Labour group leader on Peterborough City Council, Cllr Shaz Nawaz:
Reading the news has been a depressing experience recently: on June 16, there was a “brawl” in the city centre that supposedly involved 40 people. A local publican said he’d never seen such “a nasty attack on a young girl”.
This item was accompanied by news of a man being stabbed in Paston. Also, the police arrested four people after a high-speed chase.
These incidents were all reported within one 48-hour period. I don’t believe I’m alone in looking at this string of events and wondering what is happening to our beloved city. As a father of three children, I wonder, with some trepidation, what kind of world will they inhabit?
I am a native Peterborian; I remember my childhood, which was guided by great teachers such as former councillor John Shearman. Perhaps memories of my youth are wrapped in the golden haze of nostalgia, but nevertheless, it seemed more peaceful. It seemed friendlier. If there had been a mob of 40 people engaged in a fight in the city centre, this would have been deemed incredibly shocking; now it is just another item on a newspaper website which will scroll off when the next outrage arises.
Politicians of all political affiliations have a duty to address this situation. I put forward a motion last December asking for help from the Police and Crime Commissioner; it was agreed but not fully implemented.
More than this, however, we’ve seen government solely as a matter of public services, homes taxed and pounds spent. We in the Labour Group believe that there needs to be also a moral element: we should grasp the third rail of values. As leaders of the community, we should work to inculcate the values of common decency, courtesy and respect.
We can begin by setting a personal example: I’ve insisted that the Labour Group adhere to high standards of conduct. This may not communicate to everyone in our city, but it’s important.
Second, we believe in transparency: I call for greater openness regarding councillors’ interests, to ensure that government is clean and responsible.
Third, we should work through third sector organisations to inculcate better values: the right form of outreach at the right time can make all the difference in the world.
Fourth, councillors should be seen. Roving surgeries in Park Ward are one example of how the Labour Group intends to enhance its visibility: we go directly to residents to ask them what their issues are.
Often, these include instances of anti-social behaviour: again, an indication that our shared values are under threat.
There is no substitute for being there: we need to be pro-active in trying to resolve them with the help of the police. None of this will completely counteract the atomisation of modern life, the quick-fire video game media loneliness and isolation of our current age.
Nevertheless, as community leaders we have a responsibility to counteract it when we can and however we can.