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Leader Wayne Fitzgerald's blog - 9 March

09 March 2023

Last week I attended a meeting of the Peterborough Civic Society where I was asked to respond to a recent article in the PT about growth in the city and particularly my views on our planning policy which protects views of the cathedral.

For those who don’t know, planning applications are determined on whether they restrict views of the cathedral from afar and will often be turned down if they do, without wider discussion of the benefits of the proposed scheme.

Growth of the city is something I promote all the time, as you will know, because it is essential for providing funds for business rates and council tax in order to keep our services going in light of reductions in government funding. It also provides greater opportunities for our residents, including jobs, and makes the city a more desirable place to live and work and spend time and money.

As I told Civic Society members, it is very important to protect and safeguard our heritage in the city and I would not do anything to jeopardise all we know and love about our great city of Peterborough.

I am hugely supportive of the cathedral and the heritage of the city but we must strike a balance between protecting the past and developing our future.

Moving on to some really good news, latest figures have shown a substantial increase in attainment levels for primary school pupils.

The city has moved up from 148th in the national league tables in 2018/19 to 123rd for 21/22, for achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths for key stage two pupils.

The gap between Peterborough’s attainment level of 55% and the national level of 59% is now 4% - compared to 12% six years ago.

In 2015/16, 43% of pupils were achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths compared to the national standard of 54%, prompting a review by Councillor Lynne Ayres, Cabinet Member for Education.

Since then, Peterborough primary schools have delivered a 14% improvement in reading (from 55% to 69%), and an 8% increase in maths (from 61% to 69%) for KS2 pupils. Sixty-five per cent of children are achieving the expected standard in writing, against a national average of 70%.

There has also been strong improvement in secondary outcomes, which saw the city move up to 35th nationally out of 151 authorities for Progress 8 – a measure of the value schools have added to a pupil from their starting position compared to other pupils nationally. This is an improvement of 37 places from the previous year.

These latest stats are fantastic news and testament to the hard work of children, young people and their families and also staff in our education department, schools, governors and trustees.

Yesterday was National No Smoking Day - the annual event which encourages smokers to kick the habit.

I know how hard it is to give up smoking, having done it for almost 30 years when I gave up at the age of 42 following a heart attack, but I can honestly say that I don’t miss it.

There is lots of help available to support people who want to quit, including talking to specialists at Healthy You, the local stop smoking service. For more information visit healthyyou.org.uk or call 0333 005 0093. You will receive 12 weeks of support from your own stop smoking specialist.

You can also download the NHS Quit Smoking app from Google Playstore or App Store.

Even though it may not be obviously apparent when you come into our city centre, I’m pleased to say that there has been a reduction in the number of rough sleepers in the past year.

National trends suggest that the number of rough sleepers across the country has increased by a quarter in the past year, yet in Peterborough there has been a reduction (24, down from 36 last year).

The difference in Peterborough is that we have the whole city pulling together to reduce rough sleeping and make it a thing of the past, led by the Safer off the Streets initiative, which the council is a part of.

We have also attracted nearly £3m of Rough Sleeper Initiative Funding in the past year, enabling increased outreach and support for rough sleepers.

In addition, £26,071 has been raised since Safer Off the Streets started, raised by members of the public who have donated to the Safer Off the Streets charity.

The issue we have is that some people cannot be helped, regardless of the number of times we try and engage with them. However, we never give up and will continue to try and help those people who are sleeping rough.

And finally, a big well done to the Mayor of Peterborough, Councillor Alan Dowson, and his team on last week’s charity curry evening at the Gurkha Durbar restaurant on Broadway. It was a great evening and more than £600 was raised for local good causes which is fantastic.