Communities and private sector could take on Peterborough City Council-run services

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Communities and volunteers could take on services run by Peterborough City Council as part of a new strategy which might also include private investment.

In the face of an ever-shrinking budget due to the government reducing its grant by many millions of pounds, the council will review all its functions and services to see if they could be run better through a different model.

But despite the Conservative-run council admitting that the new way of running services was forced on them as a response to the cuts, Councillor Nigel North, cabinet member for communities and environment capital, said he would have introduced it anyway.

“Definitely, I think it’s a real way forward,” he said.

The People and Communities’ Strategy 2016–2020 was approved by the cabinet yesterday (Monday, February 8) after it was produced by a council task-and-finish group.

Addressing his fellow cabinet members, Cllr North said the strategy would put “communities at the heart of everything we do.”

He later added: “We need to look at communities and how they can help themselves. Each area will have the services that are bespoke to them.

“I think we have some fantastic volunteers in this city, but I meet people who say ‘I would love to do something but I don’t know what there is to do’.

“People want a community that they would love to live in and this will help that.”

Adrian Chapman, the council’s director of adult services and communities, summing up the strategy, said: “It’s helping the council deliver its services in a time of significant strain but doing so in a way of meeting the communities’ needs and aspirations.”

The strategy states that by freeing up resources, it will allow the council to focus more on people who needs its help the most.

This is likely to mean a greater role for parish councils in delivering services.

Cllr David Seaton said people who pay a parish council can see directly what their money is invested in, but he added: “One concern I do have is that it’s quite clear that political groups who cannot get on the city council are targeting parish councils.

“What we want on parish councils is people who have the right skills.”

Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald said he would like to see another system used rather than parishes taking on services. He added: “I think there needs to be another method given how parishes can be hijacked.

“Having had personal experience, I see in the wrong hands they can be used against the administration.”

Mr Chapman said parish councils are often the “bridge and space between us as a local authority and the communities themselves. Where it works it works exceptionally well.”

Mr Chapman also confirmed that the strategy, once it is padded out, will consider asking shopkeepers to identify when local residents might have dementia or for postmen to pick up if there are problems, for example if someone is not picking up their post.