Rowen Squibb from Growborough talks about getting value for money when promoting Peterborough. Broadcast at 08:15 on Wednesday 30th June in the Paul Stainton Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
PAUL: Time for another exclusive on the Peterborough Breakfast Show. Plans to cut peak train services into Peterborough from London have been averted after an intervention from Opportunity Peterborough. East Coast Main Line had announced plans to cut rush hour Kings Cross services from next May. But after talks with Opportunity Peterborough it seems we’ll now be getting virtually the same services we do now, with a bit of extra capacity. Neil Darwin is Opportunity Peterborough’s Director of Economic Development. earlier he explained what the latest situation was. (TAPE)
DARWIN: What we’re being told is basically peak time service will continue virtually as now, ie six trains per hour. There might be one or two slight tweaks to the timetable but that will be minutes rather than trains not running. We are talking about increased capacity, numbers to be confirmed, but I think the message has gone home that we are no longer satisfied to stand all the way down to London, and that’s certainly being listened to and being addressed. (LIVE)
PAUL: Well that’s Neil Darwin. Joining us now is Rowen Squibb from Growborough, who are a not-for-profit organisation raising the profile and awareness of the city by recommending and attracting new businesses to the area. Now we spoke many times Rowen about attracting business to the area. And having good rail links I suppose is very important. Do you welcome what Opportunity Peterborough have managed to do? Because you’ve been quite critical of them in the past
ROWEN: It’s not just a case of being critical for criticism’s sake. The RDAs were confirmed that they’re going to be closed down by two thousand and twelve yesterday. So they are closing.
PAUL: That’s the Regional Development Agencies.
ROWEN: Yes, which Opportunity Peterborough will receive it’s funding through and from. So that probably means a shelf-life, probably stays until two thousand and twelve anyway now. We’re not critical of anyone that achieves something. We are commuting in and out of London every day, because part of Growborough’s role to raise the profile of Peterborough isn’t to talk about Peterborough within Peterborough, it’s to talk about Peterborough to people outside of Peterborough, specifically London, over the next three months, to try and encourage people to bring their businesses here. We have no real statistics for anything actually being achieved by Opportunity Peterborough, but if we look at the regional Development Agencies, every job that they attach themselves to there’s a sixty thousand pound spend. That’s not really value.
PAUL: How do you work that out?
ROWEN: That’s the figures that have been released actually by the Regional Development Agencies which Opportunity Peterborough is funded by, and for every job that they’ve linked themselves to there’s a sixty thousand pound spend to each job.
PAUL: I was quite surprised to find out yesterday that they’ve just employed two new members on a communications team. I thought money was very very tight.
ROWEN: Well it can’t be that tight. They have a massive office space. They’re over at Stewart House, and there’s only a few of them rattling around in there. It’s not a case of being critical but these people in some cases have been earning ten thousand pounds plus a month, and I think if you’re working in the private sector as we only work in the private sector, as you know we will not have any dealings with the public sector, because we do deem it as inefficient at the moment, that has to be justified by achieving something. And at the moment that’s not been there to be seen. And the fact that they’re recruiting again, I think from their standpoint we’ve heard no real noises from them for months. And all of a sudden they start recruiting again and they start talking about it. But really we want them to be talking about what they’ve delivered, as opposed to more of my tax money being pumped into something that’s not working,
PAUL: And Neil Darwin from Opportunity Peterborough was saying that they were hot on the heels of this story. We broke the story five months ago.
ROWEN: They’re slow to respond to things, and if you do talk to SMEs which are going to be the future of this city in reality, we need more and more of these small to medium sized enterprises starting up and creating jobs in the city. That’s our opportunity in reality. And if they try and touch through, the reason they come back to Growborough is because they can’t get through to Opportunity Peterborough. That’s reality. That’s not being critical. No-one can get through to them.
PAUL: You commute from here to London quite a lot, don’t you? If the changes that East Coast Mainline had proposed were implemented how big a deal would it have been?
ROWEN: One of our USPs as a city is of course our great transport links. There’s nothing more important than ensuring that we have an excellent service, and if not, working closer with the train operators to increase that service. Actually I think we have a very good service as it stands right now. I get the train three, four times a week. At the moment because there’s four of us travelling back and forth into to London we’re taking a car, leaving after this (interview) and heading straight down. We’ve never had to stand. The train services are pretty good but I think they could offer incentives and packages to companies looking to relocate out of North and Central London into Peterborough. And if we could get a joint venture or partnership with the trains to create a system, because they’re empty on the way up of course, that’s their problem. People tend to be commuting South as opposed to coming North. And if we could work with them .. but I’d be interested to undertand how, bearing in mind Opportunity Peterborough picked it up so late in the day, it was on the show in February I think.
PAUL: Yes. Five months.
ROWEN: Five months ago you covered it on the show, so it’s interesting to know how, when they picked it up yesterday, and now it’s been resolved, I’d be interested to understand how they can quantify their involvement.
PAUL: Well Neil’s the new man in the job, I suppose, so he’s only had a couple of months to look at it and think, oh my word, we’ve not done that. Allegedly not done that. (LAUGHS) What have Growborough been up to recently?
ROWEN: Our key focus is just to put Peterborough on the agenda for people, so we spend most of our time distributing information about Peterborough, and we still continue to remain a focus, to build platforms, to let people know what the city has to offer in terms of housing, in terms of commercial office space. We’re all volunteers. There’s no-one taking a salary in terms of what we’re doing.
PAUL: You’ve all got your own businesses, all the people that take part in Growborough?
ROWEN: Yes. We all have our own businesses, or we’re students studying outside the city who are coming back. We’ve just got Ellie starting with Growborough on Thursday. She’s been in New York for the last year.
PAUL: Lucky old Ellie.
ROWEN: Yes. And she’s come back here to help on Growborough. So we are volunteers, and it’s difficult when we’re busy within our jobs. But ultimately we spend most of our time evenings going to Covent Garden events, we write for Covent garden magazine, who we’re trying to get a partnership with, trying to get them to put a picture of Peterborough on the front, we’re talking to independent restaurants about renaming themselves Peterborough, little things that we can do to just put the city on the map.
PAUL: Well the more people that are doing that the better really, isn’t it? It can’t be a bad thing. Rowen, thank you very much. Rowen Squibb there, from Growborough, a not-for-profit prganisation, raising the profile of this fair city.