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Leader Mohammed Farooq's column January 12

12 January 2024

I have been council leader for just over two months now and I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge of heading our authority and helping our historic city to develop and grow.

Being council leader is a huge responsibility and the job is all consuming, with much time devoted to meetings and reports as well as attending events.

However, the job also has many privileges which I never take for granted and one of these is meeting special people in our communities.

Over the weekend, myself and Councillor John Howard, our deputy leader, visited an amazing lady on a landmark day for her.

Elsie, a resident at Clayburn Court care home in Hampton, celebrated her 103rd birthday and we presented her with a special birthday card signed across by councillors from across the authority, including the city’s Mayor.

The team at Clayburn did a fantastic job raising awareness of such a lovely landmark for Elsie and they organised a brilliant few days of activities and celebrations to mark the occasion.

It was great to spend time with Elsie, hear about her life story and her secret to longevity – she told us that looking after her children and subsequent grandchildren kept her young.

Being a parent has only made me feel older so all credit to her, what an amazing age!

I’m really looking forward to the year ahead and hope that I can continue to get out and about to meet those who make a difference in our wonderful city.

Last year the council launched three Family Hubs in Welland, Paston and Orton, focussed on helping families to get vital practical support under one roof.

The hubs are working well and this week saw our first annual Family Hubs conference taking place, giving those involved a chance to come together and discuss progress and ways forward.

Services available from the Family Hubs include parenting and feeding advice, support with wellbeing and mental health, and early language development. There are also youth activities for young people aged 11 to 19.

Going forwards, we are looking to open more hubs, as well as improving the service’s digital offer and will be making announcements in due course.

By developing and enhancing our Family Hubs scheme, we will help families create supportive, stable environments for their children, ensuring they can access the support they need from birth through to adulthood.

We are also reaching out to all parents with children aged two-years-old, to check if they are eligible for 15 hours free childcare per week from April.

Currently, parents who work and earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage, and earn less than £100,000 adjusted net income per year, are entitled to 30 hours free childcare a week for children aged three to four.

The Government is expanding this scheme so that eligible working parents of all children over the age of nine months are also entitled to free 30 hours of childcare per week. This allows families with younger children to access free childcare, meaning those families will no longer have to choose between a career and a family.

Applications opened last week and parents are being urged to check if they are eligible and apply. To find out if you are eligible, please visit www.peterborough.gov.uk

Temperatures have certainly taken a turn for the colder this week and I would urge everyone to take extra care, especially when venturing outside.

Cooler weather also means that our city’s gritters have been hitting the roads this week, helping to keep motorists safe.

We recently ran a competition asking residents to name six new gritting vehicles, which generated hundreds of entries. Choosing winners was tough but I’m delighted to say that Sleet Caroline, Lou-ice Smith, Chilly Eilish, Thaw Patrol, I want to break freeze and Aston Verycold were selected and are all up and running.

I would like to thank all our gritter drivers who are often out late at night in difficult conditions, ensuring that our main roads are safe for everyone to use – they are some of the council’s many unsung heroes.

I would also like to thank all those groups and people who helped keep people safe when there were flooding concerns last week, and remind people to please be flood aware.

Finally, I must mention an exhibition taking place at Peterborough Cathedral which is out of this world, quite literally!

The venue is hosting ‘Mars: War and Peace’ until January 29, providing an opportunity to consider the history of human conflict around the world. Visitors will feel transported to the inhospitable desert wasteland of Mars, whilst also reflecting on the realities of war.

Visit www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk for more details.