Peterborough City Council leader John Holdich: Our lobbying is paying dividends
In last week’s column I spoke about the urgent need for an uplift in our government funding to allow us to continue meeting the growing needs of our residents, writes cllr John Holdich, leader of Peterborough City Council.
In the space of three days we received two announcements about millions of pounds of extra funding that could be coming our way for things like schools, care for the elderly, and regeneration.
I’d like to say that the government is an avid reader of the Peterborough Telegraph and responded directly to my column, but in reality I think it’s the result of persistent pleas from this council and many others across the country for urgent recognition of the desperate funding shortages in local government.
In the Spending Round announced in Parliament last Wednesday we learned that extra money will be provided for education, adult social care and homelessness - in all these areas we have seen huge rises in demand.
The number of people reporting to us as homeless in particular rose by 43 per cent in 2016/17 and has continued to rise ever since. We’re doing lots to meet this challenge - buying our own homes, partnering with Cross Keys Homes on a joint venture to build homes and working with landlords to make more homes available for rent, but we desperately need more funding to meet the growing need.
We’re yet to know exactly how much extra we will receive in each area, but for education we expect to see an additional £2.9million for schools. This is great news, but of course schools will need to factor pay increases and inflation into that, which reduces the net gain. We also expect to receive in the region of £2.4m to provide education for children with special educational needs.
Then on Friday we received further good news from the government, that we are one of a number of areas chosen to bid for funding of up to £25million from the New Towns fund. It’s a further example of how our behind-the-scenes lobbying is starting to pay off, with recognition that we are growing without the investment to back it up.
The government has said it wants the money to be used to boost our economic growth prospects, with a focus on transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture.
We’ll now be working together with partners to put together our bid, but we won’t be starting from scratch. We already have plans in place which this money could be used for, to accelerate our planned growth in future years. For example, we are already on track to be the third Gigabit city, this money could take this even further. Plans are also progressing at a pace now for a Peterborough University - a funding boost could help us to deliver more - and quicker.
It’s heartening to know that our pleas are being heard, but I will continue to lobby those in Westminster so that Peterborough is at the forefront of their minds when allocating additional funding in the future.
On Sunday I will be taking part in The Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk at Ferry Meadows to raise money for the fight against dementia.
Those readers old enough might recall that I raised money for the same charity when I was Mayor of Peterborough in 1995/96, raising in the region of £17,000.
I have first hand experience of the dreadful nature of Alzheimer’s, after seeing my father suffer for 10 years prior to his death in 1989. In actual fact, he was the first person in this country to have the disease listed on his death certificate as a cause of death.
I saw how it affected not just my father, but my whole family. This is why I will be taking part in the walk this Sunday.
Registrations for the walk close today, but you can still support the event on Sunday - visit www.memorywalk.org.uk for details.
This week a public consultation was launched on a planned Roman Catholic primary school that could be coming to the Hampton East development.
The Roman Catholic diocese is asking for your views on whether or not the school should open. It’s a six week consultation which will end on 20 October. Once views have been gathered, the diocese will decide if it wants to make a formal proposal to open the school to the council. You will find a link to the consultation on our website at www.peterborough.gov.uk
I visited the New Theatre on Broadway recently to see the Four Tops - albeit there was only one of them! It was a great night and I was delighted to see the venue packed with people. There is a fantastic programme of events lined up between now and Christmas. As we know well from past experience of this theatre, if you don’t use it then we will once again lose it.
And finally, if you’ve not visited the Earth exhibition at Peterborough Cathedral then don’t miss out - it closes on Sunday. It’s a rare opportunity to see our planet on this scale, rotating above, and is fascinating to see.