As promised

This is what Tom said eleven days ago:

“A significant number of you have written in to outline your concerns about the lack of support provided for the self-employed and freelancers. So far the economic measures announced by the Government haven’t really touched these groups and this is something I am very aware of. The Government has dramatically improved access to the benefits system for the self-employed, but clearly a lot more needs to be done. I understand that Treasury Ministers are currently working on a package of support for the self-employed and this support should be announced within the coming days. As the Member of Parliament for Ipswich I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer making clear my views and that more support for the self-employed should be forthcoming.

I am well aware of the huge contribution that the self-employed make to Ipswich’s economy and I will do whatever I can to support you during this difficult time.”

This is what was announced two days later, in the third column, to follow the support for employees and business during the health situation. Conservative MPs make a difference.

Staying healthy in mind and body during isolation, by Councillor Nadia Cenci

The most recent decisions made by the PM and with the agreement of all parties, to lockdown most of us for the sake of our NHS and to save lives, was absolutely the right decision at the right time.
Whilst numbers were low, we had the chance to plan the lockdown that we knew was coming, make sure we knew how to help our neighbours and prepare for a new life, albeit temporary.
This will be a difficult time, have no doubt. To start with it will be novel and we will feel determined but this needs to be kept up all the way through. It’s easy to fall foul of our own negative mind, if we allow it to go unchecked.
There is plenty of help and information about the practicalities of this phase of the solution to combat Covid19 so, with my professional hat on outside of being a borough councillor, as a confidence and performance coach, I want to touch on helping you to keep your mind healthy.
Our thoughts are throughout our body, not just in our head. Your mind will affect your body and vice versa, so have a plan for every day you have to stay at home.
Today I went to one of our lovely parks for a power walk, music through headphones, sun shining brightly and Spring like. I took in everything I saw using all my senses and embraced some time just ‘to be’.
Make the most of your time allowed to go for a walk in the fresh air, whatever the weather and whatever speed you choose to do it. Get into the habit every day right from the beginning and you will do it automatically after the first week or so. Don’t miss one single day unless you’re physically unable to.
Now’s the time to take up meditation, if you haven’t already, or at least listen to meditative music before you sleep. These are freely available on-line and on CDs. I use one to help me sleep deeply and it will be important, in this time of worry, that we at least manage a good night’s rest.
Learn something new. Make this the time when you will actually do the things that you kept saying you wanted to do. Time to leave that Someday Isle!
Someday I’ll do this, do that, when I’m this and when I’m that. Do it now!
Learn a new language, learn to draw, learn a new craft, watch Youtube to find out how to do things, sign up on free courses available on line or on an app (language apps are very good. I use DuoLingo. It makes learning a new language very easy and fun).
It’s important to do things that help you move around. Please don’t become lethargic and sit around when you have a healthy body. Or it soon won’t be.
Yoga, Pilates, running up and down stairs, cleaning out rooms, paperwork, decorating, gardening will give you a real sense of satisfaction as well as exercise. I saw someone in the park using the new bench that I successfully had installed, using it to do steps on. Made me smile!
This all sounds obvious but believe me, many people will keep laying around on that Someday Isle and before they know it they will have spent several weeks in front of the TV and our Lockdown will be lifted without any of those things being done and with a body that weighs a little more than it did in the beginning.
Worrying about money is understandable and unless very wealthy, we really are in this together but there is also the upside. We will be spending very little, we will appreciate the free things much more and the younger generations who I feel have never had it so good when it comes to those little luxuries, will learn that our current way of living is not a given. My generation has equally been spoilt. We just missed the second world war and were able to buy our first home more easily than recent times. Absolute poverty has reduced (although relative poverty has not) but being rich is not just about money.
It’s time for gratitude to become more evident in our society and the ‘I want it and I want it now’ attitude is about to have a positive reset. Those designer labels, latest phones and perfect nails do not seem very important at the moment, do they? This could be a very hard lesson but we will all come out of it and regroup. As long as we do as we are told!
Social media is great for keeping in touch but we will all miss the real interaction. The thought of not seeing my grandchildren for even 2 weeks breaks my heart, never mind months but if we don’t do this – together – some of us will never see some loved ones ever again.
As always your councillors are available via e-mail and phone. Tom Hunt is on the other end of the line if you need a chat. He has been an amazing new MP and continues to want to achieve in whatever capacity for his residents. You are not alone, even though you may be alone physically.
Have fun, do something new and different every day and if you’re on social media, share it!

Let’s level up South East Ipswich!

Ipswich – a lovely place, the county town of Suffolk. Our large but close knit town spans from point to point largely with people going about their daily lives. An hour train journey to London – puts Ipswich in the limelight for those who don’t want to live in a metropolitan area but job dictates working in the city.  This post will largely focus on south east Ipswich, how can we level up this part for the town? What difficulty’s does this part of town face?  How can we achieve this?

First let’s focus on opportunity, the part of the town often doesn’t see the great opportunities available in our wonderful town – from jobs to technical education at our university, to creating your own start up business. This town has a lot to offer but so little people in south east Ipswich realise this. As a result we must do more to get the message across focusing on the people who often feel left behind. South east Ipswich has its fair share of crime and this must be stopped immediately. The governments new agenda will crack down on crime and anti social behaviour. We must end this crime driven society and promote the opportunity driven society. There’s now a  local youth club along the Queensway straight – mitigating the pack of teenagers “hanging around the shops” tapping into those teenagers with the opportunity to try new things and meet in a safe place to socialise. I’ve always said that I believe sport is a major mitigation to crime – it prevents those from getting into that crocked lifestyle in the first place – a prevention is better than cure approach.  Moving on from crime and anti social behaviour we have the 2nd most important thing in south east Ipswich and that is the environment. We have littler on the majority of streets and roads. One thing you notice is the lack of bins, the borough council must provide provide more bins to prevent people from recklessly littering on the streets of Ipswich. If a bin is in ones sights they are more likely to put the rubbish into the bin. Once this is achieved the Visual sights of south east Ipswich will be greater – leading to potential investment.

Budget speech 2020: Ian Fisher

Cllr Phillips has already outlined our disappointment at this budget.
I have looked at how other Councils announce the central government funding, giving far more detail than we do.
They explain the fair funding formula currently being worked on and expected to be in operation by 2021/22;
and the £2.9 billion extra going into core council services, mostly adult and child social care but £54 million goes to reducing homelessness – We have seen the benefits of the additional grants from the government for this in Ipswich after receiving over £1million pounds worth of additional money in recent times.
An additional £40 million for Discretionary Housing Payments.
The £240 million available in 2020/21 for the Towns Fund – we need to ensure that for once a good chunk of this money comes to Ipswich instead of it ending up with one of our near neighbours such as Norwich, Colchester, Chelmsford or even Bury St Edmunds.
That business rates baseline will increase by inflation
We don’t hear of the £400 million compensation scheme relating to a under-indexing of the multiplier – We will receive a share of this and it will be a six figure number.
We don’t hear of it because it doesn’t fit the narrative for this depressing forecast.
Everything about how these numbers are presented has been done to fit a pre-agreed narrative.
I have looked at many other Council budgets being presented across the country and you have to look really hard to find one that is predicting such a shortfall in government funding over the coming years
Why are we doing this – because it fits the narrative
Just why are we only budgeting for a 1% rise in fees and charges when every other year it is 2 or 3%? There are no economic indicators to suggest that 2020/21 will be a worse year than all others since this administration came to power 8 years ago.
I will tell you why – because it fits the narrative and reduces the potential expected income – making the situation look worse.

This really is a glass half empty budget – full of false negativity and lacking much of the good news

If things were as tough would we have £73 million of General Fund capital spending being committed over the next 4 years.
That’s in addition to £31 million in spending predicted for this current year.
So that is an eye-watering £104 million pounds of general fund capital spending between 2019 & 2024
That’s an average of about £17.5 million annual spend on capital projects – an eye-watering amount when you consider that the Net Service Expenditure for the General Fund for this current year is budgeted at £22 million.
We are borrowing at a level of 80% of net expenditure – a level that does not suggest that we are unduly worried about the future of the Council’s finances.
Then we have the indicative amounts likely to be loaned to IBA totalling £74 million over the next 4 years
This is included in the capital plan but it is striking but unfortunately not surprising that there is no additional income from this investment listed in the forecast of returns from the arm’s length companies.
The expenditure is shown and the potential income isn’t – another way of making these numbers look worse than they actually are.
If the future is as financially bleak as Cllrs Ellesmere & Cook would lead us to believe wouldn’t it be prudent to re-evaluate the entire capital programme based on the current rates of interest payable and taking in to account further potential increases in the rate from the PWLB?

Any organisation that is needing to make millions of pounds of savings should be looking to maximise income generating opportunities as much as possible and this is an area that once again we seem to be failing terribly with.
Car park income was reported to be missing its budget targets in a recent budget monitoring report yet for some reason we are forecasting a rise in future years?
We have reduced the staff in Wastesaver to save money yet have lost significantly experienced people in this process -A lot of the business development is now being undertaken by Ipserv – using people with little or no experience in waste management – this is reflected in the figures that were recently reported as decreasing.
Every year I state that this was a former monopoly and that we were ideally placed to retain the lion’s share of business within Ipswich. Despite this huge advantage our chronically poor level of service and rigid charging policy means we are not competing with our rivals and are losing market share in our home town.
Ipswich Buses should also generate an income – which should be used to improve the service and their environmental impact but instead it is like a millstone around our necks with IBC finding intriguing and novel ways to siphon money to them.

As usual there is no detail on schemes to improve our income generation
As usual there is no detail as to how we will achieve the millions on savings needed to balance the budget
As usual there is negative assumptions to paint a bleak economic picture which suits the general lack of aspiration of this whole administration
As usual there is a council tax rise which is the maximum permitted.
The people of Ipswich really do deserve better than this.

Budget speech 2020: Edward Philips

Firstly I want to address Cllr Inga Lockington’s anticipated question as to why the Conservative Group have not proposed an alternative budget.

We have presented alternative budgets in previous years but the Labour party unsurprisingly shoot down all our ideas in flames, as to why they cannot possibly consider them, then a year or two later, they partly implement them anyway, but typically make a mess of it.

The Ipswich Angle is one such example -we proposed reducing it to one issue per year which would have generated savings of up to £144,000 over a 4 year period. Well they are doing something, but they are only going to save £120,000.

Area committee budgets – we did propose reductions when levels were far higher and now they are just leaving us with £5000 per ward each. Not a lot can be done with £5000, can it?

If the Conservative Group were in administration, the entire budget would be reviewed from top to bottom, so any “tinkering” by us now to come up with some ideas which labour will today vote against and then implement next year, is not the best use of officer’s time.

I want to congratulate the labour group on this budget, which deserves a prize: The Booker Prize for Fiction.

Basically Labour have made up some random figures to make out to the public how hard up they are for their election leaflets. They have plucked a figure from the air and guessed that they will receive £1m less per year in funding, and then realised that their inability to build enough new housing in the borough will result in less new homes bonus.

Cllr Ellesmere said at the exec meeting “we COULD see us lose £1m each year”. COULD is not WILL

They then blame the increase in the PWLB borrowing rate to cost them an extra £2m in interest over the 4 years. labour is planning to borrow £141m over this period. It’s as clear as mud where this money will be spent on within the capital programme.

The council could choose NOT to borrow an extra £141m and be £2m better off.  PWLB borrowing rates have been low, thanks to the excellent stewardship of Conservatives in govt over the last 10 years. But rates have now increased as there is a need to ensure local authorities (of all colours) are not over-stretching themselves.

Except £74m will be given to the arms length companies, where it is all hidden behind closed doors and those companies meet in secret and seem to be accountable to no-one.

I call on the Council to change the arms length companies to appoint a board member from all political parties holding 12.5% or more of Borough Seats, whilst still accepting that the majority party will understandably have higher representation.

This will ensure complete openness unlike the current situation, where ordinary councillors only find out about massive acquisitions after the event. The current situation is damaging to democracy and the reputation of this council.

The attempts to stop the UK leaving the EU is one such example of politicians ignoring democracy and trying to put their own interests above those of their electors -the former labour MP did his utmost to stop Brexit happening, ignoring the will of the majority of Ipswich voters who voted to leave in 2016. Well in December, the people hit back and elected a new Conservative MP in Ipswich who respects democracy and voted for Brexit to happen.

I recommended to Labour that we should have had some form of celebratory event on 31st January, not being excessively extravagant,  as we respect that some people were sad to see the UK becoming a sovereign nation, but the most important event in our national story since 1945 should have been marked. But Labour said no.

One of the top ten objectives of the Corporate Plan is to improve the quality of the town centre.

It seems that the Labour group have a different idea as to what quality means, but that  shows again what they are- ignoring the will of the people and doing what they think is better.

Cllr Ellesmere said at the recent executive meeting regarding the extra business rates relief being given to some businesses from the Conservative Government “This is clearly good news for businesses who benefit from more discount. But large national retailers are having torrid times and will not benefit from these measures”.

It’s great that the Leader is acknowledging Government help.

However in Ipswich it is not just the changing face of retail , national chains have to deal with, but they have to now deal with a self-serving Ipswich Borough Assets run by Ipswich labour.

I am thinking of Burtons/Dorothy Perkins. Due to a CVA arrangement, the parent company was entitled to a rent reduction.

But IBA decided they were happy to lose one of Ipswich’s high quality fashion retailers and evict them. This store is quite popular with younger people and professional people so was one of our remaining stores which attracted that important demographic group.

Surely we want good quality national chains in our town centre as part of a wide spectrum of retail outlets in our town, attractive to everyone. Clearly not, and labour are putting their money grabbing tactics over the need for a quality town centre.

The loss of this store, despite it being replaced by a shoe shop, will be a serious detriment to our town, when we are trying to get more retailers in.

The Borough’s retained business rates are forecast to drop by £70,000. This administration should exercise a business friendly policy, and actually collect the business rates due. The council has written off £683,000 of business rates debt in the last 12 months or so. What a waste!

We need a more proactive administration that actually empowers and encourages the officers to seek out outstanding debts at a far earlier stage. It just seems now that business rates write offs are a normal agenda item when the quarterly finance reports are considered by exec committee. The labour administration waves them through without much questioning.

This administration loves to praise it itself over its new provision for homeless people at Sidegate Lane. But it is now running £856,000 over the intended budget due to extra works needed, most recently £250k for new boiler and alarm installation. I have to ask why this extra work was not ascertained before the project commenced.

The governmnent gives Homelessness Reduction Act funding to the council with £238,000 over recent times.

The council is forecasting to receive £125k in extra car parking income. How they are going to do this when more and more people are shopping online or at IBA’s retail parks near ASDA or Martlesham is a mystery.

Reported in the last quarterly monitoring report was a shortfall of £132k from car parks  -[£39k from card payment charges they had no idea about and £93,000 general shortfall]  – So they expect this to turn round from 1st April do they? I can’t imagine so, now that Burtons has gone.

What are “service efficiencies and income”? This is basically the final piece of the jigsaw to make their MTFP stack up – they can not be sure what they are or how much will really be generated. In other words, “unidentified savings” in all but name.

Last year they predicted £0.90m under this description and £3.6m over 4 years. Now we are looking at £1.3m and £7.75m respectively. How is this going to be achieved when it is so unclear what they are talking about!

Why is the council only now deciding to put in extra electric charging points in the Crown St car park? We suggested this when it was being built but they ignored us, and now need to incur extra costs now.

In conclusion, we cannot support this budget nor MTFP as it falls down in so many areas, there is too much uncertainty within it, and as usual imposes costs on Ipswich residents as the most expensive district council in Suffolk. Our neighbouring local authorities charge £126 to £142 for a band B property, Ipswich residents are being ripped off with annual bill of £287, over £150 per year more on average. With labour you pay more and get less

Tom’s interview by Lesley Dolphin

Yesterday I had the pleasure to be the guest on the BBC Radio Suffolk Lesley Dolphin show. During my interview I discussed a range of topics including my first week in Parliament, opportunities for people with special educational needs, closures to the Orwell Bridge and long term fixes to our rail network.

You can listen to the full interview here:

My selection to the House of Commons Education Select Committee

Very pleased to announce that, last week, it was confirmed that I’ve secured a place on the House of Commons Education Select Committee. The Committee is composed of eleven MPs from a number of different parties and is responsible for holding to account the Department for Education and other associated organisations such as Ofsted. It was a great honour to have been elected to serve on the committee.

As many of you know, I’m very passionate about working to ensure that all children regardless of special educational needs they may have is given every opportunity to achieve their full potential. I also feel that my responsibilities on this committee sit comfortably with my primary responsibility which is serving my constituents. I know how important education is an issue for thousands of my constituents and hopefully this gives me a platform to promote positive change.

I couldn’t be more happy about securing a place on the education select committee. When I was thinking about which select committee to put myself forward for I was torn between a number of different committees but ultimately I thought it was best to go for the thing I’m most passionate about.