Leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council Cllr Shaz Nawaz:
As a local businessman, I do my best to support other local businesses. This isn’t just a matter of ethics, it’s also pragmatic: if I contribute to neighbours building their wealth, then I am helping to make my community more prosperous. If my community becomes more prosperous, it is a better place to live.
I strongly believe that the council should encourage a similar approach to its expenditure: I am concerned whenever I see a contract signed with a firm that is out of our area, or projects are approved which don’t involve employing local people. The argument may be that the costs of services from outside are lower, but that is a very short-term view. We have seen what has happened when we rely on an outside firm to provide our bus services: as a result, many areas have seen a reduction in transport. By being outside the community, they have no “skin in the game”: the cost may be lower in purely financial terms, but what about the efficiency of transport within the city, which has a direct impact on its wealth? Thinking locally allows us to be far more holistic.
The people of Peterborough expect us to manage tax money not just carefully but effectively: this means bringing lasting benefit to our city in terms of employment, increasing its skill base, and enhancing its ability to prosper. The Labour Group will continue to argue for this change in approach.
I also strongly believe that we should promote the idea of localism beyond the council’s doors. As elected councillors, we are there to do more than just provide political leadership in the Town Hall; our roles also exist to be an example for the entire community. I believe we should approach public and private sector bodies and encourage them to embrace localism too: this includes employers, the police, the fire brigade, NHS, and local schools.
Imagine if all these shifted a further 2% of their spending towards local firms; while this not a huge change for them, it could have a significant impact on the local economy. This 2% would be just a starting point; over time, we should encourage a further transition.
I believe we should institute a “Buy Peterborough” programme; the aim of this project will be to make it easier for outside bodies to work with the council. To begin with, the council can provide information on how to shift purchasing decisions to have more of a local focus.
We can also utilise this programme to co-ordinate purchasing decisions to enhance local impact. The eventual aim is similar as to why I buy local: it helps build local wealth in a sustainable manner. As a city, for many years we have tried an approach which is agnostic about where its goods and services originate: this hasn’t been as effective as we have been led to expect. Let’s make a change: let’s unite, go local, and make our community grow.