Last week the Peterborough Telegraph reported on concerns raised by councillors and city MP Fiona Onasanya around accommodation at St Michael’s Gate.
This week we met with ward councillors who brought us up to speed with why some residents feel dissatisfied with their accommodation. This was a very productive meeting and we were able to give these councillors information which proved that some of the concerns were unfounded.
Residents are allowed to change energy providers, they are allowed to use wifi and it is the council that pays £245 for accommodation, rather than the tenants themselves. The cost to the council is less than half what would be charged for B&B style accommodation.
In regards to the suitability of the building and its heating, our housing enforcement officers will begin visiting every property at St Michael’s Gate in person starting from next week. Full housing assessments will take place and if any issues are discovered we will work with housing firm Stef & Philips to remedy them quickly.
We have given our assurance to the ward councillors attending the meeting that we will keep them closely updated on this.
We would have liked to offer the same assurance to the city’s MP, however she was unavailable and could not attend the meeting.
I think it’s important to give some context on what we are able to provide households who require temporary accommodation. As many of you know, like many other national cities and towns, there is a housing crisis in this city and we currently do not have enough temporary housing to meet demand.
To meet the gap we are currently relying on B&B style accommodation, which is not only expensive for the council to maintain, it is also far from ideal for the families involved. We want households to have at least some stability and to be able to see where they live as a home (albeit a temporary one). While St Michael’s Gate may not be perfect for everyone living there, it is certainly better than the alternatives they currently have.
It is also important for people to understand that by its very nature, this is temporary housing.
So far 88 homeless families previously living in temporary accommodation at St Michael’s Gate have been moved into a permanent home and our officers are working hard every day to make this a reality for every single resident.
Our Cabinet has pledged £4million to provide new homes in Midland Road and 40 in Bretton Court that will be available later this year. Another 175 affordable homes are in the pipeline to be built on the John Mansfield school site and the old Frank Perkins Sports Field thanks to the Combined Authority.
Holocaust Memorial Day takes place today (Thursday) and here in Peterborough we will be holding our own service to mark the occasion.
I will be attending and I’m sure it will be poignantly observed and give everyone the chance to come together and remember the victims of genocides throughout the world. It is important that we never forget the sacrifice and suffering of these people and continue to share their stories for generations to come.
You may well have seen the recent news that the council’s cash office, based in Bayard Place, will be closing in March.
We have taken this decision as part of our continued need to make efficiency savings, but also because we recognise that the way people pay for things is changing, with figures showing the number of people using the office has steadily decreased.
However, I know that many residents like to pay for services with cash and to do this face-to-face and I want to assure them that they will still be able to do this.
Instead of using the office, you will be able to do this at several locations in the city including banks, building societies, post offices and Payzones, meaning that for some residents these new options will be even closer to where they live, saving them time, money and effort.
As well as this, you can also pay for a number of services on the council’s website - www.peterborough.gov.uk or by calling 0800 389 1977.
Several other councils up and down the country have adopted a similar approach to payments with great success, and I’m confident that will prove to be the case here in Peterborough.