Cllr Wayne Fitzgerald is expected to be voted in as city council leader next week when Full Council meets for the first time since the local elections which left the Conservatives with comfortably the largest number of seats, but two short of a majority.
If the vote goes as expected the member for West ward will take over from John Holdich, and already he has made his mark with a pre-election pledge to re-introduce free bulky waste collections and a number of other measures to clampdown on fly-tipping, including: paying for two trained enforcement officers with the ability to carry out prosecutions, introducing an accredited white van scheme and recruiting two full-time crews to proactively find bulky waste at people’s homes and take it away.
Teams are already working on those proposals, Cllr Fitzgerald told the Peterborough Telegraph, while an immediate priority will be continuing pre-pandemic work to make the council more financially sustainable following years of government cuts and increased demand on services, not to mention a funding formula which allocates more money per person to London than here.
“It’s not been a secret that the council’s financial position needs to be improved,” he said. “We need sustainability going forward.
“I will be fighting and lobbying ministers to come forward for fairer funding for Peterborough.
“Work was underway under John and that will continue now as it’s an important piece of work.
“If we’d lost the election, whoever was running the council they would be faced with the same challenges. It’s to do with the funding formula, not mismanagement.
“We’ve never been a high cost council - we offer better value for services than other similar unitary authorities. We are well run and our auditors say we are.”
While ensuring the council lives within its means will take up a lot of work behind the scenes, more noticeable for people living in the city will be progress made on developing the city centre, including major projects such as North Westgate, the Station Quarter and the new university.
“I want to progress at a faster pace the regeneration and growth of Peterborough,” Cllr Fitzgerald said.
“The (Government’s) new Towns Fund with match funding (from a variety of sources) means we have almost £50 million available.
“In addition to that there is a plan to attract up to £600 million of private investment into the city to take through those schemes. That brings more jobs and housing.
“North Westgate is a little difficult to bring forward quickly as we don’t own the land. That’s being worked on but it’s slow progress. The riverside development and connections with the Embankment and university I want to push through. I want to work with the new mayor on that.
“I want to make the Embankment a jewel in our crown in the city centre, at the same time protecting all that is good about it already. I’d like to see the football club on there as a Posh supporter. I’d also like to see a place for picnics, a new walkway and enhanced riverfront with cafés and restaurants.
“We have a great riverfront and should make more of it. Build the bridge and they shall come.”
A bridge over the River Nene linking the Fletton Quays development with the new university (ARU Peterborough) is one of the proposals for the Towns Fund.
“We are emerging from Covid and want to build back better,” the new Conservative leader added, highlighting the potential to enhance the public realm between the station and the city centre, as well as his ambition to improve public transport and cycling infrastructure.
A “clampdown” on houses of multiple occupation, due to the increased number of vehicles parked outside, is also on the agenda.
Summing up his plans, Cllr Fitzgerald said: “I will be flying the flag for Peterborough both locally, regionally and nationally because Peterborough is a great place to live and work.”