Our budget approach is working - Peterborough City Council leader

Budget management is never far from our minds in local government, writes leader John Holdich.

Our approach is working. We continue to deliver a balanced budget without cutting vital public services, such as libraries, refuse collection and gritting.

Cllr John Holdich

Cllr John Holdich

However each year we face rising pressures, such as adult social care and homelessness, which mean we must do more with less government funding.

This year we have decided to implement a rolling budget to allow more time to identify and implement savings throughout the year.

We will now have three phases - or tranches - delivered throughout the year, the first of which was published on Friday (1 June) and is now out for public consultation.

We must deliver £10.2million of savings next year and the first trache identifies proposals for a sizable chunk (£4.1million) of this.

It is imperative that we continue to become more efficient and effective, by sharing services where we can, being more innovative and generating our own funds.

As such, the proposals incorporate ideas such as increasing parking enforcement, anti social behaviour (PSPO) fines and setting up our own Local Authority Trading Company.

However, we recognise that there is only so far that you can reduce an organisation’s budget before it has sizable impact on residents. That’s why we will be re-launching our Stand Up For Peterborough campaign in the coming weeks, with an increased aim on lobbying for our fair share of government funds.

We want to work with our MPs, local organisations, media outlets and members of the public in catching the ear of government as it continues to work on its Fair Funding Review. This review is important as it will stipulate how much we receive in coming years.

If you want to get involved, sign our pledge at www.peterborough.gov.uk/standupforpeterborough or contact me at Town Hall if you want to work more closely with us on this.

In the meantime, please take part in our tranche one public budget consultation by taking part in our online survey at www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget, or completing a hard copy public consultation form which are available at the Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions and at all libraries in the city.

Landlords with empty homes can now get hassle-free, guaranteed rent from Peterborough City Council.

As well as ensuring regular monthly rental income, the council can also provide financial assistance for repairs and take on responsibility for maintaining homes.

This is just one way in we are using innovative methods to ease the rising pressures of homelessness in the city, as set out in our Homelessness Reduction Strategy which was approved last month.

In the last year alone we have brought 179 former empty homes back into use. Plus, we also have a pipeline of affordable accommodation coming into use, including properties at Midland Road and plans to convert Bretton Court into 40 additional flats for homeless households.

For more information on the scheme, or any advice on dealing with empty properties, contact the council’s Empty Homes Service on 01733 452544 or visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/residents/empty-homes

On the subject of homelessness, myself and Cllr Irene Walsh recently visited the excellent Emmaus homeless charity at its site in Landbeach, just outside Cambridge.

The organisation provides best practice outreach work which helps people get off the streets and into a stable home and meaningful work.

We hope to integrate the Emmaus approach of providing employment and outreach work to rough sleepers in a new scheme which we will launch in the city in the autumn months.

Peterborough Sailability and Railworld Wildlife Haven are two of the 250 volunteer-led organisations to receive the 
prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service this year.

Having worked closely with both groups for a number of years I can definitely say this award is most deserved.

Finally, for those keen athletes amongst you, I’d like to recommend two events going on in the city later this week.

The first is a Sunrise 5K that starts at Peterborough Cathedral at 5.30am on Friday (pay £20 in cash on the day) in aid of the When You Wish Upon a Star’ which helps children who have life-threatening illnesses.

The second is the ever-popular Peterborough Dragon Boat Festival at the Embankment on Saturday at Peterborough Rowing Club, in aid of the Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice.