Why the city needs a fresh start

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - OPPOSING VIEW - Coun­cil­lor Shaz Nawaz, Labour Group leader on Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil

By the time this ar­ti­cle is pub­lished, the bulk of the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions will have been taken down for an­other year. It’s time to get back to work; 2019 prom­ises to be full of op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges.

Be­fore we can be­gin to tackle the tasks fac­ing our city, it’s nec­es­sary to ad­dress the events which oc­curred over the hol­i­day pe­riod. I have re­frained from com­ment­ing on the Fiona Onasanya case hith­erto: our le­gal sys­tem op­er­ates on the prin­ci­ple on “in­no­cent un­til proven guilty”.

It was nei­ther fair nor wise to com­ment on the trial un­til it con­cluded. How­ever, that case has now fin­ished: a jury of Ms. Onasanya’s peers came to a unan­i­mous ver­dict of guilty.

To say that I was shocked, sur­prised and dis­heart­ened is an un­der­state­ment. I worked closely with Fiona, I trusted her, as the peo­ple of Peter­bor­ough trusted her, and she has be­trayed that trust. The Labour Party has rightly ex­pelled Fiona and urges her to re­sign from Par­lia­ment. She can­not con­tinue to rep­re­sent the peo­ple of Peter­bor­ough in good con­science. She should stand down now and give the peo­ple of Peter­bor­ough the chance to elect a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment who can stand up for our best in­ter­ests, es­pe­cially when the na­tional po­lit­i­cal pic­ture is so un­cer­tain.

All po­lit­i­cal par­ties have their share of tur­bu­lence: the Lib­eral Democrats had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence with Chris Huhne, the Con­ser­va­tives with Jonathan Aitken and Lord Jef­frey Archer, among oth­ers. The best that any party can do is to rec­tify mis­takes quickly: I ap­plaud the Party’s swift re­sponse in en­sur­ing that Ms. Onasanya has been ex­cluded and its call for a change in Peter­bor­ough’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion. We have to move on.

There is much to move on to: the hol­i­days have not al­tered the facts of life in our city: there’s still much to do to im­prove our hous­ing sit­u­a­tion. There is sim­ply not enough to go around, and we see the ef­fects in terms of rough sleep­ing in our city. Fur­ther­more, we also see it when our young peo­ple come to buy prop­er­ties: even those earn­ing de­cent wages are find­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to ac­quire a per­ma­nent home. De­spite new de­vel­op­ments in and around Peter­bor­ough, this gap re­mains, and the plans to rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion are in­ad­e­quate.

Schools will con­tinue to be top of Labour’s agenda. Far too many are strug­gling with in­ad­e­quate re­sources: academi­sa­tion has pushed the prob­lem fur­ther away from gov­ern­ment’s grip, rather than fixed the is­sue.

We will also de­mand greater trans­parency. The spend­ing by the com­bined au­thor­ity and the Mayor’s of­fice should con­cern us: we are all pay­ing taxes, but for what? Was this ad­di­tional tier re­ally nec­es­sary? How do we ben­e­fit from it?

Peter­bor­ough has a great deal of po­ten­tial; but it needs a fresh start. Our task in the com­ing months will be to show that Labour is ready to de­liver it.

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