[I] was born in Peterborough and have lived here for a significant amount of my adult life. It pains me to see the City governed in the way it is; to see the City being run into the ground and to see the people of Peterborough with an uncaring, autocratic leadership.
Councillor Marco Cereste will tell you that the City is growing. He is right, however at the same time the city’s social infrastructure, its social capital is being diminished and the growth we are experiencing is far from nailed down in a sustainable way. The priorities of the current administration are totally wrong, and rather than grow Peterborough in a way that preserves and enhances its natural character it is all being done in a slapdash and thoughtless way.
The epitome of this is that while Peterborough’s University is left undeveloped and to languish, Cllr Cereste pursues the irrational and damaging dream of destroying prime agricultural land to build the now infamous Solar Energy Park. Never mind the fact the health of people in Peterborough is generally worse than the average in England, come and see the lime trees on Bourges Boulevard or the fountains on Cathedral Square, this is the message we get from Councillor Cereste. He is pursuing a self-interested and short-sighted agenda which will ultimately prove to be ruinous to the City which he claims to so dearly treasure.
His bullying and hectoring, command and control, system of governance has stymied opposition where, of course, that opposition isn’t incorporated through its own self-interest. Whether you agree with Cllr Cereste or not this is bad for democracy and bad for the City. Democratic governance to function properly depends on strong, critically minded, opposition to act as an effective check and balance as much as it depends on effective governance.
The situation is dire, funds from central government are drying up. Cllr Cereste will not hesitate to tell you this; however, the situation is exacerbated when the people in charge make bad decisions, borrow money to fund financially risky ventures like the Energy Park and the newly established Joint Venture Company which has more than a slight whiff of ‘disaster waiting to happen’. So, while Peterborough does deserve a better deal from central government, getting it is not the entire answer. More money into Cllr Cerestes pot would mean more money squandered on his pet Del Boy-esque projects and less spent on Peterborough’s residents and building long-term, sustainable growth.
The University could hold the key here. Developing it would mean less of a drain on the local economy as aspiring students would be able to stay closer to home and an injection of cash would come from those attracted to City from outside. Yes it will require money to be spent at first, but the capital infrastructure pot always seems to overflow, due to the councils reliance on outside grants mostly. Also, potential exists to develop run down council-owned facilities into positive assets for the City. All this would require creative and out of the box thinking, something that the current administration is clearly incapable of.
Politicians of all stripes need to recognise the seriousness of the situation and respond accordingly. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Peterborough City Council, if it continues to be led by Councillor Cereste, will end its days in bankruptcy. The question will then be, rightly, asked of politicians what they did to avoid this cataclysm. If the answer is ‘well, we were too busy scoring ideological points off each other’, I trust that voters will treat that answer with the contempt it deserves. Peterborough is crying out for a change of direction, from the old age pensioner paying for their brown bin to the child who no longer has a Childrens Centre, all have suffered from carrying this administration on their backs. This platform of change is one I will be running on in West Ward where my opponent is the epitome of a Cereste apparatchik. I hope other candidates from across the political spectrum will consider doing the same and putting aside petty squabbles for the good of a City which desperately needs them to step-up to the challenges ahead. We should meet, converse, and work together to ensure we have a city council that really does put Peterborough first.