"It is incomprehensible to foreign visitors, but a mayor is something they are very much comfortable with.”
As mayor he has taken up the former chief executive’s office on the seventh floor of Leicester City Council’s New Walk Centre.
It is one of those blocks which would have in the 1960s and 70s seemed highly modern and forward looking, but like Birmingham’s Chamber of Commerce building or Lloyd House is looking a little shabby and dated. Sir Peter has earmarked it for demolition.
He made the chief executive redundant, taking on that responsibility and in the first controversy of his mayorship was about to be offered the £100,000 chief’s pay by an independent panel. He rejected this after coming under political pressure.
His first year has been a particularly busy time, he set off with 100 pledges to be delivered within his first 100 days, including filling 1,000 potholes, a charter for older people, extra on street car parking, free holiday swimming for under 16s and develop plans for Leicester’s markets.
The pledges and the outcomes are listed on the Mayor’s website and this is part of his being ‘accountable to the public in a way a council leader never would be’.
He is now preparing to release a three year plan for the remainder of his term focusing very much on economic growth and jobs.
And would argue that now back bench councillors are more engaged in a very public and robust scrutiny set-up which has regularly challenged his decisions - some, such as covering care for the elderly he has taken on board, others he has rejected.
“But that debate is in public,” he stresses.
The public is very much invited to take part via the website or regular meet the mayor events and phone ins on local radio.
Sir Peter would argue that the amount of interest in local politics has risen as a direct result of the mayoral system.
“I have been involved in local politics for 40 years, 17 as council leader, six year as MP, in all of that time rarely been to hustings meeting with more than a dozen people in the audience.
“But in the mayoral election we had more hustings than all those years put together and on one occasion three events in one evening all packed.
“That level of interest, coverage word for word, one recorded for regional TV, that is something which would never have happened for a council or parliamentary elections.”
What extra powers a mayor might have been very much at the forefront of the debate in Birmingham, but Sir Peter has been operating under existing powers and is an advocate for the idea of that he has extra influence just through being directly elected.
He also that along with thec other city mayors which could be elected this year they will have a collective voice which Government would find hard to ignore, perhaps through David Cameron’s suggested Cabinet of Mayors.