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Leader Mohammed Farooq's column December 8

08 December 2023

Setting the council’s budget each year is one of the most important pieces of work that the authority undertakes and as always, we want your views as part of the process.

This week cabinet members agreed to launch a consultation setting out the range of services provided by the council and how we might look to do things differently in 2024/25.

The consultation runs until 7 January with feedback helping to inform decisions that councillors make in February on the overall council budget, so I would urge everyone to take part.

We have never shied away from the fact that we face difficult decisions going forwards as our predicted budget gap in 2024/25 is £6.2m. We are now setting out how we plan to meet that gap and deliver a balanced budget which councillors will be asked to approve at the Full Council meeting on 21 February 2024.

We were previously predicting much smaller budget gaps in future years but demand for our services has continued to rise. We’ve seen particular spikes in the need for temporary accommodation and in the number and complexity of cases open to Children and Adult Services.

However, Peterborough is not alone in these challenges. Many other councils are experiencing similar pressures, with some issuing warnings that they will have to pause all but essential spending.

This process is not all about making savings, we will be investing heavily in services for children and families and older people and vulnerable adults. There will be a focus on our city centre, education including support for children and young people with special educational needs, and our plans to achieve net zero.

With the budget gap that remains there will be difficult decisions and that is why it is important that you tell us what you think and get involved.

You can have your say on the budget consultation by completing an online form at www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget or by requesting a paper copy of the form by emailing communications@peterborough.gov.uk or calling 01733 747474.

I’m really looking forward to attending a special ground-breaking ceremony this Friday for Peterborough College’s new Green Technology Centre.

This will see spades literally going into the ground as work gets under way on the new building, which is one of eight projects we’re contributing funding towards as part of the government’s Towns Fund Programme.

We have already secured £22.9million for Peterborough, which is being used to boost the city with a wealth of cultural, health and wellbeing and tourism improvements – to make it an even better place to live, work and visit.

The new centre is part of the Inspire Education Group, comprising of Stamford College, Peterborough College and University Centre Peterborough. Once open, it will deliver an innovative curriculum to get students ready for careers focused on green technology – such as sustainable construction and electric vehicle manufacturing.

This will enable more residents to become ‘job ready’ for these in-demand roles, meaning that this facility will benefit our city for years to come.

There has been much media coverage over the future of our city’s Regional Pool, after the discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) there in September.

A structural survey has been carried out to assess the works needed to ensure the building is safe to use and the likely cost. We have now received the structural survey report and it concludes that a complete new roof is required and other related works to be able to reopen the building, expected to cost in the region of £4.7m.

We are now considering the report in detail and the options that are available to us, keeping in mind the age of the pool and fact it is nearing the end of its life. We also know that without the RAAC, the latest condition survey indicated that £6m of work would be required to ensure the building is operational over the next decade. Our considerations will include the potential for a new pool in the city, working in partnership with the private sector.

We know that this will be disappointing news for people and we encourage them to use alternative swimming facilities in the city, including those at Jack Hunt and Stanground.

The Peterborough Youth Council is an impressive group of young people who are working to ensure that young people get opportunities to have a say on decisions that may affect them.

It’s made up of young people aged 11 – 19 from across Peterborough and their latest exciting venture, led by city Youth MP Eva Woods, is currently taking shape.

Their ‘Youth News’ strategy aims to help make young people better informed and further enhance opportunities for them. We will help to support and promote this scheme, so stay tuned for updates.

Finally, don’t forget that there are many fun-filled festive attractions in place across the city to get you in the Christmas spirit.

This includes an open-air ice rink in Cathedral Square, as well as Christmas artisan and craft market stalls around Cathedral Square and Cathedral Arch on certain dates. Visit www.peterborough.gov.uk for more details.