Delivering Results – by Sam Murray, Priory Heath Candidate

During a run up to an election, you will probably see a number of leaflets hitting your doorstep containing promises of what the candidate WILL do if elected. You will have to go on blind trust some of the time as you may not have even heard of the candidate. This where someone like me is different. Most of the residents will have seen my in touch leaflet introducing me as the Priory Heath Candidate. Details of who I am and what I am about, and most importantly what I have delivered so far before even being a candidate. As the leaflet is only small I cant go into too much detail, so thought I would write this blog as a further breakdown of some of what I have already delivered as a community activist.

The Car Clean Up

Back in early 2018, Ravenswood was gifted another burned out car sitting next to the Primary School. I had reported it to the council and the police and then the council and it remained sitting there where the community play bus parks. I felt it was a safety concern. This was the first time I had properly encountered Cllr Liz Harsant who though this wasn’t her ward arranged for the car to be removed for me. Finally someone listened and helped me! Unfortunately this still left debris laying around which I raised at a few public meetings. Sick and tired of being ignored I roped a friend into helping and we swept up the entire area, bagged up the melted car and debris and I personally delivered it to the Councillors at a south east area committee meeting. Some may say this was an extreme measure but I simply did this in order to make sure children weren’t at risk of being injured. Its amazing what impact a boot full of car pieces could make on a meeting and the following day the area was professionally swept up and my boot was cleared of the debris.

Gainsborough Community Fun Day 2018

Ah the fun day which should have been oh so straight forward. Plans made, suppliers arranged, date agreed by IBC what could possibly go wrong?! Well IBC have a way of not being able to work with communities and decided to cancel the day after the tragic murder that happened. Their reasons being that the clash of dates with a Donald Trump visit to London meant that appropriate safety measures couldn’t be provided. The handling of this decision was poor to put it politely so I personally challenged this, first by using my blog, then by raising it at a public meeting and then speaking on radio Suffolk and to the Ipswich Star. All we wanted was to be able to work with IBC, our fractured community needed some relief from the pain and tragedy. IBC eventually agreed to allow the show to go on, but at a different date and a compromise was agreed.

Heating issues in Social Housing

IBC are constantly pushing for more social housing and would love to have a large cluster of social housing on the UVW site of Ravenswood. However, there has been a failure to keep the already existing tenants at a good standard of living. I was made aware of a row of homes on Fen Bight Circle having heating and hot water problems which were at their worst over the peak of winter in 2017. To try and get a solution and support I contacted our MP Sandy Martin. For almost a year I brought this up continuously with Mr Martin and our local councillors. I worked with the Ravenswood Residents Association who also became involved as concerns raised on the impact of the residents health who lived in this row of homes. A year later, I was so pleased to find out that new heating systems were installed in all of these homes and I was proud that I never gave up until my neighbours had a warm home to live in.

Public Meetings

Because of how engaged I am and my high level of attendance at local meeting such as the South East Area Committee Meeting (which shockingly a paid councillor doesn’t have the same attendance rate) I am now generally recognised by the councillors and certainly by our MP. I read the majority of public papers including the Full council papers that are released. I have raised the issue with the bus services in the area and the disproportionate funding for the South East vs the South West, and though I have not managed to get direct results of this, councillors have become aware that when I do ask a question for the community I have done so after extensive research. Some may at times call me a difficult woman just like our dear PM has been referred to at times, but I will say I am simply driven and determined to make sure this town is the best town it can be, and in particular Priory Heath sees the results it deserves.

When you go out and vote on 2nd May, consider this. Do you want someone who has demonstrated they can deliver results and has the determination to never give up? If so then I am the candidate for you because I have already demonstrated I have what it takes to be a councillor for Priory Heath.

For more details about me visit my site http://www.sammurrayipswich.com

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Tom’s survey on the Northern bypass

Very strong support for the northern bypass clear from my transport survey returns, unsurprisingly. I was busy working my way through the responses to my transport survey on Sunday. The survey had a question about the northern bypass. I’ve now completed some number crunching in relation to the returns from Rushmere ward. Overall, 84% support the northern bypass. Residents were asked to rate their support for the northern bypass on a scale of 0-10 (10=strong support, 0=strong opposition). On the whole, the average numerical score for those who responded was 8.8. It will be interesting to find out what the average scores are from the other wards that have been surveyed. I appreciate that this will hardly come as a surprise to many however the strength of support is particularly significant. Campaigning for the northern bypass was already my number one transport priority, these survey returns tell me that this should absolutely remain the case.

Play equipment ordered for St Margaret’s Ward

We listened – and now we have action! Our Councillor for St Margaret’s, Lee Reynolds having spoken with residents in Brettenham Crescent was informed their children missed the old play equipment following its removal some time ago. Having worked with Officers, Lee is now pleased to confirm that not only will new play equipment be installed but the shrubs and fencing will be tidied up too.

Are you aware of any other play areas that need improvements in your area? Lee said ‘outdoor play areas are great to encourage our children to play outside to help keep them healthy and happy’. So please let us know if we can help your local park improve too!

 

lee

Labour’s Shocking Failures in our Town Centre

1 cornhillbThe Labour Council have just announced they are to spend nine months refurbishing the old Post Office building on the Cornhill, which has stood empty for four years.

In itself this piece of information seems positive but a closer look at the details reveals a shocking catalogue of expensive errors and missed opportunities.

Lloyds Bank closed their branch in 2015 and had a lease until the end of 2018 but made it clear they were willing to surrender the lease early, which they did a year ago.

The deal was a great one for the Council, rent was paid up till December and a huge sum was agreed as part of the fully repairing lease. All of a sudden the Council had a prime empty building, in an area that was undergoing a £3.8million upgrade, with money to make it attractive to potential tenants.

Your Labour Council was gifted a ‘Golden Ticket’, it could not have been scripted better, but this is where the story turns into a nightmare.

Last March the Labour Executive promised that it was  close to agreeing a deal to rent the property, the negotiations were nearly complete we were told. The Labour Executive also agreed to use the money from Lloyds to bring the building up to standards.

Poor negotiations led to the deal collapsing – this was not announced – the Labour group tried to slip this bad news under the radar. They also made the fateful decision not to spend the money they received from Lloyds.

Why did the negotiations fail at literally the 11th hour?

Why couldn’t they find a tenant?  Were they too busy negotiating deals to buy expensive out of town retail parks?

The Labour Council knew in July last year that the deal had fallen through – why didn’t they order the refurbishment then?

Let’s not forget that this Labour Council is now a major retail landlord, with a property portfolio approaching £100 million – they are supposed to be professionals – these decisions show that they are out of their depth.

 

 

Tom on Port Development

Earlier this month, I visited the Port of Ipswich for the first time to be taken on a tour of the site and to meet with the leadership team from Associated British Ports (ABP). I’m prepared to say that I think I underestimated both the size of the operation and its massive importance to the region’s economy.

The Port of Ipswich covers over 280 acres of land in total, but it’s the 21-acre island site at the heart of it that has been the subject of the majority of discussion over the past few years.

The island site presents a huge opportunity for the Town and its very important that its fully utilised. Developed in the right way and it could take the Waterfront and the Town to the next level.

From the meetings I had, its clear that ABP are very serious about bringing the site forward for development. I very much hope that the County Council will bring forward the two smaller bridges to connect with the island. Clearly certainty over this would be the catalyst to accelerate activity.

Ideally in future, the island could be a real centre point of activity. My preference would be for something that creates a real buzz! Perhaps an arena?

Holywells Park

People sometimes say “I’ve never been into Holywells Park” and, because I see it every day, I look with utter surprise that they consider to be the most beautiful park in our town – or indeed in the whole of the UK! Although a lot of money has been pumped into our Park, it still remains that beautiful, peaceful, restful place.

Moreover, it is a very busy Park and has a very active Friends’ Group. I am the secretary and have been for a long time. I first joined the group back in 2000 and we have gone from strength to strength. All of us have a deep love of the Park and have become long-lasting friends.

This year we started with a Wassail event. Very low key but it was held on January 6th (the Twelfth Night) and it took place in the Orchard, which was given to the Friends years ago by the Council. We held hands and walked around the apple trees, singing and giving thanks to health of the trees, in the hope that they will provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn.

The Friends have a full schedule for this year, starting with a Spring Event on 23rd March, which will be a great event with nature trails, an egg roll and other interesting activities – all a little secret at the moment. Come along and see what we have to offer and what fun it can be. The Welcome Spring Event is from midday to 3 pm.

Whilst the Friends’ Group are busy with events, so are the Suffolk Wildlife Trust. By the time you read this article, they will have run weekly Wild Tots sessions in the Park, allowing young children to explore. They also run practical conservation activities for young people aged 11 to 14, including surveying skills and citizen science projects.

So back to how these events are run:
The Friends’ Group make a very minimal charge for refreshments and admission and only ask for donations. Everyone gives up their own time to prepare for these events and behind the scenes it really does take a lot of organisation. At the same time, Ipswich Borough Council run events and the Friends will help with these days by providing refreshments – this includes the Well event which is in April and always very popular.

Do look at our website to see what we are offering in the Park and come along.

FRIENDS OF HOLYWELLS PARK EVENTS:
Saturday 23nd March, 12:00-14:00:             WELCOME SPRING
Sunday 7th April, 12:00-15:00:                      HOLI (FESTIVAL OF COLOURS)
Saturday 22nd June, 14:00-16:00:                SCARECROWS AND BLOSSOM

A new policy for Special Educational Needs in Suffolk

It was a honour to chair the Policy Development Panel that has recommended a series of changes in SEND Policy at Suffolk County Council including spending £45.1m over five years creating additional provision across the county.

I presented my recommendations to the Cabinet earlier this month. Full report – https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/suffolk-county-council-unveils-45-1m-plan-for-send-1-5860338

Here are the report and appendix we presented to the Cabinet meeting. It was well-received and it is a privilege to have such a positive effect upon people’s lives.

Conservative Response to Labour’s Borough Budget

20190301_133725The following speech was made by Cllr Eddy Phillips, Shadow Finance Portfolio Holder & Deputy Group Leader of IBC Conservative Group, on 27 February 2019.

Yet another year and the same story we are seeing from Ipswich Labour and their so-called balanced budget. Much of Cllr Ellesmere’s intro was a copy and paste job from last year and the year before.

So I’m going to again do what I do every year as I highlight some of their failings in certain areas where one might expect income to be improving and closing the gap on expenses. Yet the Regent Theatre income is now £13k down and £90k down on 2 years ago. Sports and leisure cost £1.45m last year, now it has increased to £1.85m.

Income from corporate properties is down £300,000.

Car park income is down by £100,000.

Income from HEARS is down by £50,000.

New homes bonus income from govt is down, hardly surprising when Labour run IBC is not building the homes it promises either by its own target or even for private developers due to its inability to engage with developers in a positive manner .

In the year 2017 to 2018, the private sector delivered 80 homes, housing associations 10 and IBC 7. In 2011-12, private developers delivered 200, housing authorities 90 and council none. Cllr M Cook indicated 221 private sector homes are expected to be delivered this year, and up to 467 in 3 years. How when the numbers are so low? It was this Conservative government that tore up Labour’s restrictions on council house building.

So how does Labour intend to balance their budget this year: they have allocated a challenging £5.3m of savings in their big ticket programme, of which two thirds comes under the rather unclear title of Service Efficiencies and income.

As usual, Labour are increasing their portion of council tax by the maximum they can. OK, so SCC and the PCC are doing so also, but I can’t imagine in their election leaflets, Labour will point out that the SCC has a budget of £519m against IBC of about £19m, 27 times smaller, therefore hardly surprising that your contribution to SCC is bigger.

Nor will Labour tell voters that 75% of SCC funding is spent on adults and children’s services nor will they tell them highways has a budget of £46m.

But back to Labour, always increasing CT by as much as they can get away with. Let’s not forget their 33% increase in SCC CT between 2002 and 2004, and on IBC 23% in the same period.

Thanks to Conservatives being in government since 2010, we have kept CT increases at capped levels to help out hard-working families across the country, which has been 2 or 3% excluding the social care levy.

Labour tell you how hard up they are. Yet they keep over-estimating how much they intend to spend and when it comes it at substantial underspends, they squirrel the money away or give it to their arms length companies, where all transparency ceases. And pat themselves on the back for their way of manipulating their spending.

There is scope to improve income but their attitude of protectionism and inadequate co-operation with other local authorities, creates their sense of doom and gloom.

Why have we not presented any alternative budget this year? Well Cllr Abbot came up with a single proposal at SCC’s budget meeting, but our view is that we don’t want to waste officer time on something that will be voted down ! We would simply start afresh from top to bottom if we were running IBC.

I was pleased to hear Cllr Carole Jones thanking the CONSERVATIVE government for granting £10m for infrastructure work at the garden suburb development (Northern Fringe).

Cllr McDonald commented on the delayed development at Ravenswood UVW and blaming us. However the housing WOULD have been delivered years ago if Labour had worked with the Ravenswood Residents Association on coming to an agreed consensus on the tenure mix.

 

Budget Speech 2019

The following speech was made my Conservative Group Leader Councillor Ian Fisher:

I want to begin by offering my thanks to all those concerned with producing the Financial Plan.

I have met with Officers during this process so am aware of the many hours it takes to complete, and the Conservative Group appreciates the hard work by the officers of the Council.

Now to the Labour budget – a budget best described as like the dying embers of a fire – all the fuel has been used and there is a desperate lack of oxygen. This budget is devoid of ideas, lacking aspiration and ambition, misleading and full of negative assumptions.

We are all acutely aware of the cuts to the grant from central Government – how could any of us forget as Cllr Ellesmere makes it his point to constantly remind us. It is almost used as a mantra by the Labour Group to cover for any problems or issues that arise.

Well – it’s a fact of life that has been apparent to us all for 9 years. It was my Colleague Cllr Carnall who presented the 1st budget that contained these cuts. That year the cuts were huge, some 16% and because we are Conservatives, we still managed to reduce Council Tax by 1%

In just a few months my colleagues found ways to absorb that budget cut and still lower Council Tax. This tired administration has been in power for 8 years, and all this time has known what challenges it faces. No longer can everything be blamed on others – something the Labour Group has a degree in.

Everything about how this budget is being presented is designed to highlight problems caused by others, to maximise the impression that government cuts have crippled us to the extent that we can’t really be at blame for anything because we don’t have any money. It is also deliberately negative so you can be persuaded that a 3%rise in Council tax is needed.

If we really had no money – and things were as bleak because of the cuts, then why on earth would any administration commit to £43 million of capital spending in the past financial year – at a cost of nearly £1 million to the General Fund?

Let’s just take a closer look at the details being presented to us this evening.

As far as the national context goes it is striking that the economy has outperformed expectations thanks in no part to the prudent policies of the Conservative government. Inflation is forecast to be at 2% for the next two years – something that makes the 3% rise in Council Tax proposed by the Labour Group as even more shocking.

We are shown the core spending power of the Council and told that the way the New Homes Bonus is calculated will have a major detrimental effect – but what we are not told is that Labours abject failure to hit any house-building targets also has a major detrimental effect on this figure.

Private developments have fallen way short of expectations – due in no part to the terrible relationship IBC has with many local developers. This has not been helped by the trading arms of the Council bidding on virtually every available major property in the area – inflating prices and working in direct competition with the very people it needs to help get this Town back on its feet.

A Conservative administration have far more innovative ideas to promote new housing in the Town – we would also work in conjunction with local developers on some deals – working with the very people who have a stake in the Town.

Labours failure to hit its own targets for house building has resulted in less New Homes Bonus and less Council Tax being available – this has in turn cost Ipswich residents dear as Labour constantly increase Council Tax year after year after year.

And it is Council Tax where I think the Labour Group have been both mis-leading and mischievous.

The 2018 budget contained the sentence

There will be a one-off increase of Council Tax in 2018/19 of 2.98%

The 2019 budget contains the sentence

In order to fund the remaining budget gap, it has been concluded that – for

one year only – the annual increase in Council Tax should be 2.99%.

This made me so angry – this isn’t a game – choosing to alter your rise by 0.01% to allow you to claim it is for one year only is disingenuous at best.

Why then, given that Cllr Cook has raised Council Tax by 3% (I refuse to pay games) twice is he assuming reverting back to a 2% rise for the remainder of the Financial Plan? Because it makes the final position look worse!

I am sure I will be told that the increase is lower than both SCC and the Police precept and this is true, both these organisations have far greater budget constraints and in the case of SCC far more statutory obligations. This Labour Council’s record since it came to power has been to squeeze the people of Ipswich every year. Since they came to power, they have taken an eye-watering £1.1 million extra from the pockets of the hard-presses tax-payers.

I just hope the Council Tax payers of Ipswich see through your smokescreen and realise that Labour is the party, and always will be the party of Tax and Spend – Labour Tax – Labour Spend – We all Pay.

A Conservative administration would reverse this trend, work with developers rather than against them and get more income for IBC. This in turn would see us being able to put an end to the excessive rises in Council Tax and give some relief to the residents of Ipswich who are driving our economy.

We are then outlined the cost pressures that have arisen during that past year

Cost pressures that amount to £8 million over the 4-year period of the Financial Plan

– Most of these pressures highlight failures by the administration and goes further to show that this group of Councillors have run out of ideas – they take their positions for granted and it’s about time the residents of Ipswich taught them a lesson.

We are forecast to lose the best part of £0.5 million, that’s on top of what we have already lost by not having a tenant in the old Post Office Building. It is a prime building – one of the most impressive in the Town Centre occupying a prime position and no income is forecast for 3 years.

So much could be done with that building whilst we are waiting for a tenant – and I won’t be told that it is in a state of disrepair as I am aware of the huge sums paid by the previous tenant to cover these costs. I am also aware that they are in negotiations with the very company that left them hanging before – not very encouraging. Labour have run out of ideas.

Next is one of the sadder and far more indicting items in the budget – A reduction in the Car Park income of another £0.5 million.

How can an administration spend over £5 million on a new car park – admittedly it was late – there were problems – then it leaked and then reduce the expected income by half a million pounds.

Is this what the Council Tax payers of Ipswich deserve?

By far and away the largest item on this list is from Q2 budget monitoring and is £3.1 million over 4 years. Most of these overspends and failures went under the radar at the time, mainly hidden by a massive £2 million grant from Central Government which will result in this Council making a surplus this year of nearly £1.5 million.

Cllr Cook presented the paper to Executive and the minutes state the following

“Councillor Cook explained that there had been no significant changes to the budgetary position since the previous report. A slight underspend was again anticipated, and, if achieved, this would lead to the Council’s balances rising to £9.1 million.”

So, does Cllr Cook really believe that an extra £3.1 million of costs over 4 years is not significant?

So, does Cllr Cook think that a £1.4 million underspend as a result of money from Central Government is slight?

Now I don’t think Cllr Cook is known for his humour so I can only presume these were more mis-leading statements by a Labour Executive member

All these extra costs were discovered in just one quarter of the current year and by far and away the largest of these costs is a reduction in Sports & Leisure income of £350k per year.

Two years ago, Cllr Rudkin presented a paper entitled Transforming Sports & Leisure and promised that if the actions were enacted – which they were that the service would be operating within budget by this current year.

Well obviously, it isn’t and we are still haemorrhaging money – another sign that Labour mis-lead the public and have run out of ideas.

The Conservative Group has repeatedly warned of this over the past few years and we have been ignored – only a Conservative administration could turn this service around with innovative and fresh ideas.

So already at this stage of the budget we have over £9 million to find.

Next is growth and capital spending. We welcome the announcement of some of the new spending, especially the money used to tackle ASB and increase community engagement. The Conservative Group is fully committed to ensuring our residents can live in a peaceful and enjoyable environment and we feel that it is vitally important to tackle these issues head-on with early interventions.

We are helped in this quest once again by Central government which has declared Ipswich as one of 12 Opportunity Areas and granting £6 million of funding designed to increase social mobility – something lacking in Ipswich.

Now we have the introduction of the Magician – at least that’s what I initially thought when reading the information about the Big-Ticket Programme.

It is undeniable that significant savings have been made to date, but they are dwarfed by the savings Cllr Cook expects us to believe he can conjure up in the future.

Last year there was £850k of unidentified savings within the budget – something Cllr Cook is most pleased to tell us have been eliminated this year.

That’s just another in a long line of mis-leading and disingenuous statements.

Last year £4 million of savings were needed now we are told it is £9.3million

Apparently there has been a review which has enacted what they call ‘new themes’ and they expect us to believe that changing the title of the target will realise an extra £5 million pounds!

There is no explanation of how this will be arrived. In plain English these should be re-branded to

Unidentified Savings.

This number has been used as a balancing figure after all the additional spending the Labour Group have committed to. The Conservative Group do not believe this is a balanced budget as we do not think it is anywhere near realistic to set such savings targets given that a lot of the easier savings have already been made to date. Giving the targets corporate titles does not guarantee success and it is impossible to vote in favour of this budget without more information as to how you hope to make such savings.

Last year we urged the administration to concentrate more on income generating services and to make more of the Council’s assets, and we made several suggestions – it is refreshing to see that some of these are being enacted such as Wastesaver thinking of extending their service to areas outside of Ipswich – an idea we have spoken about for some time.

This service of the Council perfectly highlights the difference between a tired Labour Council and a fresher Conservative version. We would have ensured that this service, and others returned increasing levels of income to the Council. Under this Labour administration the service has lurched from one disaster to another with no real leadership or direction. Town Centre customers are being lost on service and price.

The Labour Group have done nothing to address this apart from thinking about enacting one of our policies – but they are only thinking about it – not actually doing it.

They have no clue on how to increase revenue from this, or other services. We need to find extra income and not solely rely on hugely expensive property deals that leave us over exposed to fluctuations way out of our control.

The Conservative Group cannot support a budget that does not balance, is totally lacking in new ideas on how to make savings or generate income and mis-leads the public. We risk stumbling into a massive financial black-hole without the fresh impetus that is clearly needed at the top level of the Labour Group.

For those reasons, and many more I do not have the time to articulate we will not be voting in favour of this budget and I urge the public to show their displeasure with the Council by voting for Conservative Councillors with the fresh ideas needed to steer this Council through tough economic times in May’s local elections.

Planning inertia on Commercial Road

In the eighteen years that I have lived near the railway station, I have been just across the river from a part of Commercial Road (“Ipswich Trading Centre”) which I can actually view on a daily basis. To begin with, it was occupied by B&Q, before they moved to two larger out-of-town sites.

B&Q was demolished as Tesco planned to build a full supermarket there, which they don’t have in the Borough of Ipswich, but this plan was abandoned during the economic downturn of 2007-10. It still lays largely empty as other planning applications have been rejected. This does not reflect well on the Borough’s “Economic Development” policy.