‘Too much money wasted in Peterborough’

As this newspaper has reported, the decision by the council to hire Grant Thornton to assess the city’s finances has proven to be costly: present estimates suggest that these costs will rise to millions, writes leader of Peterborough City Council’s Labour group Cllr Shaz Nawaz in his weekly column.

Sunday, 9th February 2020, 5:00 am
Money image

I have questioned this expenditure in the council chamber. It appears that the present administration will not be deterred from its present course. Here we have a Conservative-led council, which has been in power for 19 years. We have a Conservative MP. We have had nearly 10 years of Conservative led government. Yet, our city is haemorrhaging money, and what do we do in order to stem the flow of red ink? We hire more expensive consultants!

There is a perception that I have encountered on the doorstep, that somehow Labour are profligate and that the Conservatives are good with money. However, this is another example that shows the distance between rhetoric and reality: just because the Conservatives are attracted to money, doesn’t mean they are necessarily any good in handling it or indeed, making it work.

Also, there has to be an understanding of what money is good for: the Conservatives apparently see it as a good in and of itself. As an accountant, I take a more functional view: money is useful if it generates utility. If I was aware of a restaurant that sold its chairs and tables to stash more cash in the bank, I’d suggest to them that they were focused on the wrong things. If they used money to invest in their business: a new chef, new décor, then I would be much more comfortable, because this would indicate a growth mindset.

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Unfortunately, our present administration’s idea of a growth mindset is to get behind large flashy projects of dubious value like Fletton Quays, while cutting essential services.

Returning to my restaurant example, this is again like selling the tables and chairs, but then sticking a large water feature out the front. The addition of Grant Thornton’s services is rather like bringing in an expensive consultant to this threadbare restaurant to identify more of the furnishings to be sold.

Perhaps the most distressing news as of late is that Peterborough council will borrow money from Cornwall Council. What makes this interesting is that Cornwall is by no means a wealthy part of the country. Second, their council is not Conservative run. They have faced into cuts too. Yet somehow, they are able to find the resources to lend to Peterborough. Perhaps they had a growth mindset, and more common sense, while our council lacked both.

Local politics is often influenced by trends in national politics; however, at a certain point that influence should wane. I suggest as we enter another election season that should be the case in Peterborough. They have been there too long. They have wasted too much.

And as we have discovered to our cost, they haven’t got a clue.