Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich:
As this is my first column of the year I’d like to wish residents all the best for a happy and prosperous 2017.
There is always a lot going on in Peterborough and I believe that the next 12 months will be no different, with many exciting developments and subjects to focus on.
I think we can all agree that this city has waited long enough for the regeneration of North Westgate and I am committed to seeing this progress in 2017. We announced a few months ago that the council will invest £15million over the next three years to buy land and property so we can take a lead role in its comprehensive redevelopment.
While we are planning for the North Westgate scheme, on the other side of the city centre the planning has finished and work has begun on Fletton Quays. This £120million regeneration project will really begin to take shape over the next 12 months as works to transform the site start to build up steam.
One project that is already well underway is the new Hampton Gardens Secondary School which will welcome its first set of students in September. The school is being built to accommodate 1,500 students and is the first ever school building project between ourselves and Cambridgeshire County Council.
We will also be working closely with all of our local councils in 2017 as part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority. As you will know, all our local councils agreed to a devolution deal with government last year which has unlocked hundreds of millions of pounds of new funding for housing and infrastructure as well as new powers on skills and employment.
In a few months the new Combined Authority will officially be formed and will contain a representative from each local council in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as well as the Local Enterprise Partnership. I will be representing Peterborough’s interests and I will expect to see progress on an independent university as well as funding for new homes for our residents.
In May there will be an election for a Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who will chair the Combined Authority. Although many have announced they’ll be running for this position - I won’t. I do however have a number of focuses for the year as the leader of this council.
Initially this will be to ensure that we set the best budget for our city and residents. The levels of government funding we get to run the city are now a fraction of what we received just a few short years ago, however the demand on our services has increased, especially within social care.
I believe as a council we have managed these severe funding reductions as well as could have been expected and we are now modernising and innovating our services. In the current financial year (2015/16) we delivered a budget that did not reduce services and we want to continue to protect and invest in vital public services as far as we are able to. However we do have to prioritise services for the most vulnerable in our communities and therefore difficult choices will have to be made.
I will also be focusing on educational attainment. We soon begin the review into the support the council currently offers schools and academies to raise attainment and if we could be doing more.
In addition I have made it my mission to work with schools to improve reading standards as these underpin a child’s entire education. I’m optimistic that exam results will improve this year and am pleased to hear of the hard work taking place in the city’s schools to achieve this.
We also need to work with partners to focus further on homelessness which has risen across the UK, and in Peterborough. More homes will be one of the answers and I expect to see progress this year from the housing development company we’ve formed with Cross Keys Homes.
I’ve just got space for a quick resolution! I’m sure like me some of you have good intentions but could do with being a bit healthier in 2017. So find out what help and advice is available at www.healthypeterborough.org.uk
And if you’re feeling motivated you can register your interest to take part in the Perkins Great Eastern Run this October by visiting www.perkinsgreateasternrun.co.uk - hundreds already have!