L ast year, I was pleased to join a cross-party campaign with Peterborough City Council called ‘Stand Up for Peterborough’ – which pledged to lobby the government for the increase in funding that our city desperately needs (writes city MP Fiona Onasanya).
Towns and cities across the country are feeling the pinch as central government continues to cut budgets and devolve austerity to councils. It’s why I was so pleased that our Council organised this campaign standing up against reckless and damaging cuts to our cty’s budget.
Last year, the leader of Peterborough City Council John Holdich stated that the time had come to “take a stand” and “fight for our residents,” claiming that “we cannot continue to see our government funding fall at such an alarming rate.”
This year, however, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that more swingeing cuts have been imposed and the same rhetoric about ‘difficult decisions’ and ‘tightening the purse strings’ is expressed. I didn’t realise that Standing Up for Peterborough equated to simply rolling over and acquiescing to an 80% reduction in our government grant? I was under the impression it equated to fighting tooth and nail for the people we represent.
The cuts to local ‘underused’ bus services are likely to impact and affect rural constituents, including the elderly, and those without cars – namely – those who rely on these services the most. Moreover, as we’ve just learned from the IPCC report; we only have twelve years to limit the climate change catastrophe. So it is simply baffling that the post supporting Peterborough’s Environmental Capital ambition has been scrapped.
The Peterborough Telegraph has previously reported that more than a third of adults receiving social care in the city are paying private contractors to top up their support – which has been attributed to the fact that public services are being stretched.
But, instead of us challenging the government for an injection of funds that are desperately needed, the council are aiming to save £1m a year from the social care budget. I would urge the council to consult extensively on these changes, and the effect they may have on some of the most vulnerable people in our city, before pursuing this.
I have always maintained that austerity is a political choice, and in this year’s budget, the council has made the wrong one. If they really want Stand Up for Peterborough to succeed, then they need to inspire the confidence and trust of our residents. When they see the Council fighting for them, instead of imposing swathes of cuts, they will fight for the Council in return.
I am open to working with all parties to ensure that Peterborough gets a fair funding deal in the future. But if we continue to simply accept the reductions, pass the cuts onto the people of Peterborough and accept the narrative of ‘balancing the books’ – we are perpetuating the problem we are trying to solve.