Opinion: An overwhelming vote of confidence

​Last Wednesday, after 23 years at the helm of Peterborough City Council, the Conservative party were ousted by the, er, Conservative party, writes Labour Group leader Dennis Jones.
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The former leader of the council, Wayne Fitzgerald, has claimed that seven of his former colleagues left the party to pursue personal ambition at the expense of the wellbeing of the city.

As leader of the Labour group, I and my fellow councillors, needed to decide whether a vote of no confidence in the Tories was the right thing to do given we have local elections in May and are, almost certainly, less than a year away from a general election. So, why not leave the largely unpopular administration in place and let nature take its course?

The reality is that Labour cares about our city.

Labour Group leader Dennis Jones (Dogsthorpe)Labour Group leader Dennis Jones (Dogsthorpe)
Labour Group leader Dennis Jones (Dogsthorpe)
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We are no longer prepared to put up with the financial mess, vanity projects and petty personality politics that has driven the city for too long. Peterborough deserves better – and that was the message that councillors overwhelmingly agreed at full council last week.

Nothing works in this country. Yet we are all paying more.

Despite promises to the contrary in 2019, the Conservative Government is a mess. The recent revelations from the COVID inquiry show the contempt they showed for working people. We have record NHS waiting lists, schools are at breaking point, and we are paying the highest taxes in 70 years.

Locally, the Conservative administration took the city to the edge of bankruptcy, running down our reserves whilst selling off the ‘family silver’ (community buildings) to make ends meet.

Children’s services were condemned by Ofsted, with the council not able to keep vulnerable children out of risk.

Fly-tipping and dumped rubbish is increasing.

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The outgoing administration was more interested in itself than in us.

In contrast, we now have a new leader of the council, Mohammed Farooq, who spoke calmly, displayed a clear vision and is prepared to listen to alternative views from other parties. I began to find it easier to do business with people who appeared to put Peterborough before personal ambition and ego.

There are enough challenges facing Peterborough without chaos and political stunts of the Conservatives. Even at the last minute, they were putting forward motions design to trip up Labour rather than improve our city. This time it was a motion about asylum seekers staying at the Great Northern Hotel.

The Conservatives did their best to blame anyone but themselves for this mess, but they can’t escape the truth: they have lost control of our immigration and asylum policy.

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It costs UK taxpayers £8 million a day to house people in hotels, the cost of putting up asylum seekers in the Great Northern Hotel for the last year, will have cost over £1 million of our money alone. Yet, no apology or recognition that their government put people in our city in the first place. On the other hand, councillor Farooq and his colleagues proved their commitment to inclusivity and cross party working despite my party staying in opposition to them as a ‘critical friend’.

It was with this in mind that led, not to a vote of no confidence in the administration, but a clear, unequivocal vote of confidence for, we believe, a fresh start for the city we are all proud to call home.