I’ve spoken a lot in the past few weeks about the unprecedented growth in our population, and the resulting huge increase we’ve experienced in demand for services.
One example of where the impact of an ever growing population is the most stark is education. In particular, meeting our legal duty to provide school places for every child that needs one. The increase we have seen in the number of schoolchildren in Peterborough in the past decade is phenomenal, and certainly unprecedented.
Peterborough schools are now teaching 7,360 extra children than there were 10 years ago - to put it into perspective that’s more than the population of Sawtry. As a result the council, working alongside city schools, has created around 9,000 new school places to cope with the increase in numbers as well as prepare for future demand.
This expansion programme has cost £300 million, however government funding has only partly covered this and the council has had to borrow £100 million to ensure that every child in the city has a school place - that works out to borrowing £27,000 every day for the past decade.
Education is one of the key areas on which we are lobbying government as part of our Stand Up For Peterborough campaign which calls for fairer funding. That’s because factors such as Peterborough being one of the fastest growing cities in the country, with the fourth highest fertility rate in the UK and a large number of in-year applications, are simply not recognised in the funding we receive from Government.
We have a good track record of meeting demand by building new schools and expanding others. The problem is not the delivery, it is the lack of funding and we need fairer funding to support further projects to increase school place numbers in the coming years. Over the next four years the council will need to build an additional secondary school and three new primary schools. Plus it will also need to expand one secondary and two primary schools.
Some of this will be funded by the government free school programme, however we expect the council will need to borrow an additional £18million over this period unless we get fairer funding from central government - that’s borrowing we will have to pay interest on which takes more money away from other frontline services.
You can help us to achieve fairer funding for our city by joining our campaign and pledging to Stand Up For Peterborough and protect our vital services. For our voice to be heard we need the support of as many people as possible across the city - residents, businesses and community groups.
People can pledge their support for the campaign by visiting www.peterborough.gov.uk/StandUpForPeterborough and completing an online comment form, or by writing to me at the following address: Councillor John Holdich, Peterborough CityCouncil, Bridge Street, Peterborough, PE1 1HL.
The freezing night time temperatures we have seen in the past week or so have led to us launching our emergency provision to support people who are rough sleeping. We have said time and time again, that there is no need for anyone to sleep rough in Peterborough, and that is still the case. In addition, the Winter Night Shelter opened on Monday and will remain open until March 11, 2018. The shelter is run by a group of seven churches working together with the council to help reduce rough sleeping.
Details of both services are available on the council’s website or from our housing needs team at Bayard Place.
The fact remains that there are still some people who refuse to accept help for a number of different reasons. We don’t give up on these people - we continue to try and engage with them to offer support should they require it.
If you know of someone sleeping rough please notify the council as soon as possible, using the rough sleeper referral form on our website at www.peterborough.gov.uk.
If you’ve signed up to the council’s Santa Stroll on Sunday then enjoy the event. You’ll certainly need a Santa Suit to keep warm if the temperatures stay as cold as they have been!
Online entries have likely closed by the time you read this, but there will be the opportunity to sign up on the day at the Santa suit pick-up point which will be near the escalators in Serpentine Green Shopping Centre, using cash only.
Participants are given Santa outfits, including a beard and belt and can either walk, jog or run a 5km (3 mile) course. The stroll will start from the shopping centre at 10am. If you’re taking part, have fun!