Peterborough should ‘scrap council and rejoin Cambridgeshire’ - long-serving councillor

Peterborough City Council should be scrapped as part of a major shake-up of local government, according to a long-serving councillor.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 12:16 pm

Charles Swift spent 62 years as a representative after first being elected in 1954 for Labour.

A former mayor and leader of the council, he has long rallied against the loss of powers from the council which he believes has eroded local accountability.

And in an open letter to mark 60 years since he was chosen as Mayor of Peterborough, Mr Swift has called for the city council to be disbanded with residents of Peterborough instead represented by Cambridgeshire Council County and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority - the mayoral body.

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Former city councillor Charles Swift

Peterborough became a unitary authority in 1998 having previously been part of the county council.

In his letter, Mr Swift, who represented north ward and later became an independent on the council, highlights how the majority of directors between the two authorities are now shared.

He adds that he will be sending his ideas to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

His views are similar to that of outgoing city council leader Cllr John Holdich who believes the county should be represented by two large councils.

Currently, Cambridgeshire has a county council as well as five district councils.

Mr Swift, who was made a Freeman of the City for his lengthy service, writes: “In the past years the city council has gone back 100 years.

“We should have a full open and honest debate and I am writing to the ministry of housing and local government with a lot more detail.

“We have all the councils in Cambridgeshire, plus the one non-existing unitary authority in Peterborough. The days of local government have gone and we should have one county council to cover the whole area based at the new headquarters at Alconbury and the newly elected mayor, deleting the stupidity of the title of Mayor of Peterborough.”

The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is an elected role with powers over housing, transport and infrastructure projects, while the Mayor of Peterborough is a ceremonial role which a city councillor performs for a year.

Mr Swift is damning in his letter over the loss of power at the city council, stating that promises made when it became a unitary authority more than 20 years ago have not been kept.

He writes: “The promises made were:

1. A single all-purpose unitary council which would provide all local services in Peterborough

2. The council will provide all the services itself rather than contracting them from Cambridgeshire County Council and other sources

3. Strive for total accountability and to improve services internally rather than externally.

“All the promises that the city council made at that time when I was the member of the council, they have been reneged upon. Ninety per cent of its responsibilities and councillor duties they have put out to the private sector, sold off or now become shared services with Cambridgeshire County Council.”

Referencing the upcoming local elections, he adds: “What will the new mayor preside over this May?

“Sixty councillors that are paid at the mayor-making this year but will perform little or no services as their (predecessors), for they are members of a council that really does not exist or provide any of the services as in the past.”

The letter in full

From Charles Swift OBE – Ex Mayor , Freeman and Honorary Alderman of the city of Peterborough. 20 years of leadership , 62 years continuous membership as the City Councillor for North Ward.

This year marks 60 years that I was privileged to be elected Mayor of the city of Peterborough at the age of 30 in the year 1961/62. The Council had 27 elected councillors (unpaid voluntary) in charge of every public service from cradle to grave.

The first item on the agenda after election of Mayor was the appointments of

1. 15 Standing committees

2. 45 Outside bodies

3. 35 School governors

Enclosed is the list of the duties the councillors performed and their responsibilities that gave them pride in their achievements.

What will the new Mayor preside over this May?

60 councillors that are paid at the mayor making this year 2021/22 but will perform little or no services as their previous for they are members of a council that really does not exist or provide any the services as in the past.

Peterborough became a unitary council on 1st April 1998 and I quote from the booklet approved by her Majesty’s Government and the promises made by the council to the Peterborough residents. What would be in the new unitary authority?

The promises made were

1. A single all-purpose unitary council which would provide all local services in Peterborough

2. The council will provide all the services itself rather than contracting them from Cambridgeshire county council and other sources

3. Strive for total accountability and to improve services internally rather than externally

All the promises that the city council made at that time when I was the member of the council they have been reneged upon. 90% of its responsibilities and councillor duties they have put out to the private sector, sold off or now become shared services with Cambridgeshire County Council. The Council that the government approved departed from to form unitary authority.

1. They have abolished all the committee system where democratically elected councillor participated in decision making

2. Put out to private sectors and other sources the majority of services , wherein some of the private sectors have not been able to carry out their duties and we have lost millions

3. 90% of its officers are now shared services with Cambridgeshire County Council.

4. Majority of duties previously performed by Peterborough City council has now been taken over by the new tier of local governments. The appointment of the mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (Why on earth we require 2 mayors in Peterborough I do not know)

5. We had 10 senior officers in Peterborough as per the list attached and now we have knocked them down to 2 officers only. For Example – The Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have taken over responsibilities in Peterborough for house building, employment, creation of new jobs, new university (education) and highways and roads. 90% less services provided by Peterborough City Council than 60 years ago by its previous successors who were forward looking. In the past years, the City Council has gone back 100 years

We should have a full open and honest debate and I am writing to the Ministry of housing and local government with a lot more details which will be forwarded to you later. All the councils in Cambridgeshire plus the one non-existing unitary authority in Peterborough,the day of local government have gone and we should have one county council to cover the whole area based at the new Head Quarters at Alconbury and the newly elected mayor deleting the stupidity of the title of mayor of Peterborough should be in charge.