Peterborough Willow Festival impasse – organisers blame Council officers

“We’re in the dark, and we believe there are clandestine reasons behind this. We don’t know what they are.”

willow08:25 Thursday 26th May 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: Peterborough City Council are saying the Willow Festival won’t be allowed to take place on the city’s Embankment. The Council says they’ve withdrawn permission to use the land because they haven’t received payment or documents that they need from the organisers. The event’s due to return to the city in July after being cancelled last year for financial reasons. Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of this. The organiser of the Willow Festival Mark Ringer joins us now. So Mark, is it all off this year then?
Continue reading “Peterborough Willow Festival impasse – organisers blame Council officers”

Rebellion in the Tory ranks – keeping order on Peterborough City Council

He never actually resigned. Let’s make that absolutely clear.

inspection17:11 Friday 15th May 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PETER SWAN: Let’s focus on this evolving situation as regards Peterborough City Council. Now they say a week’s a long time in politics, and just seven days ago the Tories in Peterborough were opening the champagne after narrowly regaining control of the City Council. The Prime Minister even paid a visit to mark the occasion. But today it’s been a nail-biting few hours, as one of their number has been talking of resigning from the party to become an Independent. Sara who’s reading the news for you this afternoon and also producing is here to explain a little bit more about what’s been going on. Sara.
SARA VAREY: Well Peter as you say it all looked to be going so well. Here’s David Cameron in Peterborough just last week.
DAVID CAMERON: The people in Peterborough who worked so hard , who’ve done so well representing the people of this great city, that are seeing jobs being created, seeing businesses come to Peterborough, seeing great regeneration happening in Peterborough, homes being built in Peterborough, you won because you worked hard and you deserve to win. So have a celebration today, have a celebration over the weekend, and the work starts on Monday. I’ve got a small majority. John’s got a small majority. But I’m sure with the commitment and with the dedication you’ve all shown, you’re going to do great things for this great city. Thank you very much indeed.
SARA VAREY: Well the empties have barely been taken to the bottle bank and there’s trouble brewing. Tory councillor Gul Nawaz announced this morning he was thinking fo leaving the Tories.
PETER SWAN: OK. So just a few days. What’s he been thinking about?
SARA VAREY: Well summit meetings have been in progress all day. Peterborough’s MP Stewart Jackson said that he’d been in talks with Gul along with the Council Leader John Holdich.
PETER SWAN: So how then would this defection upset the balance? Clearly it’s very important.
SARA VAREY: It could be. The Tories has a majority of just one seat. They had 31 in a chamber of 60. That changed from 57, because this year they introduced new boundaries, and 3 extra councillors were elected, which makes a total of 60. Right? Are you following this?
PETER SWAN: Yes.
SARA VAREY: So if it was tied, it would be 30 all. 30 all. OK?
PETER SWAN: Yes.
SARA VAREY: With Labour .. because the Labour councillors hold 14 seats, so there’s no other big majority or bigger majority.
PETER SWAN: OK. So what is the mechanism therefore if it does end up tied?
SARA VAREY: The Mayor has the casting vote. And the way the Mayor is chosen has also changed.
PETER SWAN: OK. Right. So tell us more about that.
SARA VAREY: Under the new system, the longest-serving councillor gets the job, and the man who holds that title is David Sanders, who’s a Tory, which means there could still be a happy if somewhat precarious outcome.
PETER SWAN: Ok so that’s the mechanism of it all. Are we at an end now?
SARA VAREY: Well almost. Half an hour ago we heard that Gul had now decided to stay. He didn’t want to come on, but John Holdich has agreed to come on and he can fill us in.
PETER SWAN: Well I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’ll head over and get the latest from the roads, and then we’ll speak to John and see if we can unpick all of this. Because certainly a lot to take on board.

TRAVEL

PETER SWAN: It’s been a very busy day in terms of Peterborough politics. The balance of power potentially looking like it may change, but now it looks as though it’s all going to stay the same. Let’s get a word then with the current Tory Leader of Peterborough City Council, John Holdich, who joins us now. Evening to you John.
JOHN HOLDICH: Good evening.
PETER SWAN: So you’ve had a busy few hours.
Continue reading “Rebellion in the Tory ranks – keeping order on Peterborough City Council”

Peterborough City Council election 2016 – the battle for control

4-way-tug-of-war10:21 Thursday 28th April 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: So we’re a week away from the local elections – who will be in control of your council come May 6th? Today we’re focusing on Peterborough, and who’s going to be in control of that. Will it still be the Conservatives that are running things, and doing it their way? Or will Labour surge through? Perhaps UKIP will grab a load of seats. Or the LibDems will see a resurgence of yellow across the city of Peterborough. Well let’s find out that they all think. We’ve got in the studio Nick Thulbourn from Labour. He’s the Deputy Leader. Morning Nick.
NICK THULBOURN: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: We’ve also got John Holdich, currently the Leader of the Council for the Conservatives. Morning.
JOHN HOLDICH: Morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Nick Sandford is here, the Leader of the LibDems. Good morning.
NICK SANDFORD: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: And also with us (A CHIME GOES OFF) oh .. also with us .. I don’t know what that was .. also with us is John Whitby, who’s a UKIP councillor as well.
JOHN WHITBY: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Welcome to the show. Well let’s start with the man who’s been running the Council then, after Marco’s ousting. John Holdich is with us. A difficult task. You’ve had to do some difficult things, some of which have gone down like a sack of wet fish with the people of Peterborough. Are you going to pay for that at the ballot box?
Continue reading “Peterborough City Council election 2016 – the battle for control”

Council Leader – academy system is ‘bankrupt’

“I believe, and I will if I’m still Leader after the May election, I will ask the Council to see whether we can set up our own Trust, and have our own family of schools, and see what we can do.”

peterboroughcc11:26 Thursday 21st April 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Should all of our schools be turned into academies? It’s David Cameron’s big idea, to turn every school in the country into an academy, primary, secondary, the lot, to force it to happen. However, some of our Conservative MPs, particularly MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson, not happy with that idea. He’s described it as draconian, heavy-handed. Well earlier former head teacher Eric Winstone agreed with him.
ERIC WINSTONE: In the present context where all schools have been told that they’ve got to be an academy, I think that’s wrong. One size doesn’t fit all, and individual schools and governing bodies should be left to decide in which direction they want to go. From my point of view, in 2006 it was right that the then Bushfield Community College should go down the academy route, for a number of reasons. And that’s proved to be very successful and is now a very good school.
PAUL STAINTON: Well MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson has urged Education Minister Nicky Morgan to think again, to at least put her plans on hold. Let’s speak to the Leader of Peterborough City Council John Holdich, Conservative councillor of course. Worked in education for decades and decades. Not that many decades but decades. John, morning. Welcome to the show. What’s the thinking behind this with David Cameron? And are you with Stewart Jackson here, that they should think again?
Continue reading “Council Leader – academy system is ‘bankrupt’”

John Holdich on devolution for Peterborough

holdich

07:23 Thursday 17th March 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: John Holdich is the Leader of Peterborough City Council. Morning John.
JOHN HOLDICH: Good morning Dotty.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Now George Osborne, he clearly thinks that having some kind of Eastern Powerhouse, some kind of East Anglian regional assembly or something, would benefit him and the economy. Do you think it would benefit Peterborough?
Continue reading “John Holdich on devolution for Peterborough”

Cash-strapped council raises rates and defers interest repayments

holdich17:20 Friday 29th January 2016
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: It looks like council tax will be going up by 4% in Peterborough next year. It’s one of the proposals in the City Council budget, announced today. Despite facing a deficit of £24 million next year, the Council is maintaining that no services will be cut. Our Political Reporter Hannah Olsson has more.
HANNAH OLSSON: It’s a legal requirement that every council must present a balanced budget, and this year hasn’t bee easy. Councils are facing a significant reduction in the amount of money they get from central government, alongside an ever-growing demand on their services. Peterborough City Council has a £24 million gap in its budget for next year. The first half of savings were announced at the end of last year, and today we found out about the second half. Many councils including Cambridgeshire say they’ll have no choice but to cut services, but Peterborough City Council say they’ve managed to pull the political rabbit out of the hat and balance their budget, and still provide the same services they are at the moment. I asked David Seaton who’s in charge of finance at the Council how they’ve done it.
DAVID SEATON: We’ve done it through things like the benefits of growth that we’ve seen, the extra income from council tax, the extra income from business rates, our innovative ways of doing things. And we’ve talked before about our customer experience programme, what that can do for us, and also the joint working we’re doing with other councils, and the income we’re getting from that.
HANNAH OLSSON: As David mentioned there, the key reason that Peterborough is in a healthier position that other councils is that it’s had so much growth in recent years. Peterborough is the third fastest growing city in the UK, and with new homes being built and new businesses opening, the Council simply gets more money.
CHRIS MANN: Yes Hannah but even with that, the Council still needs to find an extra £24 million next year. So how are they going to do that?
HANNAH OLSSON: Well one of the ways they’re saving money is through some clever refinancing of the Council’s debt. They’ve already told us in budget part one how they’ll be extending the debt on their assets from 25 to 42 years. They’ve now said they’re also going to be making these debt repayments more like mortgages, so the rate of interest is higher, but means the repayment is the same over the whole period, which in short means they won’t cost them as much now. There’s also going to be some savings in their staff costs. They’ll be closing their office between Christmas and New Year, stopping all the automatic pay increases for around 20% of council staff, and changing the way their staff are paid for travel. And of course they’re also planning to raise money by putting up council tax by 4%. Councils always have the option of increasing tax by 2%, but this year the Government also said they could add on an extra 2% as long as this money is spent on adult social care. Earlier in the week we heard that Cambridgeshire County Council isn’t planning on taking the Government up on this extra 2% offer, but Peterborough is.
CHRIS MANN: So ratepayers will want to know just how much does this extra money, this 4% rise, work out at.
HANNAH OLSSON: Well for the average Band D property, the council tax increase would work out at an extra 87p a week. Now the Band D property is a benchmark people use when we’re talking about tax rises. But it’s worth saying that the average property in Peterborough is actually Band B, so they would see an increase of 67p a week. This rise would add up to an extra £2.4 million for the Council’s coffers, although as I said half of this will have to be spent on adult social care. At the moment these are all still proposals. The final decision will be made on 9th march following a public consultation.
CHRIS MANN: Hannah Olsson there with that special report. Well let’s bring in the Leader of Peterborough City Council, John Holdich. Evening John.
JOHN HOLDICH: (DELAY) … believe me after an introduction like that. She’s really understood it.
CHRIS MANN: Good. (LAUGHS) Well glad that we’re presenting the facts.
JOHN HOLDICH: Good.
CHRIS MANN: But you’re caught between a rock and a hard place, because you say that you’re not cutting any services, but you have to save money. Are you sure nothing is going to be cut?
Continue reading “Cash-strapped council raises rates and defers interest repayments”

MP attacks decision to shelve landlord licensing scheme

10:38 Friday 18th September 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Now more on housing, and in particular in Peterborough. The Conservative MP for the city has launched a scathing attack on the city’s Conservative-led council, after it performed a dramatic U-turn this week. The Council had announced plans to introduce a licence that would see landlords charged a fee in areas like Gladstone, Millfield, New England and Eastfield. The idea of the licence was to crack down on anti-social behaviour and unscrupulous landlords. Many thought that was a good idea. Critics though said it’s a bit racist, saying the Council was targeting an area which predominantly is home to Asian landlords. Well at a meeting earlier this week, the Council decided to delay the introduction of the scheme, which has annoyed our next guest. Stewart Jackson MP for Peterborough is with me now. Stewart, good morning.
STEWART JACKSON: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: So there were criticisms that it was targeting perhaps Asian landlords in those areas. And the Council are saying look, we’ve had a look at this. The scheme is two years old. We’re going to have a consultation and perhaps bring out something bigger and better later down the line.
STEWART JACKSON: Well this is about fairness, and the fact is that it’s quite despicable, particular for Labour councillors, to play the race card. The fact is that unscrupulous landlords happen to be to some extent Asian or Pakistani heritage. It’s not aimed at Pakistani heritage people who are also landlords. And there is a distinction there. The fact is it’s a fairness issue. Why should landlords who have a vested financial interest have their own committee, their own working group, be able to turn up to influence and harangue councillors, have their own pet councillors frankly who put their view across, when vulnerable families, decent people in rented accommodation, people who’ve lived in central Peterborough for years, they don’t have a say directly to the decision makers? And I think this decision by Peterborough City Council, it’s either two things. It’s either borderline civic corruption, in other words undue coercion and pressure.
PAUL STAINTON: Because there’s a lot of councillors who own houses in the city.
Continue reading “MP attacks decision to shelve landlord licensing scheme”

Peterborough Lincolnshire merger plan

07:27 Thursday 18th June 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: We all know, don’t we? We constantly hear it. Local councils struggling, they’ve got shrinking budgets. Times are tight. Well could there be an alternative, a super-council? This is one suggestion from the new Leader of Peterborough City Council. A meeting was held last night between Lincolnshire and Peterborough City Council about the possibility of co-operating to make one council to rule them all .. I may be slightly paraphrasing there. John Holdich the Leader of Peterborough City Council joins me now. So John, what’s the idea here?
Continue reading “Peterborough Lincolnshire merger plan”