07:21 Thursday 30th June 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
(Need to know on this story is that the Leader of Peterborough City Council Marco Cereste is also Chairman of the private company Peterborough Renewable Energy Limited.)
ANDY GALL: Should Peterborough City Council give financial support to universities who want to open learning centres in the city? Council chiefs have announced plans to pay Cranfield University a grant of £120,000. The money would be used to employ a Chair in Renewable Energy, who would then work with the Council, Cranfield and Opportunity Peterborough. Let’s find our more by speaking to John Richards, who’s the Executive Director of Children’s Services at Peterborough City Council. Joins us now. Good morning John. So how does this grant work? You’re planning to pay £120,000 to Cranfield University to fund this role and why.
JOHN RICHARDS: Right. Well I’m glad you’re interviewing me actually, because on previous occasions you’ve said to me, how are you going to increase the higher education offer in Peterborough, ie bring universities to Peterborough, and this is one of the ways which we are doing that. Now the Chair in Renewable Energy will be working in Peterborough with not only the City Council but with all the eco-environmental companies, and particularly with PREL. And the idea is that it brings doctorate masters students and they provide continous professional development for staff working in Peterborough. So it’s about upping the skills of Peterborough people. Now the actual cost of the Chair and all the accoutrements of a Chair of Renewable Energy is over £300,000. The City Council is only putting in £120,000, that’s £40,000 over three years, and the rest of the money is being put up by PREL. So this is a real partnership between business, the Council and the university.
ANDY GALL: OK. So there’s a lot of figures being bandied around, but would they have come if you hadn’t paid them though?
JOHN RICHARDS: I think these sorts of investments are like investment to save, because actually more companies, we know from Opportunity Peterborough, are going to come to the city, because not only have we launched Cranfield at Peterborough, we’ve also launched Middlesex at Peterborough in the last week. And businesses are really interested in having universities in the city, and so they would be knowing that they could invest in their company and their employees, as well as giving opportunities to people who live in Peterborough.
ANDY GALL: People listening to this will need to know the decision hasn’t been rubber-stamped yet, has it? It could still be challenged by other councillors. Are you expecting opposition to this?
JOHN RICHARDS: It could be called in by other councillors. I wouldn’t expect it would be, on the grounds that, you know, when I did the All Party Policy Forum Meeting a year ago, I was talking about how we’re going to bring in three or four other universities to enhance what Anglia Ruskin do, and what University Centre Peterborough do, and there’s a real political approval of those plans.
ANDY GALL: Are you ahead of the curve, do you think, with regard to this idea? Do you think in years to come everybody .. this will be de rigeur?
JOHN RICHARDS: I think that we are doing something pretty unique in Peterborough, because we’re getting a partnership of world-class universities along with universities already here, to increase the offer in what we are, as you know, a cold-zone for HE. And I think Government will be looking at what we’re doing in terms of the approach that we’re making.
ANDY GALL: Well Opportunity Peterborough has launched its annual skills survey today, so is this something that’s going to dovetail with that, do you think?
JOHN RICHARDS: It has already actually. In terms of what we’re doing with Middlesex, they’re offering work-based learning. And the work-based learning that is on offer for the first year is based on that skills survey that Opportunity Peterborough did last year. And then obviously we’ll update that as we go along.
ANDY GALL: OK John. Nice to talk to you this morning. That’s John Richards, who’s the Executive Director of Children’s Services at Peterborough City Council.