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Good morning Peterborough: universal credit, panto, new venues and Covid...

Good morning, Peterborough – we hope you are settling into the autumn feeling.
Panto returns to Key Theatre with Cinderella this Christmas (Picture: Shariqua Ahmed)

This week, we shared stories of families who “will be feeling the pinch” as the Universal Credit top-ups of £20 came to an end from October 6, especially as prices of everyday commodities are shooting up. 

It might not seem a big amount but it adds up to roughly just under a £100 a month and for many families this is their option to deal with a car emergency, a fuel top-up, the luxury of taking the bus, the chance to get some nutritious food on the table or a little weekend treat for their children. 

It was disheartening for some to hear comments from political figures including our leader of the city council who asked families to “take some responsibility” and think about “how many children they have” rather than complain about the cuts. 

But is it really the parents' fault if they become a single-parent down the line and still have to fend for their kids while juggling two jobs, childcare and managing budgets amid rising costs - like Vikki Harold? 

The single-mum from Woodston said: “If the last two years have proven anything, it’s that crucial jobs are not necessarily what people would have looked at as important or "hard" work prior to the pandemic. "

And she added that if hard work was the only way forward as advised by some leaders and people in fortunate positions, then all the people who work so hard in the NHS, the bin crews the carers, fire services and food distribution etc – surely they would have been far better off and earning much more?

And it was eye-opening to know that Peterborough apparently has one of the highest percentages of universal credit claimants in the UK - more than one in five working age people in our city claim it, second only to Blackpool. 

New pizza and shisha venue for the city  

Two new venues were given the green light for Peterborough City Centre this week –a new pizza joint, Franco Manca and Vibe Lounge,a  karaoke shisha venue. 

Although the prospect of new hospitality venues sounds exciting, there were mixed feeling with the announcement of Franco Manca. This will be replacing the former Boots opticians in Cathedral Square and once opened, there will be not one, two or three but five pizza joints within less than a minute’s walk. 

I am personally looking forward to Franco Manca as we often visit the Cambridge branch, I couldn’t agree more with the readers who suggested the city centre palette could be spiced up with other flavours – perhaps a new Mexican or a Thai restaurant or even a good curry! 

Vibe shisha lounge with karaoke, also to be situated in the city centre, was given a licence this week. The reaction to this was slightly more positive from our readers. 

Talking of restaurants, one of us was at a very well known Peterborough venue in Saturday night when the owner turned away a table of 20 people because of their behaviour.

We didn't exactly see what they'd done to cause the reaction - although we did see the aftermath with several men embarrassing themselves in a tasteless scuffle near the door. 

What we did see however, was an owner who clearly cared about his other customers enough to lose out on several hundred pounds of takings, and rather than just hoping everything would be OK he nipped the problem in the bud early.

A classy move, with so many restaurants, pubs, cafes and diners struggling to claw back all the takings they lost through the lockdowns. 

Closing of Iceland 

The budget supermarket Iceland in Rivergate announced it’s closing down from Saturday, October 9. This came as a surprise to us and it’s sad to see another large unit empty.  

Panto returns 

The Key Theatre is gearing up for a magical Panto return with Cinderella this year. 

Wonder if it was that easy to wave the wand and just say “bibbati-bobbiti-boo" and get rid of Covid..? Perhaps not. 

But it certainly will be enough to send Cinderella to the ball this Christmas. 

Peterborough Matters had a behind-the scenes meet with some of the cast of the show who are excited to return after a challenging halt due to the pandemic. 

Now don’t gasp as you read this – but I have never seen a panto performance before. I missed out on my chances last year as well, but this year I am determined to treat myself to a show. Five years in this country, I think it’s about time I did actually. 

Covid updates: 

On the one hand, travel restrictions are relaxing which gives us hope that Covid is calming down. But with fresh advice from Peterborough health bosses, it certainly raises the question, are we out of the woods yet? 

In an effort to keep things at bay, the biggest flu programme in the NHS’s history is under way and Covid booster jabs are also being rolled out. 

More than 35 million people in England can take up the offer of a free flu jab this year.  

People aged 50 and over, including those who will turn 50 by the end of March 2022, are eligible.  

Some 28 million people in England are eligible for a booster jab, with around 1.7 million people having had a third shot so far. 

The directors of Public Health and of Education in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have recommended that secondary schools reintroduce measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including face-coverings. 

Cambridgeshire districts feature in the table of those with the fastest rising COVID-19 rates of all 333 English local authority areas. 

Data shows more than 50% of recent infections in all areas of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are in the 0 -17 age group – linked to the return of students to school in early September.