Leader of Peterborough City Council Marco Cereste defends his record following recent criticism of council performance on redevelopment. Broadcast at 08:10 on Tuesday 18th May 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. The interviewer is Paul Stainton.
STAINTON: Now our new Prime Minister David Cameron has selected his Cabinet. It’s time now for our local council leader to do the same. Last night Marco Cereste announced his Cabinet for the next term. But did he follow David Cameron and add any Liberal Democrats? Is it a coalition of the willing? Marco Cereste is here now. Is it Marco a coalition of the willing?
STAINTON: No. I sort of guessed it might not be. (GENERAL HILARITY IN STUDIO)
STAINTON: I built you up there and you just .. anyway.
STAINTON: Any changes to the people that run this city?
CERESTE: Yes we’ve had two new Cabinet members, one is Cllr Samantha Dalton who will look after the environment and the environment capital portfolio, and the other is Cllr. Irene Walsh and she will look after women’s enterprise community cohesion, H.R, health and safety and so on.
STAINTON: Right so essentially just a couple of little changes. So in effect you think things are going pretty well with the way the city’s beng run?
CERESTE; I think, you know, there’s been two thousand jobs announced last week. That’s a pretty good indictment of the work that we’re doing. Companies want to come to Peterborough and create new jobs for us. And yes, I think the city’s going very well. There are lots of things we still need to do, there’s things we need to finish, and new projects we need to start. But you know I think it’s still a fantastic city, it’s got real potential, and if we can keep bringing in the jobs, that’s what it’s all about.
STAINTON: A bit of criticism this week from Stewart Jackson who criticised Opportunity Peterborough and said they’re not doing enough to promote the city. Were you surprised by that?
CERESTE: Well you know everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. There’ll be some announcements today and last night. I mean certainly as you probably saw from .. well you probably haven’t seen from last night’s council meeting, I took on the portfolio for growth, for strategic development for the city, so ..
STAINTON: So you are Opportunity Peterborough now are you?
CERESTE: No I’m not. And there have been changes at Opportunity Peterborough, and still a few more to come. So it’s a question of realigning things as things change.
STAINTON: Ok. Well earlier we heard from Chris Haworth from Carter Jonas. He’s another who’s critical of what’s going on or not going on in the city. He agreed with Stewart Jackson about the need to sell peterborough. He says: “Peterborough politicians are holding the city development back.” This is what he said.
HAWORTH: (TAPE) What Stewart Jackson came out and said I think was absolutely right. We do need to be promoting the city, and that’s perhaps something that hasn’t been done in the past …. Where I think he should have laid the blame is at the Peterborough City politicians. They’re the ones who’ve been sniping away behind when some of these development proposals have been coming forward, and Opportunity Peterborough have had a very very difficult job in moving the developments forward.
STAINTON: (LIVE) That’s Chris Haworth from quite a big company Marco, quite critical.
CERESTE: Well I’m going to be completely blunt. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life. The politicians in this city do not snipe at projects that come into the city. It may have happened many years ago, I don’t know. But certainly under my leadership we have created a whole system where we actually embrace new developments in this city. We have changed the planning department so we are able to facilitate that, and we are working very very very hard to make sure that this city continues to attract good business, and grows. And I’m really surprised at somebody who is a professional hasn’t been able to see that for themselves. And to accuse the politicians of trying to stop it is a complete nonsense.
STAINTON: He was ultra-critical about the North Westgate development, the fact that that’s not gone ahead.
CERESTE; And how can he blame the politicians for that? Again, he is a professional, he knows full well that the market collapsed, completely, the entire market in this country for retail has collapsed. And he knows that the market for retail has collapsed. He also knows that retailers now, of any size, are looking for anything between twelve months and two and a half years free rent before they’ll move in. Because they know how important they are, the big retailers. The whole system has turned around, upside-down. The city council spends time, money and effort negotiating with people to try and get the city revitalised if you like. And even yesterday, even yesterday, we had meetings with a huge company who wants to help us develop the new shopping centre in the city centre. So you know to say that it’s the politicians, it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Because I spent most of my time in the last twelve months actually trying to make it happen, not trying to get them to go away.
STAINTON: You mentioned changes last night at the council meeting. What major changes are we going to see? You’re going to be responsible for growth from now on yourself?
CERESTE: Yes. Me personally. That will be part of my portfolio.
STAINTON: How is that going to work Marco?
CERESTE: Well all the strategic stuff, the strategic planning, strategic transport, the whole growth plan for the city, it’ll be my portfolio.
STAINTON: It’s a big chopping block to put your head on, isn’t it?
CERESTE: I’m afraid so. But you know, my view has always been, don’t ask somebody to do a job you’re not prepared to do yourself. And it is a difficult job. We live in really difficult times, and times .. it’s just going to get more and more and more difficult to do things. And we as a city really have got to start creating jobs, creating new investment, new homes, and get the city moving in what appears to be probably some of the most difficult times we’re ever going to see. And so I thought, well, I might as well get on with it.
STAINTON: Yes well good luck with that. Where are we with some of the big issues that are affecting. For instance Woolworths. Are we any closer to filling that big building? Can we look forward to that being open soon?
STAINTON: Go on then. Tempt us.
CERESTE: (LAUGHS) No. No I’m not saying any more. I’ve answered your question.
STAINTON: Well give us a roughly a time frame Marco. How long do you think?
CERESTE: Well I mean errr. maybe ..
STAINTON: Will it be a decent company?
CERESTE: .. there may be an announcement within the next you know month.
STAINTON: So we might have an announcement within the next month. Can you promise it will be a blue-chip company?
CERESTE: Well if it’s if it’s the people who are negotiating at the moment i think most people in the city will be delighted.
STAINTON: Well that’s good news, very good news. And any other surprise up your sleeve? Any other major companies coming our way?
CERESTE; Well there’s some really nice .. some really good projects that are in the pipeline. And I don’t like to make announcements that are not signed up, because people then say, oh well, you know you promised us and it didn’t happen. And these are difficult times, and you can take a horse to water and sometimes you can’t make it drink. But you know we’ve got we’ve got we’re trying to improve the housing starts in the city, so that we’ve got more housing for those people who want to buy, and also more housing for those people who want to rent, and want council housing. We’re completely reviewing on the seventeenth of June we’re announcing our plans for the redevelopment of the city at a special conference that’s being set up by the local authority, so that we are inviting investors, we are inviting developers to come and see what we want to do and ask the ones who want to come and invest in our city to do so. And to help us to actually develop the plans further, to make sure that we can .. we can come up with projects that will actually be delivered, rather than projects that we just talk about.
STAINTON: OK. And just thirteen days to go till Cathedral Square’s opened officially. June the first. You promised us. Are you still happy?
CERESTE: Fantastic. Isn’t it wonderful. Eh?
STAINTON: Definite? Is it going to happen?
CERESTE: Have you seen .. have you seen .. have you been to have a look at St John’s Church now that the railings are down?
STAINTON: Yes it looks beautiful to be fair. It’s really opened the place up hasn’t it.
CERESTE: It’s really beautiful. You know I mean I know it’s been a problem and it’s been a pain and I’ve hated it you know but it is beautiful and it will have been well worth the effort.
STAINTON: And we’re still going to be open on June the first Cathedral Square, definitely?
CCERESTE: I haven’t had anybody tell me any different, so …
STAINTON: Good stuff. Marco, thank you for coming on this morning. Marco Cereste Leader of Peterborough City Council the man who is now responsible for growth in this city and will be driving this city forward.