Opinion: Join the crowds at Christmas lights switch-on

Peterborough's Christmas tree in Cathedral Square, before decorations addedPeterborough's Christmas tree in Cathedral Square, before decorations added
Peterborough's Christmas tree in Cathedral Square, before decorations added
It’s scary to think that Christmas is now just over one month away when it only seems like five minutes ago that I was enjoying the summer sunshine, writes city council leader Wayne Fitzgerald

That feeling was certainly highlighted this week, when the centrepiece of our festive celebrations – a giant 40ft spruce Christmas tree – arrived in the city centre.

It’s now in place and looking magnificent ahead of our big Christmas lights switch-on tomorrow which is once again expected to draw big crowds.

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If you haven’t made any plans, please pop along as we’ve got a great line-up of guests and something for everyone to enjoy.

Popular local gymnast Jake Jarman, who won two gold medals at this year’s British Championships, will be pressing the button. Jake will be joined by PCRFM breakfast show host Kev Lawrence and a host of pantomime characters from Peterborough’s theatres. There will be live music and other entertainment from 5pm.

We’re also looking forward to the arrival of the real ice rink on November 25, and appearances from the Peterborough Phantoms Ice Hockey Team and stars from the Dick Whittington pantomime.

The rink will be there for everyone to enjoy until January 4, and you can find out more at www.peterborough-ice.com

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I was highly concerned to learn of the government's plans to place asylum seekers in the city.

Peterborough holds a very strong record of welcoming and supporting asylum seekers and prior to this there were approximately 325 legitimate asylum seekers here.

This latest move places enormous pressure on council resources and heightens concerns over potential threats to both the safety of the asylum seekers and the infrastructure within the city.

Many of these who have arrived will need places to live, placing even more pressure on our housing supply, or there may be children who will require school places or the support of social care. Plus, there is little personal information about the people who have arrived - what communicable diseases they might be carrying or their general well-being.

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Whilst I am proud of Peterborough’s welcoming reputation, it is only right that we question and challenge the placing of asylum seekers / economic migrants within the city.

Car meets and cruising events have become increasingly popular in recent years with a number taking place in Peterborough.

Whilst we never want to be killjoys, the council does have a duty of care to our residents and whenever we gather complaints about any form of anti-social behaviour, like we have done for car cruising events, then we will work with our partners to act where possible.

On Monday, council Cabinet members agreed that work to tackle car cruising in Peterborough will get under way. This will see a city-wide injunction and several other measures set up.

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The injunction will allow the police and designated council officers to enforce breaches of the order either during or post event. This will send a strong message to anyone thinking of causing anti-social behaviour through car cruising that this will not be tolerated here. Similar injunctions have been successfully used in other local authorities and we're confident that it will be effective.

In the interim period, the council will extend the Woodston Public Space Protection (PSPO) to include Pleasure Fair Meadow car park and other hot spot areas should they be required, and the evidence supports it.

As well as working to obtain the injunction, the council will also work with Cambridgeshire Constabulary to develop a Community Protection Notice (CPN) scheme, issued to any driver/owner committing anti-social behaviour, along with looking at installing ANPR cameras and physical barriers.

We are making good progress on closing our budget gap in the new financial year which opened at around £21m.

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Over the next few weeks, we hope to achieve a position of a balanced budget. As part of that, we still want to hear from you on areas you'd like us to invest in and those where you think we should make savings.

You can tell us this by completing our budget simulator which runs until Monday 28 November and gives you the chance to have a say on where you think we should focus our spending and make savings.

For more information and to take part visit www.peterborough.gov.uk