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Leader Mohammed Farooq's column February 1

01 February 2024

When I became council leader I made a commitment that the cabinet and I would do everything in our power to protect and support vulnerable people in our city.

You may have read the news this week that the council’s children’s services have been rated as inadequate by Ofsted and I want to assure everyone that we will be making urgent improvements to services that support and protect vulnerable children in Peterborough following this outcome.

As a new leader it would be easy for me to blame previous administrations for our current problems, but that doesn’t really help anyone right now. I prefer to look forwards instead of back and ultimately any decisions that were made in the past were made with the best intentions at the time.

I fully accept and understand that people will be alarmed by this latest Ofsted report, but I want to point out some positive aspects. Most notably, that inspectors stated that the council is already making progress towards making the drastic improvements that are needed.

Their report states that John Gregg, our director of children’s services, has brought “stability and renewed focus” to the areas in which improvement is needed, that “clear priorities have been set and appropriate plans developed,” as well as noting some significant early improvements made.

Our team is fully aware of the challenges ahead and I have every confidence that we will work to turn the service around, focussed on our number one goal of improving the life chances of all children in Peterborough and ensuring the most vulnerable are supported and protected.

We are putting robust plans in place to ensure every child who needs our support is getting it, at the right time and in the best way to support their needs.

We have set up a special improvement panel which I am a member of and this includes representatives from Ofsted, the police and health. We are also investing in our social work teams and working with our partners in health, education, other agencies and most importantly, children and young people and families, to ensure they are getting the right support.

Improving our service is about more than just improving the Ofsted rating - it’s about making sure children benefit from the best services possible, making sure they remain safe, protected, have the best possible upbringing and are inspired to reach their full potential.

I would also add that our new political leadership brings with it a fresh approach as does the appointment of John Gregg, who we are fully confident can help deliver the necessary changes.

Although John is new to the role here in Peterborough, he is vastly experienced in his field and has a proven track record of turning around children’s service at other councils which were in a similar position.

We know there is much work still to be done, but our administration is focussed and determined to make positive change, along with all of those staff working in children’s social care.

With all these elements in place, I am certain that our next Ofsted inspection for children’s services will result in a more positive outcome for everyone.

On a separate note, I am delighted to hear that Frasers is coming to the Queensgate Centre, as this is a very welcome boost for our city centre, especially in light of recent events.

I want to look forwards now and there is so much for everyone to be excited about. Our ambitious growth plans are already paying dividends with our new university going from strength to strength and our Station Quarter soon to be transformed.

These developments, along with several others, will help our city centre continue to develop and attract new businesses, ensuring it remains a vibrant and welcoming destination for residents, shoppers and visitors alike.