Town Hall View: Now is not the time to walk away

Cllr Marco Cereste
Cllr Marco Cereste
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Peterborough City Council leader Marco Cereste gives his view on the council and news and issues affecting you...

A week is a long time in politics, but the last week in particular has been one of the longest and most challenging of my political career to date.

The recent elections were a tough and sobering experience for many across the country and in Peterborough. You, the electorate, have decided the Conservative party should no longer have control of the council.

I admit this has been extremely hard to bear because I care deeply about our city and I want the chance to continue making Peterborough a better place to live, work and spend time.

Last Wednesday, I was interviewed on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and I was asked about this desire and faced some very searching questions about my leadership. Indeed, I was challenged to step aside and make way for new blood. I didn’t do well in the interview, in fact, upon reflection, I came across as very defensive.

I have to say, I have been misrepresented, as much by myself as by others. Having had a break with my family and time to properly reflect on the outcome of the local elections I would like to use my first post-election column to try and set the record straight.

I am passionate about our city and since becoming leader of the council I have put my heart and soul into doing everything in my power to improve the city for everyone who lives and works here.

As I have said, this was a tough election and it is clear that many people voted on national and European issues. However, this is not the sole explanation for what has happened in Peterborough and I am not seeking to avoid responsibility. Over the past year we, as an administration, have had to make some extremely difficult decisions and I know that many people weren’t happy with some of these decisions and that was clearly reflected in the results.

Next year, our position is even more difficult as there is at least a £19 million gap in our budget, partly due to the reduction in government funding and partly as a result of pressures on our adult and children’s services budgets.

Whoever is in power in our city over the coming years will have to make even more difficult and undoubtedly unpopular decisions, probably even more unpopular than charging for the collection of brown bin waste or changing the way our children’s centres operate.

So there is a massive job to do and I don’t believe this is the time for me or my colleagues to walk away from this challenge which some might describe as a poisoned chalice.

Things do have to change and I also have to change as we enter a very different political landscape. This will require all of us as councillors working together to ensure we govern the council effectively for the benefit of the city. We will need to seek the support of other political groups on critical issues as we go forward, including the budget.

It is absolutely my desire to continue as leader of the council. I want all of our children and young people to succeed in their education. I want those same young people to have the chance to get a university education or progress into an apprenticeship or similar here in this city or gain good employment through new jobs that we are attracting to Peterborough.

I want our streets to be clean and to both be and feel safe for all. I want the growth in our city to provide good quality housing and neighbourhoods for people to live in. I want us to continue to invest in services for the most vulnerable in our city.

I believe that this is the desire of every single councillor elected by the people of this city, irrespective of the political party they represent. I hope that they will all join me in the new political environment we now find ourselves in to achieve that desire.

I’m up for the challenge, I hope everyone else is.