Well what a year it’s been.
As we entered 2014 we were looking at unprecedented budget pressures in Peterborough caused by the last government’s incompetence and a realisation that the pain would carry on for a few mores more years yet and this led to some really difficult decisions being made for our city including the reduction in children’s centres and the implementation of the brown bin charge. Both highly regrettable but necessary to balance the books.
In March we saw the senior officer pay review in the news. True the senior management reorganisation forecast a £750K saving for a £75K investment but, and something I spoke out about at full council, I hoped those in line for an increase would do the right thing and think carefully before accepting any increase and show support for the residents of Peterborough after the cuts we were having to impose as did all Conservative councillors in refusing the recommended increase in allowances.
More locally in April, acting on nearby resident’s concerns I finally got though to Appleyard that while resident’s welcomed the new Subway outlet in the Horsey Toll Service Station they had again failed to consult with local residents before going ahead with the refit and they had failed therefore to realise that a new jet-wash was deemed unacceptable and that some kind of noise abatement needed to be installed. Using my planning experience, discussions took place and the plan for a jet-wash scrapped and the noise abatement measures agreed and installed. A victory once again for local residents who should be consulted and whose concerns must be heard when planning applications are submitted.
May proved a very difficult month for us personally with Rita being diagnosed with cancer, a huge journey and challenge for Rita requiring the support from all our family, friends and colleagues not to mention the medical experts tasked with curing this awful disease. We needn’t have worried though, experiencing what I can only describe as a ‘tidal wave’ of love and support and still it continues to be quite overwhelming.
June, and having helped with canvassing, my Conservative colleague Brian Rush rounded off a very positive local election campaign by being returned to office with a well deserved increased majority. After the elections I was very pleased to be selected as Chair of the Planning & Environmental Protection Committee and to continue in my role as Vice Chair of the Audit Committee.
Annual Council also took place in June and both Rita and I were very excited to be selected by the Conservative Group as their candidate for the role of Deputy Mayor & Mayoress of Peterborough for the coming year. After a democratic full council cross party election in the Town Hall we were delighted to be duly elected to represent this fine city, and so began an extremely busy mayoral year. To see just some of the events we’ve attended please visit our ‘My Year as Deputy Mayor’ page or the records shown in blue on ‘My Attendance‘ Page.
July and everyone was excited when at last the Friends of Heritage Park Primary School Fete took place again, the weather was favourable to us and with so many local residents and friends attending, a great day was again had by all cumulating in a terrific amount raised of £1800.00.
July also saw the launch of the My Peterborough App for smartphones and android users. A huge step forward in empowering residents to report problems such as missed bin collections, fly tipping, damage or graffiti.
The start of WW1 was commemorated with a ceremony on 4th August at the war memorial and led to me supporting the Royal British Legion Poppy Walk in Central Park. I set myself a sponsorship goal of £50 but your kind pledges meant I raised a fantastic £200.00 towards this very worthy cause. While on the charity theme I too received and completed a very cold ice bucket challenge.
Thanks to those who nominated me…..your time will come.
August also resulted in many texts, calls and emails from residents of Park Farm concerned that an encampment had been set up in the trees by the pond. I personally visited the encampment and on discovering two adults and a dog were indeed living illegally I contacted council officers to begin the proceedings which once assured of the occupants health and well-being, would see them gone within a week. Later in the month and the ward walkabout was performed and we visited the areas you said needed some attention.
September was generally quiet but in October we learnt about the inclusion of a piece of land off Coneygree Road as a possible Gypsy & Traveller Emergency Stopping Place by a cross party committee. A campaign was immediately launched by all the Stanground Conservative councillors to inform those residents nearby of the facts and assuring them that we would not allow it to happen. It is my opinion that this was clearly a politically motivated decision based on the fact that the council leader is seeking re-election in next years local elections. I would would also once again like to thank all those residents who volunteered their time to support this campaign by writing to me and helping to deliver all the leaflets. The cabinet member responsible has agreed to refer the decision back to the chair of the cross party group and reconsider its position.
October and we were delighted to hear that one of our own youths had been nominated for the Cambridgeshire Young Person of the Year Award. Harriet Smith was judged to be the 3rd place award winner.
Hundreds of worthy entries from across Cambridgeshire were considered for this years awards and a panel of judges including me as Deputy Mayor, joined all the finalists at Ely Cathedral for the ceremony. After volunteering for Sue Ryder, Harriet donated a third of her earnings to helping the hospice, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa in aid of Thorpe Hall and more locally worked with me and local youths to develop the refit of the children’s play park in Park Farm. An absolutely fantastic achievement and an inspiration to us all. Well done Harriet.
October also saw the pruning back of the overgrown shrubbery along Park Farm and repainting of the railings by the Community Payback Team. I challenged the team to complete this work as part of their community service and they agreed provided the community would supply the paint, brushes and wire brushes needed. After a local appeal the 15 litres of black gloss and the brushes were secured and the work completed saving the council a tidy £1000.
I was also delighted and honoured that the NWCCA and my local Stanground Branch again chose me to represent our ward as the Conservative Candidate in the coming local elections on May 7th 2015. I’m proud to live in the Best Ward in Peterborough and the Best City in the UK and I’m committed to keeping it that way and promoting both. I hope you agree and will consider supporting me with your vote again next year.
Continuing in October, and as a governor at Heritage Park Primary School we were all very proud to learn that our caretaker Mr Toshack had won the esteemed honour of Caretaker of the Year. Its such a great school and we’re all very proud of it. Well done Tom.
I hope you all took the opportunity to have your say on the Kings Dyke Railway Crossing proposals. Just one of the bottlenecks nearby that need sorting and a golden opportunity to be part of it.
Finally in October, “Park Farm is lovely, it just feels so safe and Halloween night is always fantastic for the children” said a local resident to me the following morning. Together we’ll keep it that way.
November began the budget consultation, giving everyone in the city the opportunity to take part and put forward what it is you value most. The huge financial pressures left to us by the last government are huge and will result in more cuts. I totally recognise these will be unpopular and I promise that I will listen and consider your views carefully throughout the budget process. We as councillors, irrespective of our political allegiances, must work in unprecedented territory to produce a balanced budget while remembering that for every pound taken out of any proposed cut, a pound must be found elsewhere and must be sustainable year on year. I’d hoped that no party would shirk its responsibility and choose to just irresponsibly oppose every suggestion without suggesting a fully costed alternative………that’s the easy way out and is what appears to be happening with Labour, UKIP, and the Liberals. The Liberal Democrats have at least tried. We can’t spend what we haven’t got, that is what got us into this mess in the first place and Labour actually suggested spending more at Full Council this month! We owe it to the citizens of Peterborough to produce a balanced budget.
November also saw the first and the very well supported Stanground Branch Conservative Fundraising event in the company of our MP Shailesh Vara. Many thanks to all those who came along and made it such a great night. This will now become an annual event so if you missed it this time and would like to support us next year then please get in touch.
December and the Friends of Heritage Park Primary School once again organised their Christmas Bazaar. Once again we were lucky to have Santa and his Elves along for the day and raised an incredible £1650.00. Well done and thanks to everyone involved and for supporting this great local cause.
Next year will be tough with further budget cuts to come but I’m pleased that all councillors this time refused the recommendation by the independent body to increase our allowances. We have no choice but to produce a balanced budget. If you took part in the consultation and had your say then thank you for your input. We’ll need every minute of our volunteers efforts throughout Peterborough next year and in the years to come. Our city is great because of our volunteers.
Its all too easy for those few negative people to knock our great city. They do nothing much in the community to help so I have very little time for them. The truth is they obviously haven’t bothered to take the opportunity to speak to those from outside our city and indeed abroad. i have, and hear the praise we receive for our city roadways, cycleways and the beauty of our city centre and cathedral. This year I’ve received some lovely comments as Deputy Mayor from Oundle, Cambridge, Towcester and planning representatives from a town council in Northern Ireland to name but a few.
Back home and Rita is well into her treatment regime now. It has been and continues to be very tough for her but she is an inspiration to me and all those she meets and continues to accompany me to the many civic functions on behalf of our city.
May we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous new Year 2015.