The battle to balance the budget - Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich
L ast week the council published the first phase of proposals which sets out how we'll look to deliver a balanced budget over the next three financial years.
These plans, which are now out for public consultation, begin to close a gap in our budget which will reach £39.7million by 2020/21.
I’ve written a lot about our growing financial challenges in recent weeks. Especially about how our government funding will have been cut by 80 per cent between 2013/14 and 2019/20 at a time when demand on our services, and therefore costs, are increasing at an unprecedented rate.
The biggest emerging pressure in recent years has been the dramatic rise in homelessness which has been made worse by government policies around benefits and tax changes to private landlords.
We’ve heard recently that one in every 189 people in Peterborough is homeless and the city is ranked 46th in the country for the number of people in temporary accommodation. What is shocking is that in some places in the country it’s now one in 25 people.
Even though we’ve already seen a rise in homelessness of 200 per cent in two years, we expect this to increase further, and therefore as part of the budget we have proposed to spend an additional £10million over the next three years to help those households that need our support.
We are also developing a pipeline of potential accommodation to be used either as temporary or permanent housing. This week we announced plans to convert a former office building in Bretton into at least 40 flats. We’re also looking to purchase homes in the city to house homeless families.
A few people have asked me how our lobbying to government for fairer funding is going and I’ll be writing more about that next week.
This first phase of proposals is a starting point which we will be building upon in phase two, launched in January. For now we want people to read our proposals, understand the very difficult financial situation that the council faces, and tell us what they think.
People are able to comment by visiting the council’s budget consultation page at www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget. Hard copies of the consultation document are also available from the receptions of Town Hall, Bayard Place and all city libraries.
On Friday I went to a first for the city - the Peterborough Women Leaders Awards. It was a fantastic event at the Arena with around 400 people in attendance and I very much hope that it becomes a regular event in the city.
I presented the Public Service Award which was won by the council’s Chief Executive, Gillian Beasley. Gillian also received the Outstanding Contribution Award, alongside local businesswoman Eve Taylor, at the event.
Gillian’s energy and enthusiasm for Peterborough knows no bounds and she is a shining example to us all, especially the city’s aspiring women leaders. She has turned down offers from larger authorities to remain true to this city which she cares so passionately about.
One of the city’s most popular events takes place on Saturday - the Christmas lights switch- on. The council is working with Queensgate Shopping Centre to make this year’s switch-on the best yet.
The event takes place in Cathedral Square and will include a packed programme of entertainment for all the family. Our celebrations begin at 1pm from the Guild Hall on Cathedral Square - read more on the council’s website.
The big switch-on will take place at 5pm with Father Christmas, the Mayor, and myself pressing the button.
Proceedings will then move to Queensgate for the centre’s own switch-on. Starting at 5.30pm, crowds can expect plenty of entertainment including the official opening of Father Christmas’ grotto in North Square at 6pm.
I hope to see you all down there on Saturday.