Peterborough is ‘prospering’ despite the cuts

In last week’s column I spoke about the huge budget challenge that we face next year and the need to deliver savings following the publication of our budget proposals, writes leader of Peterborough City Council Cllr John Holdich.

Saturday, 9th November 2019, 5:48 am
Council leader Cllr John Holdich at the council's Sand Martin House offices in Fletton Quays

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I cannot deny that we are proposing changes to some services that I wish we did not have to, but we have also gone to great lengths to limit cuts to services. This newspaper’s front page last week implied we are making £33m cuts - I can assure you that’s not the case. Service cuts are a last resort, instead we are achieving millions of pounds worth of savings by providing services differently, for example jointly with the county council, renegotiating contracts to achieve best value and thanks to additional money from the Government.

At times like this it’s easy to lose sight of the many services we provide for our residents on a daily basis and the successes that we achieve.

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We’re looking after more older people and ensuring those in hospital have the support they need to get them home as soon as possible, maintaining some of the lowest delayed discharge rates in the country. We continue to invest in our Family Safeguarding approach to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and young people, meaning the number of children in care is lower than most other councils of our size.

Our highways and transport services are some of the best in the country. It’s just been announced that we’ve been ranked joint top authority in the eastern region in this year’s National Highways and Transport survey which is fantastic.

We’ve ensured that the ever-increasing demand for school places has been met by continued investment in new and improved school buildings. As a result, more children than ever before are being offered their first preference school. Plans are on track to deliver a dedicated university for 2,000 students by 2022.

We’ve led the successful re-development of Fletton Quays which is modernising the city’s skyline, further boosting the economy and creating hundreds of new jobs and housing. We’re unlocking the economic potential of the Station Quarter and North Westgate in order to make them attractive to investors and a city centre development framework is being developed to secure our future as a larger city destination, supporting future tourism growth and increasing opportunities for residents.

We’re launching a Business Improvement District in the city centre to help businesses to prosper locally, compete nationally and also to help drive inward investment.

We continue to tackle homelessness by securing housing locally to meet the predicted long term need for housing in the city. Over the past 12 months we’ve removed the need to house homeless families out of the area and the numbers in B&B accommodation has been reduced from 146 in September 2018 to 73 in October 2019.

Never have times been harder financially, but I strongly refute accusations made by some politicians that our city is not prospering.

Yes there is lots of work to be done to help everyone in our city who needs it and yes we need more funding to provide the services that we need to. But thanks to the dedication of our staff, our partners and the majority of councillors, we are making a difference to people’s lives on a daily basis.

I recently met with the people that run the Shopmobility service in Queensgate which provides disabled people with electric wheelchairs to access the city centre. We informed them in the summer that we would be unable to fund the service from October, hoping that they would have been able to find alternative funds in that time.

Unfortunately they have not been able to, and knowing what an important service this is for many people, we have agreed to fund it again from April 2020 for a maximum of 12 months, during which time we will support them to find alternative funds.

Remembrance events will be taking place in Peterborough on Sunday and Monday. On Sunday there will be a parade and two minutes’ silence at the war memorial outside the Town Hall at 11am where wreaths will also be laid, followed by a service at the cathedral.

On Monday, there will be a further service at the war memorial including the two minutes’ silence at 11am and the laying of wreaths.

Armistice Day is an important annual event for us all to pay our respects to those who lost their lives serving for our country, so I hope people will join us in marking the dedication of our armed forces.

. Owing to the election on 12 December, this will be my last column until 19 December.