I am keen to hear your views on the Island at the end of Anglesea Road at its junction with Henley Road. Many people want this removed. What is your view?
When I first became Leader of the Council, the late and irreplaceable James Hehir – CEO of Ipswich Borough Council – said to me: “You have to become a governor of Suffolk New College”; and so my journey
of being involved in education in Ipswich began.
I’ve never made a secret of the fact that my education was cut short, when my father was moved from Warwickshire to become manager of the Claydon Cement Works. I was 14 going on 15, and instead of continuing my education I was sent to Miss Holmes Secretarial College and then straight out to work. So to then become a Corporate Member of the College, where I studied in the evenings, was more than a great honour.
Having been involved with the College for many years, I have seen many changes from top to bottom: from the old building, to the wonderful new premises we now inhabit. I have chaired the Audit and Risk Committee for several years and although my time at the College is coming to an end, I have enjoyed and learnt so much and feel very proud of its achievements.
I am also a governor at Parkside, which is a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) dealing with children who are unable to cope with mainstream education. They come to Parkside for the wonderful education, counsel, help, care and love they are given. My involvement over the years has seen us become a Multi Academy Trust – known as the Raedwald Trust – which takes in all the PRUs in Ipswich and, although in its infancy, is very exciting. I was asked to join the Foundation Trust at Ipswich School, to help raise funds enabling bursaries for less privileged children to be educated at this wonderful school and all the opportunities it offers. It isn’t easy for a student to do this or for the parents to agree, but we have seen
some remarkable success stories.
Finally, I am very proud to have been asked to become Patron of Student Life and to help this new and important publication to grow amongst the education world, which has enabled students to discuss openly their many issues. Although I very much want to see
education improve in this town, we must always remember that ‘educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all’.
When talking to residents, two of the most common problems many talk about is shops in Ipswich, and the price of car parking.
We have all seen the failures and near failures of well-known names such as Maplins, Poundworld, Homebase, Toys R Us and House of Fraser. Here in Ipswich, we have been affected by some of these in the town centre and out of town retail parks. The economy overall is doing well; households have the greatest level of confidence in their finances in over three years, according to IHS Markit. So what is happening with our high streets?
I would suggest that the large online retailers such as Amazon are making trading conditions excessively competitive for some high street shops. The likes of Amazon are perceived to not be paying much tax. We saw that they only paid £1.7m so far for 2017, when its profits are £72.3m, and turnover of £1.98b. I read in the press that the SNP government in Scotland and the UK government are considering whether their business rates on their enormous warehouses is actually fair, when bricks and mortar shops are having to pay onerous business rates.
As a Conservative, I believe in low taxation for businesses and workers. But it does not feel right if high street shops are struggling due to their high operating costs where they cannot compete with Amazon. Yes – rents are a factor, and that is something that some of the retail chains are negotiating.
But business rates are in the control of government, and this could be one area where the government could re-balance the scales in favour of physical shops, since our town centres are the life-blood of our community. Some people complain about the lack of shops, might browse in physical shops but then go online to order their goods.
If you want to save your high street, you need to support it. In Ipswich, we see more diversity with the Buttermarket Shopping Centre being transformed into a popular eating, leisure and cinema venue. The redevelopment of the Cornhill, over which some residents have reservations, will transform our town centre and attract new investment and choice.
Here in Ipswich, the Borough Council is planning on increasing its car park fees again. The council selectively compares IBC-owned car parks to the private operators locally such as NCP, and further afield in other towns such as Norwich, Colchester and Bury, and attempts to highlight that its car park charges are cheaper in some cases. The problem is that the data only compare a select set of fees, and ignores other nearby towns. And by putting up IBC fees, the private operators may gleefully increase theirs in due course to maintain the differential.
The Conservatives’ approach is to offer Ipswich residents a discount on car parking charges and bus fares. For the town centre, we want to see a radical transformation of the town by offering more cultural and family entertainment & we are proposing a new Waterfront Heritage Centre and a multiuse Arena. Let’s show the region and the country what a top-class place Ipswich can be.
Ipswich could soon have a new Recycling Centre. The County Council recently set aside £1m to fund the purchase of a replacement site for the one in Portmans Walk. The current site is very busy, has no room to expand and has to close for up to one fifth of its opening time whilst containers are removed and compacted. A new site has not yet been identified but the council is looking on the west side of Ipswich for any opportunities.
Ah the Gainsborough Community Fun Day, an event which was supposed to be plain sailing and fun for all. We had a budget, a date, willing volunteers and summer sun like I have never seen in my lifetime. What could possibly go wrong?
My task was to arrange a Tea Dance. Though I have never arranged a tea dance before, I was full of ideas and enthusiasm so I was confident it would all be fine. I have fantastic friends who loaned or donated china to go with some items I had purchased myself. I even roped in a friend to spend her evening making centerpieces with me so the dance can be truly special. Ipswich School of Dancing agreed to help out and offered great advice along the way. The small planning team kept in touch on a regular basis and at the center of it was one superwoman I…
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On 29th July 2018 the government announced a huge change to Blue Badges, extending the criteria of who will be entitled to one from 2019. The scheme will now see people with invisible disabilities and those with mental illnesses being eligible for the blue badge. This is a change I welcome with open arms. I was diagnosed with Hypermobility Syndrome when I was 21. It’s classed as an invisible disability, it’s very difficult to prove you have due to the fact you can’t see the disability. Some days I am wheelchair bound but a lot of the times I can walk. I always find it difficult to get in and out of a car due to my restricted mobility in my hips, but to look me at me, most of the time you wouldn’t know I was disabled. I first applied for a Blue badge when I…
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Before I started this month’s article I decided to look up the definition of Networking which states: It is the process of trying to meet new people who might be useful to you in your job, often through social activities. [business] If executives fail to exploit the opportunities of networking they risk being left behind. Rather insensitive!
So no mention of permanent friendship and what that can do to change your life just something you do to promote your business and goodness if you are an executive not much hope at all.
I have been a local Councillor for 16 years and often attend networking events and when I was Leader of the Council it was expected of me. I admit that I made many contacts during that period and before when I worked in the Law. However I would like to think that I have never exploited those contacts and in fact many have become true friends. But I have to be realistic – for some people networking is extremely important and leads to all sorts of business leads, new business and even new employees – so an essential part of business life.
I have been involved in several local charities for a long time and have never thought of these as networking opportunities and in fact I would say I have through some of these charities found lifelong friends. Networking in communities is extremely important and very rewarding. The third sector is packed with volunteers all with different reasons for being there and we should embrace and encourage this.
So the question posed to me by Waterfront Life is the art of networking. I thought long and hard about this and decided that it is just your desire to meet new people, finding the same interests, listening to what others have to say rather than hogging the conversation, trying your best to make people feel wanted. And never forget that it is not always easy to walk into a room where it appears everyone knows each other. It is even harder if you are a female – believe me I experience this a lot!!!
(By Liz Harsant, as published in Waterfront Life)
When I was younger I took a great interest in two incredible ladies: Jennie Churchill (the mother of Winston), who was the cornerstone of high society, and behind the scenes a political dynamo when women were afforded few freedoms; the other was Nancy Astor – the first woman to sit in Parliament. Her campaigning spirit and enthusiasm for politics was
formidable and she championed many causes on behalf of underprivileged women and children. Strangely, they were both American, but I felt their lives were something I would love to emulate.
I became leader of Ipswich Borough Council in 2004 – the first female ever to hold that position, and at the moment; the last! It was a great privilege albeit rather daunting, and a realisation that I was often the only female in the room. To fight my corner and that of Ipswich I had to toughen up. However, the friendships and interests I formed during those 6 ½ years will always remain with me. I couldn’t write this article without mentioning Margaret Thatcher, who I was privileged to meet, and when you read her biography you realise what a hard time she had to achieve what she did. Every obstacle was put in her way but her determination shone through. Mrs May, our present Prime Minister, has more
than a hard job on her plate. I sometimes wonder how differently her negotiations would be if she was a man!
People ask ‘what are the advantages of being in local politics and what do you actually get out of it?’ Well, it goes back to my two heroines’ love of politics and the desire to help wherever I can and the great satisfaction that brings. What I have discovered over my years in politics is, although times are changing, we need more women to take part in local
politics and aspire to go further. I also realise that it is never easy to enter this world when you have young children, but local government recognises this now and tries very hard to accommodate young mothers. If you love politics then don’t leave it too long: us girls are breaking through the glass ceiling, so just go for it. I would be very happy to help.