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Leader Wayne Fitzgerald's blog - 26 May

26 May 2023

Anyone who has served as a politician will tell you that it’s not always an easy ride.

Some people will judge you based on information which is not always accurate and inevitably there will be others who just don’t like you for no good reason.

The era of social media has made it even easier for people with an axe to grind to tell you how they feel about you, and believe you me, they have, following the decisions by four Conservative members to leave the party.

I gave my response to those defections to the Peterborough Telegraph on Monday evening following the Annual Council meeting and corrected some of the wild inaccuracies that have been flying about.

What’s most important to me now is to get on with the job of creating a sustainable future council and making Peterborough even better for everyone who lives, works and visits our city.

It’s a great honour for me to continue to lead Peterborough City Council and I’m determined to build on the exceptional progress we’ve made recently. I hope that all members on the council can continue to work collaboratively in the way we have in the past year, as recognised by our Improvement Panel.

You only need to read our entry for the Local Government Chronicle Awards – where we are shortlisted for Most Improved Council – to realise the huge strides forward we have taken. Fingers crossed for June 8th when we find out if we have won!

To all intents and purposes, we are now a financially stable local authority - we delivered a balanced budget strategy for the current year. Our budget gaps in future years are small – just £0.5m in 24/25 and £1.1m in 25/26.

This is a remarkable achievement when you consider the pressure on local authorities because of rising demand and higher costs of running services.

But we are not out of the woods yet and there will be financial pressures and challenges on the horizon no doubt which we will need to tackle along the way.

Before the meeting on Monday took place, Councillor Nick Sandford was elected as Mayor of Peterborough. Nick is one of the hardest working councillors I know, and I wish him well for the year ahead

Potholes are a real bugbear of mine and I know that many residents and motorists feel the same way.

Our highways team works actively to repair potholes where possible and they’re always on the lookout for new methods and machinery.

We are currently trialling an award-winning JCB Pothole Pro machine and I’m personally looking forward to seeing it in action. We’re testing it out on the busway between Rangefield and Reepham this week and will publish a video on our Youtube account afterwards.

The Pothole Pro is specifically designed to sort out any pothole repair efficiently, economically and permanently. It has typical pothole repair time of eight minutes and other councils are already using it to great effect.

We will be assessing it to see how it performs at this location in the first instance before considering whether to add one to our fleet.

In the meantime, I would encourage everyone to report potholes to us, the quickest and easiest way is online at www.peterborough.gov.uk/report-it-online

One of the council’s key goals is reducing carbon emissions and encouraging more people to get walking and cycling.

In our bid to do so, we’ve been successful with a joint funding application with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to central government for just under £3million, which will see plans to create new cycling routes in Peterborough progressed.

This will see plans for improved cycling and walking infrastructure and junction upgrades along some key routes including Bourges Boulevard, Oundle Road and Thorpe Road along with improvements in the Thorpe Wood area.

The Thorpe Wood scheme will start at the bottom of the recently-installed pedestrian bridge over the Nene Parkway, offering improved pedestrian and cycle connections into Ferry Meadows, the business park, the police station, and better connections between Longthorpe and Bretton.

By improving our transport network now we can ensure that we have the right infrastructure in place as our city continues to grow.

Time certainly does fly - it only seems like five minutes ago I was wishing readers a happy new year and all of sudden we’re nearly in June!

That also means the May school holidays are about to begin, which leads me on to highlighting that once again we’re providing families in need with supermarket vouchers during half-term.

Vouchers to the value to £10 will be sent automatically to eligible families using school data and information held by the city council. In total, over 14,5000 vouchers will be issued, totalling over £140,000.

We are urging families to check whether they may be eligible for free school meals during term time, which in turn would make them eligible for supermarket vouchers in the holidays. Information about free school meals and how to apply is available at www.peterborough.gov.uk - all that is required are basic details and a national insurance number.

It is vitally important that children are still supported during breaks from school, which can cause financial worry for parents who rely on free school meals and other additional support. We know how much these vouchers mean to those families who receive them, so I am delighted that we are continuing to help.