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Spending Peterborough’s money better

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This year’s local election campaign is nearing its end: I am grateful to the Labour team for its sterling efforts to knock on every door it can, and have been delighted by the positive response we’ve received on the doorstep, writes leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council Cllr Shaz Nawaz.

However, a lot of the conversations we’ve had have shown how deeply some narratives have become embedded: specifically, there is a belief that Labour is good for public services, the Conservatives are good with money.

People supposedly vote Labour when they feel they can afford it; they are more inclined to vote Conservative when they want government to run efficiently.

While Labour is definitely committed to better public services, I challenge the latter assumption. The experience of Conservative government both in Peterborough and Westminster is not a by-word for efficiency; on the contrary, they’re wasting your money.

Indeed, they’re bad for business.

The most notable example of waste in recent weeks was the £4 billion cost associated with cancelling no-deal Brexit plans. I realise that the word “billion” often gets thrown around in newspapers: it can seem like an impossibly distant figure. However, you contributed to that £4 billion whenever you went shopping, or had taxes deducted from your pay cheque, or paid stamp duty on a home. It’s not unreasonable to ask people to pay for public services; it is outrageous that they pay for the incompetence and mistakes of ministers.

It’s worse that there is no accountability: the Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling, signed a £13.8 million deal with a ferry company to handle freight in a no-deal Brexit situation. The contract was cancelled, but there were costs to the taxpayer of £800,000. Grayling is still in post. All this adds up to less money for police, roads, hospitals and schools.

We’ve had further examples here in Peterborough; we all pay increasing amounts of council tax. Yet we’ve seen this cash funnelled towards schemes like Fletton Quays. Does this money improve our roads? Is this cash used to educate our children? Or are we pursuing folly again, indulging the vanity of an administration that would rather have a shiny showpiece rather than achieve the genuine improvements our city needs?

The Conservative administration’s poor record with managing our money has manifested itself in other ways: Bayard Place was sold for £250,000 less than the proposed asking price. Did the administration not look at the state of the real estate market and understand what the real value was?

The Conservative administration will no doubt continue to try and rest on tired narratives of competence for which there is no evidence. However, I urge my fellow Peterborians to look behind the façade: think about how much we are all paying and continue to pay for their continued ineptitude. We deserve better than this. Our services can be run more efficiently; our money can be better spent. It’s time for a change, and time to vote Labour.

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