbouring authorities due the housing bands most of our housing falls into. These same houses are lived in by people who will simply not benefit from care cap.

Ask yourself how much money you will have left after you have paid £86,000 for your care. The average pension pot is less than that after a lifetime of work so we need to ask who are the beneficiaries.

Not the people of Peterborough yet our MP chose to back an under-pressure government led by an increasingly under pressure leader rather than the under-pressure constituents who voted him almost two years ago.

We have a duty to Peterborough and its people, and, on that basis, we are committed to working with the administration to find savings in the budget that should have been made years ago. Did anyone really benefit when council tax was not raised? Or are we now feeling the effects that we didn’t put enough by for a ‘rainy day’.

We must do better, locally, and nationally.

Indeed, I am on record saying that we are in deep, deep trouble.

Cutting costs and bringing in income are two things that we should have done effectively and efficiently over many years, not just when we are in such trouble.

We are committed to the wellbeing and improvement of the city and the people, but things are far worse than most people know. We must stop the rot and look for true leaders who lead by example and not soundbites.

We must get very serious very quickly and that must come from the very top of our government and set an example that we can all relate to if not necessarily follow.