Investing Peterborough’s wealth to support city businesses

Not all investments are the same. This sounds obvious, but based on past experience, the Conservative administration needs to be reminded, writes Cllr Shaz Nawaz, leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council.

Sunday, 17th March 2019, 4:55 am
The launch of the Labour Party campaign outside the Town Hall EMN-190203-173942009

It’s one thing to loan money to a private developer for a luxury hotel group which should have plenty of cash to hand, it’s quite another to create a seed fund to help local businesses expand.

One investment gives to firms which are not from our city, the other works towards building a stronger economy at home.

Also, there is a difference between investing in a hotel, whose premise is that Peterborough will be a magnet for tourism and conferences, and the other which actually promises to create digital goods and services which will be sold throughout the world. It would seem that the Conservatives are trying to draw the outside in, meanwhile the Labour Group has set itself to improving Peterborough, so it can compete across the globe.

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One focus is narrow and provincial, the other is turned to the future. One focus is on big ticket items, the other is more geared towards small and medium sized enterprises, i.e. the kind of firms for which most of us actually work.

It is with this in mind that the Labour Group has proposed the creation of a £10 million Investment Fund. It will support businesses to create new, high-skilled, high-paid and secure work across the digital sector.

We will put small local firms at the centre of our economic strategy. Let me be clear: we are not a bank and unlike the Conservatives we are not in the business of lending money in an intellectually lazy fashion. The loans will be secured to mitigate the risk of default in order to protect taxpayers’ money and will be targeted at established firms rather than start-ups. Peterborough City Council has checked our figures and approved them.

The digital businesses to which we will lend will be in diverse sectors, e.g. environment, health, education, infrastructure, social care. The expansion of their expertise will benefit the city as a whole.

Unlike the Conservative administration, the Labour Group believes the council should use its resources to help create good jobs, drive up living standards, and put the finances of the council on a firm footing. Every business to which we will lend funds must add intrinsic value: it must be aligned to the city’s strategic objectives.

Furthermore, full due diligence will be carried out for each loan with clear guarantees and tight contractual terms. For the avoidance of doubt: we will not buy and lease equipment on the businesses’ behalf.

In addition to the investment fund, Labour will appoint a digital ambassador to liaise with technology companies to promote Peterborough as an attractive place for investment and provide support for businesses to scale up.

So yes, this upcoming local election is about what sort of city we want to be – a leading innovator or laggard?

Let’s build a city where we invest our wealth to give everyone the best chance.