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Leader Mohammed Farooq's column November 9

09 November 2023

At last week’s Full Council meeting I was humbled and honoured to be voted in as council leader for our beautiful and historic city.

It was a moment that I will never forget and the culmination of much hard work behind the scenes over several months.

There has been lots of talk and media coverage over why we made our leadership challenge, but that is done now, there is little point in going over old ground – I want to look forwards and drive the council and our city towards a brighter future.

This is an immensely exciting challenge - Peterborough is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and has huge potential, which brings big challenges of delivering public services to our residents.

I am particularly grateful to all the opposition groups for having confidence in us to deliver critical council services and to achieve this, we have assembled a very competent and experienced cabinet team. The last few days have a been a whirlwind but we are working hard to get up to speed quickly.

We want to hit the ground running so we can help the authority press ahead with its key work at this time of year such as the budget setting. Our leadership will bring fresh energy, momentum and perspective to the council at a critical time, but I would also ask people to bear with us initially as we establish ourselves.

Our ultimate vision is for the core values of transparency, compassion and ambition to become embedded into a financially stable and collaborative council. In terms of our key goals going forwards, we have a duty not only to deliver essential services to residents but provide best value for money for your council tax.

Statutory services include protecting our vulnerable children and adults, caring for the environment, providing the best education for our children and providing adult health and social care fit for purpose, all ideally being delivered in the most transparent and compassionate way.

With this in mind, we have put forward the following priorities for our council - growth and prosperity, protecting the vulnerable, education and environment.

I will keep you posted on key developments across these areas and our hard work starts right away with our first Cabinet meeting under the new leadership on Monday.

The meeting will see us review several reports including a local cycling and walking infrastructure plan which looks at how we can enhance active travel across the city. We will also be given updates on the council's Medium Term Financial Strategy and our current budget position.

On the subject of which, I was delighted to hear that 342 people completed our budget simulator which is an 83 per cent increase on last year.

I would like to thank everyone who took part, your invaluable feedback will now be used as part of the discussions ongoing around proposals for how we will balance the budget next year.

We are fully aware of the financial challenges our council is facing and we will deliver a long-term financial strategy, which will provide stability in the years ahead.

I would like to invite everyone to remember those who have lost their lives in conflict by attending two poignant events this weekend.

The council, in conjunction with the Peterborough Branch of the Royal British Legion, will commemorate both the Armistice two minute silence and Remembrance Sunday silence and wreath laying at the War Memorial outside the Town Hall in Bridge Street.

The Armistice two-minute silence service starts at 10.40am on Saturday, whilst the Remembrance Sunday service at the War Memorial starts at 10.45am on Sunday.

Members of the public are invited to join the procession at the War Memorial or can watch the event on a large screen in Cathedral Square, while the silence and wreath laying service will also be streamed on the council’s YouTube channel.

Finally, we’re supporting a lovely campaign run by the National Literacy Trust (NHT) to give children in Peterborough the gift of reading this Christmas.

The NHT is calling for support from residents and businesses, asking them to buy a brand-new book for a child and donate it to their scheme. They will match donations up to 1,000 books, thanks to support received from publishers throughout the year.

All books collected will be shared via local foodbanks, where families who use the foodbank service will be able to pick and wrap one to take home and give to their child for Christmas.

To find out more about the scheme and where you can donate books visit: https://literacytrust.org.uk/communities/peterborough/christmas-book-gifting-appeal-2023/