It is a question of competence

Labour group leader Cllr Shaz Nawaz
Labour group leader Cllr Shaz Nawaz

L ike many, I was appalled by the recent news that Peterborough council is “dumping” our homeless families in Travelodges outside of our city, and worse, not telling the local authorities involved. This earned a rebuke from the MP for Sheffield South East, Clive Betts, and rightly so, writes Shaz Nawaz, leader of the Labour Party on Peterborough City Council.

This news has broken the consensus that previously existed within the council: there was an acceptance that using Travelodges was an expensive and inadequate means to provide emergency housing. Furthermore, we all were appalled when Barnet council was buying up Peterborough housing for their homeless, and we were upset that Barnet hadn’t kept us closely informed: doing the same sort of thing to Sheffield reeks of hypocrisy.

It’s inhumane to house our homeless away from the city; they’ve been ripped from their communities and been expected to make do in somewhere new. Furthermore, as Sheffield hadn’t been informed, what kind of support could they hope to receive in order to adapt? It appears our council was perfectly happy to just shift the problem to someone else, and out of sight, it was out of mind.

This follows on from yet another devastating news item, specifically, that Peterborough came dead last in the Key Stage 2 results. I was more than a little gobsmacked that the response of the council was to suggest that its approach was working: clearly, empirically, it isn’t.

If the council was a company, and the citizens of Peterborough were its shareholders, the board of directors would be fired for poor performance. The core to the present council’s offering has been the promise of competence: apart from this, there are trappings of an ideology, e.g. enthusiasm for Brexit, that have little import when one is trying to fix local problems. Without competence, without a clear idea of how to improve except by trying methods which have been proven to be ineffective, what do they have to offer?

Not much, in my view. The Labour Group understands that it’s merely not enough to criticise the present administration, that’s why we have been working hard on our policy portfolio. The Shadow Cabinet has been appointed so that we have prepared people who are ready to provide competent policy making from day one. We will continue to spell out our ideas on housing, education, and crime. By the time the next election takes place, there will be a detailed prospectus for the people of Peterborough to consider.

Apathy is corrosive: most voters didn’t turn out last May. Their willingness may have been diminished by the thought that better was not obtainable, so why bother to try? I submit that we can do better than last in the Key Stage 2 results: after all, every other authority is ahead. I submit that we can do better than housing our homeless remotely; after all, it’s such an aberration that Sheffield is rightly aggrieved by this behaviour. I submit that we deserve more competent government; Labour will provide it.