Town Hall View: Thank you, I am proud to lead

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At Monday’s annual council meeting I was deeply honoured to be elected as the new leader of Peterborough City Council, writes Labour’s cllr Dennis Jones.

I am in this privileged position thanks to the unwavering support of my party members and every single person who backed us at the recent elections. My sincere thanks to you all – you have helped Labour become the largest party on this council, and I am proud to lead the group.

Our administration will work co-operatively to drive the council forwards to ensure that the authority continues to make steady progress, helping people from all walks of life and creating better opportunities for all.

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When I first stood as a councillor in 2018, I did so because I wanted to make a difference and give something back to our communities. Six years later and I still feel the same. In fact, I probably have even more fire in my belly now than I did then, as I see, first-hand, the positive difference that our council makes to so many people.

Councillor Dennis Jones  was voted in as Leader of the Council, pictured with  Councillor Amjad Iqbal, Deputy Leader.Councillor Dennis Jones  was voted in as Leader of the Council, pictured with  Councillor Amjad Iqbal, Deputy Leader.
Councillor Dennis Jones  was voted in as Leader of the Council, pictured with  Councillor Amjad Iqbal, Deputy Leader.

I see the opportunities that are available to us, which have the potential to improve the lives of everyone who lives in our city now and in the future. If we get it right, we will deliver more affordable homes, more and better paid jobs, more chances for people to upskill and we will give Peterborough a place on the map and the reputation that it truly deserves.

The past six months have seen quite a change for our council, under the leadership of Councillor Mohammed Farooq and the Peterborough First administration. I would like to thank those members for what they have done to increase collaboration between all political groups and to build relationships with partner organisations and groups.

There have been blips along the way, but I think that we are a more cohesive and collegiate group than we have been for some time. You can see this in the comments from our Improvement Panel and March’s budget setting meeting where there was unanimous approval for our budget.

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As stated, we will continue with this effective collaborative approach and although there is much hard work and many challenges ahead, that prospect does not daunt us.

We have waited patiently in opposition for quite some time, far longer than my tenure as a councillor, and we are now ready to step forward to help write the next chapter of the Peterborough story.

At Monday’s meeting, Councillor Marco Cereste was also elected as the city’s Mayor for the next 12 months. Maddalena Cereste will be Mayoress.

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald will be Deputy Mayor for 2024-25 with Angie Fenner as his Consort.

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Cllr Cereste has a wealth of experience, having been a councillor for 20 years, with six of those years spent as Leader of the council and the last six years as a ward councillor for Hampton Vale.

The Mayor’s chosen charities that he will support over the next 12 months are Anna’s Hope, Cambridgeshire Children’s Hospital and the Salvation Army and I’m sure that he and his team will enjoy the unique challenge ahead.

I’d also like to pay tribute to outgoing Mayor Nick Sandford, who sadly lost his seat at the recent elections. Nick is one of the hardest working councillors I know and his wisdom and good judgement will be very much missed on the council. I dare say he won’t be gone for long!

A lasting memorial to former councillor Charles Swift OBE is to be created in Peterborough, following agreement from members on Monday night. This will see the square adjacent to Sand Martin House, where the council’s offices are situated, named after Mr Swift, as well as a memorial plaque being installed there.

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We’ve been thinking about ways of honouring Charles for some time and feel that this will serve as a wonderful tribute for his unique achievements, which our council is proud to be associated with.

Charles served on the council for 62 years and was believed to the longest-serving councillor in the country. He passed away in 2022 aged 92, but his legacy lives on and I look forward to seeing this

poignant memorial created.

Finally, representatives from the council attended a national networking event earlier this week, where our exciting growth plans were highlighted to a wide audience.

UKREiiF, which is an investment and infrastructure forum, allowed us to connect with investors, businesses and developers following the recent launch of our investment prospectus.

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As one of the fastest growing cities in the country, we have an ambitious vision for delivering good growth and regeneration to improve prosperity and make Peterborough an even greater place to live and work. Connectivity, a skilled workforce, and a modern infrastructure - which we can offer in abundance - are key for investors and employers who attended UKREiiF.

Our Chief Executive Matt Gladstone and Executive Director for Place and Economy Adrian Chapman headed up the council team. They led discussions around the exciting Peterborough Station Quarter project and Levelling Up in Peterborough and I’m sure the connections they made will lead to exciting opportunities.