Libraries in Peterborough could close as well as theatre and leisure centre after meeting approves ‘moratorium’ on council spending

An Extraordinary Full Council meeting last night (December 16) saw Peterborough councillors unanimously approve a ‘moratorium’ on the council’s spending which could see libraries close as well as the Key Theatre and Werrington Leisure Centre.
The Extraordinary Full Council meeting.The Extraordinary Full Council meeting.
The Extraordinary Full Council meeting.

An Extraordinary Full Council meeting (16 December) of Peterborough City Council has unanimously approved a temporary pause in Capital spending.

One immediate result of this has seen the closure of the Key Theatre and Werrington Leisure Centre.

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Cllr Andy Coles, Cabinet Member for Finance, was keen to impress on Members the meaning of the moratorium, saying: “Members know that we face a huge financial challenge and any savings that we can make in this financial year will contribute significantly to our financial stability by 2023/24.

“The proposal is a ‘pause’ in spending, not a cancellation of projects.

“The Capital budget has already been revised down to just under £85m from the original £133m; but there is scope for further reductions of £9.435m”

While the proposals were unanimously approved at a much-reduced sitting of the Extraordinary Full Council – a reflection of the new COVID rules in response to Omicron – councillors were unhappy at some of the immediate effects of this moratorium which will see several well-used and much-loved facilities in the city closing, at least on a temporary basis until the budget is balanced.

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These include the Key Theatre, Werrington Leisure Centre and potentially city  libraries – facilities which in many cases, have only just re-opened following lockdown.

Council spending freeze in place until March 2022

The moratorium will remain in place at least until March 11,  2022, when the council is legally required to balance the budget to retain control over their own finances.

Cllr Coles added: “Following that date, we will convene a meeting at the end of March fully reviewing the next three-year Capital programme to be undertaken ahead of the 2022/23 budget approval process.

“Every commitment in that programme will be properly scrutinised including spend to date projects and considering where match funding is in place, so that the council doesn’t find itself in this position again next year, the year after that, and so on and so on.”

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With this approval to reset its finances, Peterborough City Council will undoubtedly need to have a much smaller Capital programme over the next three years than has previously been envisaged.

Cllr Cole said: “That Capital programme will need to be much closer to the figures we are looking at for this financial year – in other words, something less than £80m.”