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Leader Wayne Fitzgerald's blog - 3 March

02 March 2023

Regular readers will know how proud and excited I am about our city’s ongoing development, so I was delighted to hear that one of our key projects has secured vital funding.

At the time of writing, I've just found out that £13million has been secured for The Vine - which will be a thriving community hub in the city centre.

The Vine is a flagship project and will provide a thriving space for people to socialise, enjoy locally produced food and drinks, set up and run small businesses, learn in high quality teaching spaces and visit a wide variety of exhibitions and events.

Based in the former TK Maxx building in Bridge Street, The Vine will enable people to log onto an IT training course, take part in a community event, buy a painting or simply grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. It will provide a place to work and visit, drawing footfall to the area and helping support the local economy.

We are crying out for a public building like this in our city centre – a building which is a hub of activity for everyone from students, businesses, library users, artists, tourists and visitors and residents and I can’t wait to see it developed

This also means that 100 per cent (eight out of eight) of the Towns Fund project applications which Peterborough submitted to the Government have been successful in achieving funding.

A whopping £80million has been secured over the past year from both the Levelling Up Fund and the Towns Fund.

This shows the confidence that the Government has in our city's growth and the quality of the developments that we have planned for the coming years.

On Friday I joined dozens of well-wishers for a poignant vigil in Cathedral Square to mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.

It was great to see so many people come along to show their support and the occasion was an important reminder that the situation in Ukraine continues to leave thousands of people in need of vital lifesaving aid.

The Ukraine relief appeal is ongoing and there are several ways to help, including making donations to charities, becoming a translation buddy, providing furniture for refugees or helping to house them. For more information and to get involved visit the council’s website – www.peterborough.gov.uk

Meanwhile, a group of individuals from Peterborough, who have been supporting Ukrainian refugee communities since the start of the war are preparing to journey to southern Poland and are appealing for people to help donate to their supplies. You can donate at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/helpingukrainesurgeons

One of the main aims of our Improvement Plan was to become a financially sustainable council and I am proud to say that we have now largely achieved that aim.

We have delivered virtually all the savings we set out to in the current financial year and last Wednesday we set a balanced budget for 2023/24 and agreed a Medium Term Financial Strategy that predicts very small deficits in the next two years.

It was a good meeting with members across the chamber praising the transparent and collaborative budget setting process in the past year. We have gone to great lengths to get members from all political parties involved in the process and to feel part of it.

I'm pleased to say that 33 members voted for the 23/24 budget, yet Labour and Liberal Democrat members abstained from the vote. In some ways it was not unexpected, but it was disappointing all the same that those members could not take collective ownership for the budget, when they have been so involved in the budget setting process.

I was pleased to hear that there has been a rise in the proportion of pupils offered a place at one of their preferred secondary schools.

In total, 90.6% of pupils have received a place at their first-choice school for 2023/24, compared with 89.6% last year. Moreover, 98% of pupils were allocated their first or second preference school which is also higher than 12 months ago.

This news is particularly welcome given that there were 400 more applications made this year, so I would like to thank parents for their timely applications and the dedicated work of our admissions team.

The move up to secondary school is an exciting time for young people, so I wish all of them the very best.


And finally, someone mentioned to me this week that it's World Book Day on 2 March - I read up on it and learned they were right!

In all seriousness, World Book Day is the annual celebration of literature and when school children across the city dress up as Harry Potter, Matilda and many other well-known book characters. It's a great way of getting children to pick up a book and promotes the benefits of reading.

I used to like reading the Stephen King novels - It and Misery being personal favourites. Sadly, these days reading time is now spent on council agendas and reports, but the enjoyment of getting lost in a book will never be lost on me.