Rightly proud of Peterborough’s Westcombe

A worker at Westcombe Engineering
A worker at Westcombe Engineering

Walking through the city centre yesterday, I met a resident I hadn’t seen for a long time who had spotted a video on our Facebook page about Westcombe Engineering, writes leader of Peterborough City Council John Holdich.

Although she had lived in our city for most of her life, she wasn’t aware of just how much this social enterprise delivers back to our city, particularly in terms of its employment of disabled workers.

So, let me tell you a little about it - founded in 1970, Westcombe Engineering was set up to provide permanent employment and work experience for disabled people. All profits are reinvested back into the business and the local economy, with the aim of increasing the life chances of those living in Peterborough.

When it was set up, many expected it to only last a few years or so. However, nearly 50 years later the business has just announced an impressive 60 per cent growth in the last three years, led by its ability to diversify beyond its traditional diesel engine components market into new areas.

On top of this, it also won a regional business award for manufacturing in the last 12 months and in 2017, was included in the Parliamentary Review Publication, cited as a best practice example in the manufacturing industry.

Westcombe Engineering (founded by Roy Westcombe, pictured) was always light years ahead of its time, but I don’t think even its founder would have predicted the global public demand for businesses to care more about their workforce, their community and increasingly their environment.

The video that went out on Facebook this week - which can be found on our Peterborough City Council channel - celebrated the business and its workers. It tells the story of among others, Darren who caught chicken pox as a child and had to have a section of his brain removed. Thanks to Westcombe, Darren is able to earn his own money and has his independence, which he is proud to say has given his life purpose.

If you haven’t seen the video it’s well worth a watch and if you have, please share it with someone else in our city. Westcombe is a credit to our community and has changed the lives of so many skilled and talented disabled people and their families.

While I’m on the subject of things that make me feel proud about our city, I’d like to mention two other things that happened this week.

The first was an article in the Daily Telegraph which showered our city in praise for the way it has rallied around to help former workers of Thomas Cook.

The article mentions that ‘everyone knows everyone’ in our city and that we have a ‘tight-knit civic spirit’ and are not afraid to go out of our way to help our neighbours. I couldn’t agree more. If you’ve not read the article, search for it online.

The second was the reaction of racers, spectators and the general public attending the Perkins Great Eastern Run on Sunday to the difficult decision taken to cancel the event.

With so many charities involved and the thousands of runners who had spent months training for this event, I know the decision wasn’t taken lightly by the race organisers.

Thankfully, the police incident which resulted in this decision turned out to be a false alarm, however, I was heartened that everyone involved was so understanding of the need for safety to come first.

Last week it was announced that a new Government hub which will house 1,000 workers is coming to Fletton Quays in 2022. The hub will house the relocated Passport Office, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and other government organisations, and will be the 15th hub of its kind to be based in the UK.

To have key government organisations secure a space at Fletton Quays is good news, both for the development and for the city as a whole.

As well as signaling a new age of growth and regeneration for the city, the news of this government hub will bring footfall, recruitment and investment, as well as opening up the prospect of attracting additional government jobs to Peterborough in the future.

If you’re looking for a good event to attend on Saturday, the annual Diwali celebration is being held in Cathedral Square from 11am until 5pm.

There’ll be Indian classical dances, Bollywood dances and stalls selling Indian food, sweets, clothes and handicrafts and performances from the Gujarati, Tamal, Telugu, Kannada, Nepali and Bengali communities.