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Leader Mohammed Farooq's column May 16

16 May 2024

Our council's future is looking bright following the outcome of the recent local elections.

I was delighted that Peterborough First increased its number of seats to 14 and would like to pass my sincere thanks to everyone who voted for us.

We had a 100 per cent return on the candidates that we stood and I would like to thank all of them for their efforts and everyone who campaigned on their behalf.

We hit the campaign trail hard and listened to what residents told us but we also promoted our exciting plans for Peterborough.

I think residents can see we are working hard to make a difference and although we have only been in power a short time we have already made great progress. Our collaborative efforts have ensured that the council is in a better place than it was and is now ready to progress further still.

It's annual council on Monday night where the new mayor will be installed for the next 12 months and the new Leader appointed. Essentially, it’s the start of a new year for the authority where we can continue with the same support and collaboration we have seen in the past six months.

It will also be a chance to say farewell to outgoing Mayor Nick Sandford, who lost his seat in the election, but gave a phenomenal 28 years of service as a councillor. Nick is a gentleman who is highly respected on all sides of the political spectrum and I will miss him.

Fellow long-serving councillor Gul Nawaz is also departing after 22 years service and similarly I would like to thank Gul for all his hard work over the years.

Our city’s impressive university ARU Peterborough has gone from strength to strength since opening in 2022 and now boasts a state-of-the-art virtual reality facility which was opened recently.

The renowned writer and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig OBE cut the ribbon to open XRP eXtended Reality Peterborough, the brand new Centre of Excellence there last week.

The new facilities, which combine elements of the virtual and the real world to create an immersive educational experience, allow students to become active participants in their learning thanks to technology that lets users feel they’ve stepped inside a giant VR headset.

This will help them perfect skills, and practise and repeat techniques, in a safe environment. The specialist technology can simulate workplace environments such as hospital wards, labs, and engineering workshops, and there are also plans to open the facilities to local employers, to assist with staff training.

Our region will be one of just 15 areas of England to benefit from a new nationwide work and health support service, aimed at helping people with health conditions back to work.

The regional work, health and wellbeing board, which covers Peterborough, was recently successful in a bid for £3m of funding as part of the ‘Workwell’ scheme, led by the Department for Work and Pensions.

We will be one of 15 pilot areas connecting people to local support services including physiotherapy and counselling so they can get the tailored help they need to stay in or return to work.

Further announcements will be made in due course but I’m confident this scheme will have a positive effect and would like to thank everyone involved in our bid.

On the subject of nationwide campaigns, we also welcomed a government minister to Peterborough last week to announce a new recycling scheme.

Robbie Moore MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) visited the council’s depot in Fengate as part of the government's Simpler Recycling plans.

Mr Moore enjoyed a tour of the facility and spoke with staff there before recording an interview about the scheme which is aimed at raising recycling rates across the country. The initiative will ensure that in future households in England will be able to put recyclables – plastic, metal, glass, paper and card in one bin, helping to end the confusion caused by councils operating different systems.

I am glad we are making it as easy as possible for people to recycle. We already recycle a wide range of items in Peterborough, but welcome any initiative that helps us to do more.

We’ve certainly had some fantastic events in Peterborough recently and I’m delighted that this trend is continuing throughout the summer.

Crowds are set to flock to Nene Park on Saturday and Sunday for the popular Peterborough Celebrates Festival. From music and theatre, food and drink, dance and culture, arts and crafts, poetry and literature, health and wellbeing and sports and activities, there will be a packed and diverse schedule of entertainment across the weekend.

Meanwhile, Peterborough Cathedral is hosting an exciting exhibition called ‘Monsters of the Sea’ from June 15 until 1 September.

Visitors can dive deep into the mysteries of the ocean and encounter sea creatures past and present like never before, with highlights including 16 animatronic sea creatures from prehistoric to the modern day and a life size Great White Shark, as well as exploring interactive exhibits and captivating displays.

You can find out more at