When the cuts don't work - MP for Peterborough Fiona Onasanya
Let's say that you bought a house. When you moved in, that house was in a certain condition, hopefully pristine. Now let's assume that as time goes on, you stop paying to maintain that house; let's say that you apply quick fixes to the problems that you find. You place a bucket underneath a leaking roof, use duct tape to hold things together. Over time, this inadequate maintenance will lead to your home looking like a wreck.
When cuts to public services were announced, the total impact wasn’t felt immediately. Much like a house that isn’t maintained, the decay becomes noticeable later. We see this issue particularly in rubbish collection and street cleaning. When the cuts to local government began, no doubt some people’s first response was, “Good, they should be forced to tighten their belts”. We all need to be more efficient, but a belt tightened too far can cut off one’s circulation. Our beautiful city now simply isn’t as clean as it should be.
I have met with local officials and discussed the problem; the message I received is simple. They understand our frustration but simply don’t have the financial resources. Like using duct tape to bind up a broken cabinet, they can and do apply patches, but it’s just a stop on the way to further decline. The problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.
Frustrated by this, I am working on a plan for bulky and electrical waste collection; I want this to be a continuous programme. Amey’s contract has been discontinued and its replacement isn’t yet in place; nevertheless, I have spoken to Amey about my desire to get it started and will request the assistance of all local councillors. Once established, this programme should help remedy fly tipping. As a starting point, I will pay for this out of my own salary.
I urge Peterborough’s businesses to get behind this initiative. The current plan is to have streets leafleted the week prior to the collection advising them that it is coming. There will be two vehicles: one of these can crush up to 6 tons of waste; the other will collect electrical items. I am pleased to say that a number of my colleagues, such as those in Park and Central Wards, are also operating community skips and collections.
The end result of this activity will be a cleaner Peterborough; however, this programme addresses just one set of cuts. Not all issues are as straightforward to resolve. It’s difficult to improve educational attainment if schools don’t get the resources they require; without spending on the NHS it’s tough to reduce waiting times. In short, we can clean the house; fixing its structural issues after years of neglect is much more problematic. As people think about government’s priorities, I hope that this example sparks deeper thought about what’s been cut, what we’re willing to pay for, and what needs to be done.