Peterborough City Council Leader John Holdich writes: Last week we published our final set of proposals which set out how we will close a £28million gap in our 2017/18 budget whilst investing in services and the city’s infrastructure.
Every year we face the challenge of managing increasing demands on services with a reducing amount of money. And this year has been no different. But I’m pleased to say that for a further year we are proposing a balanced budget without any reductions to services. Instead we are investing in the services which are most important to our residents and supporting the continued growth of the city. We’ve listened to residents and are therefore proposing significant investment in additional street cleaning, including a daily hit squad that will target areas consistently blighted by litter. This follows extra funding for shrub cutting and city parks agreed at the end of last year.
We’re also proposing to invest £7.5million in Millfield and New England for a wide-ranging regeneration project, and there’s further money set aside for the continuation of improvements across the city centre. Transport investments are also proposed including a major scheme at the Rhubarb Bridge junction of the A47 to improve accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as improvements to the city’s parkways.
One of the major pressures on our budget is the increasing cost of providing services for our elderly and most vulnerable residents. Rising costs of care and an ever growing number of people needing support is not a good mix. To put it into perspective, the number of people in the city aged 85 and over is expected to increase by 40 per cent by 2021. As a result we’re proposing to accept the government’s offer and levy a three per cent Adult Social Care precept. A two per cent precept was agreed in December, however government announced the next day that councils could levy up to three per cent. Within the budget proposals, our investment in care services far exceeds the money generated by levying this precept.
We understand council tax rises are not popular and that is why we have worked hard to keep rates low over recent years. Even with the proposed increase residents will still be paying the lowest council tax anywhere in Cambridgeshire. We hope residents understand why we are proposing an increase, as the alternative is having to make even more savings, which will inevitably lead to service reductions or some services being removed altogether. We still have tough challenges ahead with substantial savings still needed over the coming years. However, with a clear vision for the future and strong financial management we believe we will see the city continue to develop into the strong and vibrant community we all want. Residents can comment on the budget proposals by visiting the council’s website at www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget. Hard copies are also available on Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions and in each of the city’s libraries.
Our city has made great strides in recent years, evidenced in the annual Centre for Cities report published this week. The report shows that Peterborough is performing better than any other city in the UK for housing stock growth. This doesn’t surprise me as we have a good mix of housing with lots of new build projects underway. We’re also named fourth fastest growing city in the country by population. Those two facts may be why Peterborough was named the best place in Britain for young Families to move to in the UK last week. Consumer group Which? compared birth rates with house prices to find cheap areas to buy property which also have a high number of young families. Peterborough came top for new families, with a £169,261 average property price, well below the national average of £219,000 and a birth rate higher than average. The Centre for Cities report also rated Peterborough seventh for its rise in earnings - up 5.1 per cent - which is fantastic news for our residents. Coupled with this, we’re seventh highest for the proportion of private sector jobs versus publically funded roles, which shows we’re not reliant on the public sector for jobs. This report shows that Peterborough is a place of opportunities - whether you’re part of a young family looking to make a life for yourselves, an individual looking for a job with a decent wage, or a couple searching for a reasonably priced home.