Opinion: ‘We will deliver affordable homes’

Peterborough City Council leader Wayne Fitzgerald gives his view on the council and news and issues affecting you...

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 12:00 pm
More affordable housing is planned for Peterborough.
More affordable housing is planned for Peterborough.

This week we found out that Freedom Day is a little further off than we hoped.

However, the nicer weather and re-opening of the city centre and the hospitality trade means we can at least enjoy our free time outdoors catching up with friends and loved ones and supporting our local economy.

Talking of friends and loved ones, following Government guidance the city council has started face-to-face public meetings once more, so myself and my fellow councillors are now able to speak to each other in person when conducting council business.

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It was great to see everyone at our annual council meeting at the end of last month.

Monday will be our first cabinet meeting together and we will be discussing a subject that I am passionate about – the launch of a Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and the return of affordable council homes for those in the greatest need in our city. In simple terms, the council will once again be building its own homes.

If it gets the green light, more than 1,200 new council homes could be delivered by 2032 – subject to the approval of a business plan at October’s cabinet meeting.

People generally have fond memories of council homes – and for good reason. They gave people who really needed them a roof over their heads, a front door to call their own and all the security that comes with having a council as your landlord.

We are among many local authorities seeking to bring back council homes after the Government changed legislation, relaxing previous restrictions that made it difficult and costly for local authorities to hang onto their housing stock in the 1990s and 2000s.

By building and buying, we will increase the number of good quality, affordable homes for residents in Peterborough in the greatest need to complement the work of housing associations.

Over the past 12 months, our housing team has been successful in reducing its reliance on temporary accommodation from 416 households to 289 households (March 2021). At the same time our rough sleeper count has reduced from 37 to just six.

If approved, the HRA and the return to council homes in Peterborough will go a long way to further reducing homelessness and the numbers in temporary accommodation.

Returning to the delaying of Freedom Day, this is a sensible move given the rise in cases that we are seeing across the country because of the Delta variant.

In Peterborough our rates remain below the national and regional average, but they are rising and so we all need to make sure we are doing all that we can to reduce the spread of Covid-19. In particular, we need people to accept their vaccine when offered it – both doses – and rapid test twice a week. As the Prime Minister said this week, now is not the time to ease off.

If you’re cheering on England tomorrow night in the Euros, take care if you’re meeting up with friends and family and do so outside if you’re able to.

I know that many businesses in the city will be impacted by the decision to delay a further easing of restrictions, so I am pleased to say that grants are still available to those who continue to be affected by the pandemic.

Three Government grants that will offer one-off payments of up to £18,000 are available for businesses to apply for, including one for taxi drivers.

Throughout the pandemic, the city council has paid out £59million to 11,500 businesses. This is the latest opportunity for them to recover some of the losses they have suffered and I would urge all who think they might be eligible to make contact as soon as possible.

Taxi drivers who are eligible can apply for an additional £500 , bringing the total we have offered to this trade up to £800.

For more information visit the council’s website at www.peterborough.gov.uk

- This week I visited some of the council’s tenant farmers to learn more about the vital work they are doing. I got to see some of the improvements the council has made to their farms and discussed what else we could do to support them.

They’re a great bunch of people, working incredibly hard to keep our residents fed and watered.

The council has a rural estate extending to approximately 3,000 acres of agricultural land which is let to a number of tenants, including start-up farmers. It brings in a rental income which helps to provide services and balance our budget each year.

One of the farmers I spoke with, Lance Charity from Flood Farm in Crowland, told me about his aspiration to open his farm up to the public, in particular children, so that they can learn more about farming and food production. This is a great idea and one which we support.

The council will be publishing a short video on its social media accounts this week about my visit, so look out for this.

- And finally, a reminder that I’ll be hosting my first Ask the Leader session on June 29 on Zoom. If you have a question you would like to ask about where you live email [email protected] or call 01733 747474 by Tuesday (June 22).