Spotlight is firmly on Peterborough

Official opening of the Accent new flats at 57 Lincoln Road. Paul Kitson from Homes England, Accent CEO Paul Dolan  , Mayor of Peterborough Coun. Gul Nawaz and Coun John Holdich planting a tree in the grounds. EMN-190524-144730009
Official opening of the Accent new flats at 57 Lincoln Road. Paul Kitson from Homes England, Accent CEO Paul Dolan , Mayor of Peterborough Coun. Gul Nawaz and Coun John Holdich planting a tree in the grounds. EMN-190524-144730009

With the by-election for the Peterborough parliamentary seat taking place next Thursday the national spotlight is firmly on our great city, writes leader of Peterborough City Council cllr John Holdich.

So it’s no surprise that I’m taking calls from national journalists, who being London-centric, want to find out more about Peterborough and have looked to me to enlighten them.

And I have enjoyed doing so as it’s allowed me to promote our city on a national stage and to show what a great place it is to start or relocate a business or family, or to visit for a day trip or an overnight stay.

If I had a pound for every time someone told me they visited the city ten years ago and how much it has changed for the better in that time I would be a rich man. But the reality is that it has.

Our city centre has been transformed, with new and regenerated areas for people to sit and watch the world go by, new shops and restaurants. On a sunny day, like we had last week, Cathedral Square comes alive and with the iconic cathedral and the Guild Hall too it’s a fantastic place to spend time. The redevelopment of Fletton Quays, one of the most prestigious riverside developments in the country, is on target and there are firm plans in place to transform North Westgate.

We have new businesses launching and expanding all the time creating. In 2017/18, the latest figures we have, 4,575 new jobs were created in the city, meaning our unemployment rate is below the national average.

We are supporting house building in every quarter of the city to give us enough homes of every kind to support our residents and those wanting to move here. We’ve rebuilt or expanded every secondary school in the city.

Of course, growth on the scale we are seeing brings its challenges - it is these challenges that many of the candidates standing in the by-election next week are mentioning on the doorstep. Many of these issues - poverty, not enough housing for those in need to name just two, could all be helped if we received a proper level of funding from government. We are having to do so much more with less money - as the fifth fastest growing city in the country with the sixth highest birth rate, that’s no small task.

But as I said in last week’s column, we will continue to keep a close eye on the areas where we know our residents say they need us the most, ensuring that our most vulnerable residents are protected and supported, but also ensuring that our city provides everyone with the opportunity to achieve their goals.

Whoever wins the Peterborough by-election and represents half of our city in Parliament, we need them to understand the huge financial challenges that we face and how they can support us in campaigning for additional funding.

So when you are voting next week, think not about the party the person represents, but about the person that is best for Peterborough and building a better future.

Earlier this year I was tasked with writing to HMRC about the planned closure of the Peterborough base to explain the impact this will have on our city. Last week I received a letter and I am disappointed to say that they are not for turning. However, I am pleased to let you know that we are still in the running for two additional government offices in Peterborough. Look out for an update.

Last Friday I accompanied our new Mayor of Peterborough councillor Gul Nawaz to the official opening of Manor House, a new development of 31 affordable rent one and two bedroom flats.

It has been completely refurbished by Accent Housing and now provides affordable homes for people in need across the city which is fantastic. It’s one of the many projects we are working on with our partners to provide new housing across the city for all.

Finally, the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings will be next Thursday and I’ve been invited to take part in a Royal British Legion commemorative service at the War Memorial outside the Town Hall at 11am. I ask you all to either join us, or to mark the occasion privately.