Peterborough Question Time European Local Democracy Week

 On the evening of Thursday 18 October 2013, 8 Arthur Mellows students went to Peterborough Town Hall for Question Time, as part of European Local Democracy Week. Upon entering the Town Hall we were shown to some refreshments, after which we entered the Main Council Chamber. On the Panel was; Chief Inspector Karen Newton; Councillor Marco Cereste (Leader of Peterborough City Council); Councillor David Harrington; Councillor Nick Sandford; Deputy Of Peterborough Youth Council; and an affiliate of DIAL.
Every student present got the opportunity to ask their question, which at least one member of the panel responded to. Time-permitting a further question was asked or a rebuttal of the original answer was given. Many topics were covered such as the empty shops in places like Brotherhood Retail Park, and if they could be used for pop-up shops, or art displays. The response to this was an overwhelmingly positive yes, so if anyone reading this likes the sound of using an empty space for something interesting, it’s easier than you think. Other topics covered were transport and social and communal facilities.  The response to this mentioned budget, and how it has to be cut, and unfortunately transport is one of few areas that can be safely reduced. Encouragement for people to use their local existing facilities such as town halls and again, empty shops, to create their own social areas and gatherings was given. Mention was made of the recent growth Peterborough has undergone, and how those empty shops are being filled, with brief discussion of plans for the future renewal and possible expansion of some areas of the town, encouraging even more investors to come forward. Upon being asked why the signs of these new investors were being seen in places like Queensgate, the reply was that even though the signs may not be clear yet, there was growth. Examples like the large number of big-name companies opening new stores in Peterborough. 
Another large issue was the communication between the council and the public, with emphasis on the younger demographics. We were told of plans to utilise the internet and social media to their full potential, with plenty of research almost ready to come to fruition. The police are already on Twitter (@PboroCops) and the councillors said they planned to make the most of modern communications to reach out to people and get across the night’s messages on a much larger scale. 
All in all, the evening was considered a success, with many issues covered, plenty of interaction between the students and council members, and some lucky students even won VIP tickets to the following Saturday’s POSH game!
By  Emma Madden, 11ZYO