By the time this article is published, the bulk of the Christmas decorations will have been taken down for another year. It’s time to get back to work; 2019 promises to be full of opportunities and challenges, writes cllr Shaz Nawaz, leader of the Labour party on Peterborough City Council.
Before we can begin to tackle the tasks facing our city, it’s necessary to address the events which occurred over the holiday period. I have refrained from commenting on the Fiona Onasanya case hitherto: our legal system operates on the principle on “innocent until proven guilty”.
It was neither fair nor wise to comment on the trial until it concluded. However, that case has now finished: a jury of Ms. Onasanya’s peers came to a unanimous verdict of guilty.
To say that I was shocked, surprised and disheartened is an understatement. I worked closely with Fiona, I trusted her, as the people of Peterborough trusted her, and she has betrayed that trust. The Labour Party has rightly expelled Fiona and urges her to resign from Parliament. She cannot continue to represent the people of Peterborough in good conscience. She should stand down now and give the people of Peterborough the chance to elect a member of Parliament who can stand up for our best interests, especially when the national political picture is so uncertain.
All political parties have their share of turbulence: the Liberal Democrats had a similar experience with Chris Huhne, the Conservatives with Jonathan Aitken and Lord Jeffrey Archer, among others. The best that any party can do is to rectify mistakes quickly: I applaud the Party’s swift response in ensuring that Ms. Onasanya has been excluded and its call for a change in Peterborough’s representation. We have to move on.
There is much to move on to: the holidays have not altered the facts of life in our city: there’s still much to do to improve our housing situation. There is simply not enough to go around, and we see the effects in terms of rough sleeping in our city. Furthermore, we also see it when our young people come to buy properties: even those earning decent wages are finding it increasingly difficult to acquire a permanent home. Despite new developments in and around Peterborough, this gap remains, and the plans to remedy the situation are inadequate.
Schools will continue to be top of Labour’s agenda. Far too many are struggling with inadequate resources: academisation has pushed the problem further away from government’s grip, rather than fixed the issue.
We will also demand greater transparency. The spending by the combined authority and the Mayor’s office should concern us: we are all paying taxes, but for what? Was this additional tier really necessary? How do we benefit from it?
Peterborough has a great deal of potential; but it needs a fresh start. Our task in the coming months will be to show that Labour is ready to deliver it.