New council group out to put “Peterborough before politics”

Peterborough First, the newest group on Peterborough City Council, has said that its goal is to put “Peterborough before politics.”

Stanground South councillr Chris Harper.
Stanground South councillr Chris Harper.

The group was formed last month and is made up of Stanground South ward councillor Cllr Chris Harper, along with the three Werrington First councillors Cllr John Fox, Cllr Judy Fox and Councillor Stephen Lane.

Cllr Harper joined forces with three fellow independents on the council after resigning from the Conservative group, citing his belief that the city is being led down a “wrong and dangerous route.”

Cllr Harper will act as the group’s Deputy Leader, with Cllr John Fox assuming the leadership of the new group.

Werrington First and Peterborough First leader John Fox.

The group is not replacing Werrington First though, the party will still continue to exist and act as they best see fit to serve the interests of the ward.

The normal procedure of having no whips and giving members the freedom to vote however they choose will also remain in place.

The group is expected to hold a great deal of power as there are now only 28 Conservatives on the council, with the group relying on the support of the independent councillors to support their control of the council.

Combining as part of a group will also allow Cllr Harper to continue to sit on committees. While a member of the Conservative group, he chaired the Growth, Environment and Resources Scrutiny Committee.

Cllr Harper has said that he has been overwhelmed by the response to his decision to leave the Conservatives and grateful for the chance to join Peterborough First.

Cllr Harper said: “It was useful for me to be able to discuss council business with other independents who had no political whip or favour any party.

“As John, Judy and Stephen are Werrington First but are independents, I spoke to them and between us we decided to combine as a group called Peterborough First. Obviously, I can’t represent Werrington First, but I wanted to represent the people of Peterborough.

“We are still strictly independent, no whip, no party allegiances and we vote whichever way we feel on the night, totally independently but we can discuss things before or during meetings. We are now a group of four, Werrington First continues in its own area and Peterborough First will be a foursome in council. We’re stronger together but strictly independent.

“I would welcome others to consider joining us, if they don’t feel comfortable with the direction that the leader is going. They would be welcome to consider being independent and joining Peterborough First to stand up for the people of Peterborough and not parties.

“The reaction to my leaving the Conservative Group has been absolutely overwhelmingly in favour of me staying on as an independent, most messages were telling me they voted for the person and not the party; there’s been hundreds, which is overwhelming and humbling, I couldn’t believe it. For me, that’s a mandate to carry on.”

Cllr Fox has also expressed his delight at having Cllr Harper join the group, which is focused on getting the best deal for its own wards but also Peterborough as a whole.

He added: “It made sense for us to have someone of his experience. He is a well-respected councillor and a man of principle, and it would be sad to see him sat in the chamber of his own, so it made sense to ask him to join us. Now that he has joined us, he can still be part of committees and to me, it’s the decent thing to do.

“We discussed it between the three of us and we all said we would love to have him on board and we were delighted he accepted. I have a lot of Chris Harper, he is a really good councillor, he works hard for his ward. I’m over the moon that he has come to join us.

“We’re still Werrington First as a political party but we have formed a group of four independent councillors.

“You have to put communities before politics. It is about Peterborough not politics. When I represent Werrington, it’s Werrington First but obviously that covers Peterborough as well. You may be a councillor for your ward, but you actually represent the whole city.”

The group will sit in their first full council meeting on Wednesday January 26.