We are punching above our weight

John Holdich
John Holdich
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The city has been highlighted once again for its growth, innovation and jobs. In the annual Cities Outlook report Peterborough appears in the top ten UK cities for a number of important measures. I believe that we are certainly punching above our weight.

Pleasingly, we were rated fourth for housing growth, having delivered 900 new homes in a single year. With the announcement that the first developer has signed up to Fletton Quays, and numerous other developments coming forward, we hope to be performing well in this measure going forward.

We continue to be seen as a city for innovation, appearing seventh for the number of patents granted in 2014. And because of our strength as a centre of business, we are seventh for the ratio of private sector jobs to public sector. Less than one in three workers are employed in the public sector, while in places like Oxford, the level is around 50:50.

As the public sector continues to be squeezed by cuts, it’s good to have such a strong ratio. People leaving public sector roles in Peterborough will have a good chance of finding a job with a local business.

We were also ranked as the third fastest growing city in the country, with our rate of expansion more than 
double the national 

Something that I believe will change in future reports is that Peterborough is currently seen as a ‘low wage, high welfare’ city. That means salaries here are slightly below the national average and a higher number of people are supported by benefits. The aim is of course to be a city with high wages and low welfare.

What’s encouraging, though, is that we are very close to the threshold on both measures (they use data from 2014), and the signs are positive. In November last year, the Cambridgeshire Ltd report highlighted that average salaries in Peterborough had risen by 13 per cent in just one year.

Plus, the number of people currently claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance has dropped by about 3,000 over the past two years - to levels not seen since the early 1990s.

Becoming a high wage, low welfare city is not something that can be done overnight: this is a generational change. But the signs are encouraging and I’m confident we’ll get there.

Education will always be a priority for the council. Following the latest set of GCSE results, although there are a number of positives, clearly there is more work to be done to improve attainment. However the council is not the only responsible party; in fact nine out of the twelve secondary schools in the city are academies or free schools and we have no direct involvement.

The council does not teach children. Although we do hold headteachers to account this is also the role of individual governing bodies.

We have invested millions in schools to offer the best learning environments for pupils while meeting the huge demand for places in the city. We have helped to drive up standards to the point that now 87 per cent of city schools are rated good or better by Ofsted.

There has also been continued and sustained improvement in attainment at every level over the past five years. Hundreds more pupils are achieving at national level and beyond every year.

These indicators give me the confidence that we will reach the attainment levels we all want. I am committed to working with school leaders, governors and academies in the city to ensure this is achieved.