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