Local Elections: A better direction for our city

Spring is a time of change, fresh perspectives and new starts, writes Peterborough First Group leader Mohammed Farooq.
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Change for our council is well underway having started in November when we made history in the council chamber with a new administration, led by the independent group of councillors that form Peterborough First.

The biggest change in the last six months has not solely been the change of administration, but much more. A better and more motivated team delivering residents priorities. A better relationship with outside bodies, bringing in large amounts of investment. Doors being opened that were previously slammed shut, processes being put in place to ensure our children’s services are improved and of course, the ongoing change to the political landscape.

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With elections around the corner, there is much debate about how the council administration will look from May 3rd. You hold the key, and the administration formation will depend on you and your vote. We currently have 10-15 Independent councillors, out of a total of 60 councillors, who put the city and their own ward before any political demands; it is highly unlikely any one party will ever get a majority of the 31+ necessary for outright control, any time soon.

Council leader Mohammed Farooq, Peterborough FirstCouncil leader Mohammed Farooq, Peterborough First
Council leader Mohammed Farooq, Peterborough First

This is great news for our city for several reasons. Any new administration will need a collaborative spirit and to work with the independents; this will ensure the residents are truly represented ahead of party politics and essential services are delivered. Most importantly, any new administration will never be able to repeat the failures of the last Conservative administration… lending millions to a hotel project, funding failed solar panel projects, having to overpay for council offices due to the Conservative administration not putting a break clause in the lease, failures in governance, failures of financial management, and huge failures in political leadership.

Separately, I am already putting processes in place to ensure events such as these can never happen again. Your vote will deliver the direction of travel in the council chamber. I ask you to look at the behaviour in the chamber, look at the legacy of mistakes and issues that were ignored.

If you are reading this, I trust you have read previous articles from me and from other groups, and you are starting to see those who are part of a positive change and those who want to drag this city downwards. Your vote matters. With your support, let’s keep heading in a better direction for our city, for you and your family. If you have independent candidates in your ward standing for election, they offer you an unbiased voice and will be a valuable member of the council, as we continue our new path. To help us deliver the right balance in the council chamber I would urge all residents to vote for your independent candidates on May 2. Where an independent is not standing please vote wisely for a positive change.

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In the meantime, while election fever goes on, vital council business continues, and nothing is more important than the children of our city. Tuesday was Primary National Offer Day when families found out their children’s primary school place. In Peterborough 98.51 per cent of children secured a place at their first, second or third preferred school. It’s great news that so many children have been able to receive their choice of school. Education plays such a critical part in ensuring children get the best start in life to ensure they reach their full potential. Children are our future, and they are at the forefront of our administration’s focus.

On Thursday (18th) the council was due find out whether it had been successful in the Energy Efficient Awards for the East of England, where we have been shortlisted for Local Authority of the Year. We spent millions of pounds, thanks to government grants, supporting people who live in homes with a poor energy efficiency rating to be able to reduce their carbon footprint. Thanks to Changemakers Peterborough, we will all get the chance to think about our carbon footprint and enjoy a free family event with the Earth Day event taking place on Sunday (April 21st) between 10am and noon in Central Park. There is much to enjoy including games, story time, activities and more.

At the time of writing, we are still awaiting an announcement from the Cathedral for something big coming this summer… we can’t wait to find out what they have planned! And don’t forget, the voice of the M People, Heather Small, will be singing some of her greatest hits in the magical setting of the Cathedral later this year; the event has been postponed but this allows more time to get your tickets.

As always, there is lots to be positive about in Peterborough. We are stronger working together for the good of this city and that is why I am confident of our future direction, which will be made possible with your support on May.