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.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

Campaigning for the Environment

recycling bins
Love Recycling!

How the world deals with it’s waste has been a hot topic in recent months, with David Attenborough’s documentary highlighting the damage currently being done to our environment.

I know that sometimes the world’s problems seem many thousands of miles away, we are lucky to live in a developed western society, but that does not mean that each and every one of us is not responsible for our little bit of the planet we all live on.

An easy way to start is with recycling. The Borough Council currently provides up to 3 bins; general waste, recycling & composting. It is all our responsibility to recycle as much of our waste as possible but Ipswich Conservatives believe the Council could be doing more to help households.

A great start would be to provide a kerbside glass recycling service, sometimes these are the heaviest items in the black bins and could have a dramatic effect in increasing our recycling rates.

The Conservative governments recent Resource & Waste Strategy is providing further help.

Currently, councils pay 90 per cent of the bill for recycling, but, under the new strategy, this will be passed on to the product manufacturers, forcing them to think about sustainable packaging. This could raise between £500 million and £1 billion per year to aid recycling and the disposal of rubbish.

The plans also include a commitment to weekly food-waste collections in every home, a deposit-return scheme and clearer labelling on packaging to show if it can be recycled.

Locally & Nationally, Conservatives want to help protect the environment for all our futures. Help us to help you.

 

 

More Money in Your Pocket!

money in pocket

Ipswich is the County Town of Suffolk and, although the Borough boundary is small, its economy supports a far wider area. Already there are thousands of people coming into Ipswich every day of the week and this will only rise as other smaller areas, outside of our control, grow in size.

We offer the major employment opportunities in the area.

We offer the biggest & best culture and leisure in the area.

We offer the best shopping in the area (despite the issues with the Town Centre)

Thousands of people from outside Ipswich benefit from the services operated and paid for by Ipswich Borough Council. Why shouldn’t you, as Council Tax payers benefit from this?

Conservative Councillors believe we should all benefit, to take a share in the success of our Town.

It’s a simple policy really, Ipswich residents should get a discount on services operated by the Borough such as Car Parks, the Regent, the Corn Exchange, Sports Centres etc. The cost for this would be met by non-residents paying extra to cover the costs.

As tax-payers we all shoulder the responsibility if things fail, why shouldn’t we share in their success.

A vote for a Conservative Councillor in the next local elections will help make Council Tax fairer for all of us,

 

 

 

Empty for Christmas!

1 cornhillb

It’s 18 months since the lights were turned off in one of the most prominent buildings in our Town Centre. Since then £3.6 million has been spent on improving the Cornhill to try and create and  modern, vibrant focal point.

Part of the ‘Masterplan’ for the Cornhill was to have a prominent tenant at the Old Lloyds Bank (or Post Office if you are as old as me!).

It was the dream scenario promised to us by David Ellesmere, the Labour leader of IBC at an Executive meeting in March of this year. A brasserie style chain restaurant opening just as the work on the Cornhill was being completed. Al-fresco dining creating a buzz in the area and then the anticipated Pret a Manger completing the regeneration project.

What went wrong?

Why can’t IBC manage to find a tenant despite spending huge sums in the surrounding area?

Why can’t IBC find a tenant despite the building being in the most prime location in the Town Centre?

What does this say about our ability to negotiate deals?

The message this gives out to other retailers and businesses is that Ipswich is a failing Town and this is something we should not put up with.

The Labour Council has run out of ideas and cannot be trusted to turn the fortunes of our Town around. We now own £64 million worth of out of town retail parks, if we can’t successfully rent out this beautiful building in a perfect location what hope have got if we lose tenants elsewhere?

If you want to see a change of fortunes for Ipswich then put your trust in local Conservative Councillors. We can make Ipswich a place we can all be proud of.

Cornhill – The Verdict

Cornhill E

We have all eagerly awaited the unveiling of the work to transform the Cornhill, a vital cog in the fortunes of our Town Centre.

Early opinions have been mixed and to add to the debate I think it is wonderful and could be a real boost to the fortunes of our Town. It gives us a focal point to be proud of and it’s modern look should serve us well in the coming years.

Let’s not forget this project was started after the Cornhill was described by Lord (Stuart) Rose (who knows a thing or two about the viability of Town Centres), as ‘depressing’.

As wonderful as it does look Conservative Councillors have the responsibilty of holding the Labour Council to account as we are all aware the project hasn’t been without its problems.

Did it come in on budget?  The answer we got was; No, all costs are not yet in and we are already £50k over budget.

Were the Contractors fined for not completing it on time?   NO, despite us checking before the work started that penalty clauses WOULD be paid if the Contractor was late

How many accidents so far?   We were told of 3, we asked if this was because the Contractor rushed the work to finish on time or was it because we had to cut costs to save money?

Why weren’t the plinths finished (the concrete is yet to be ‘polished’) after they were installed?    Because they were late being delivered on site – again, NO penalties were paid.

This is our job, to ensure residents get the answers they deserve after so much of your money was spent on the project.

We must remain a strong opposition and hold the Council to account, if you want questions asked on your behalf get in contact and we will find the answers for you.

 

 

Rat activity in our Town Centre & No activity by the Labour Council!

Rubbish 261018(1)

Businesses & residents of our Town Centre have been contacting us and reporting the increasing sightings of rats.

Town Centres are a breeding ground for rats with food readily available and if not tackled swiftly this problem can, and will, turn into an infestation.

Over the past few years your Labour Council has given Planning permission to, and licensed, a huge number of Restaurants, Take-aways & late-night convenience stores, all of which produce waste on a daily basis, and wait for the Council to clear this waste.

Labour boast of the increase in our night-time economy but absolutely no changes have been made to their waste collection & street cleansing routines.

At the Council meeting Wednesday we put forward several suggestions to combat this but all were ignored.

All cleaning & collection finishes at 7pm, some areas in the Town Centre get no service after 5pm. Rubbish overflows in bins (see pic) and some smaller establishments have to use thin, green bin bags out overnight waiting for the morning collection.

Conservative Councillors suggested a change of times for the collection – Labour ignored us.

Conservative Councillors suggested using Sea-gull proof bin bags (used by other Councils) to stop the food waste being made available to the rats – Labour Councillors laughed, and did nothing.

The Labour spokesman for the Environment Cllr Smart suggested it was down to the Businesses to tackle the problem and offered NO hope of action to our hard-pressed business owners – despite them paying huge amounts in business rates.

Rats are a health hazard and a terrible advert for our Town. Conservative Councillors will keep pushing the Labour Council to take the action they should have done when this problem started.

Transparency at Ipswich Borough Council

A core principle of all public bodies is that of openness, after all it is tax-payers money that funds these, so it’s only correct that business is done in the most transparent way possible.

It is a  totally different scenario with private business for equally obvious reasons. Competition drives the economy and businesses use a variety of techniques to gain advantage over their rivals.

Ipswich Borough Council  currently operates and owns four companies which are run as private businesses. Currently these companies have outstanding loans to IBC of over £60 million. To put this number into context it is 3 times as much as the Annual Net Budget of the entire Council.

All expenditure items in the general budget are accounted for in public. Large expenditure goes before the Executive and Council with elected Councillors given detailed plans and the ability to ask questions.

Expenditure of all the private companies is done behind very closed doors. Can it be right that £42 million of your money is gambled on the Anglia Retail Park near Asda, or over £4 million spent on the Burtons/Dorothy Perkins store in the Town Centre without any discussion?

Twice as much money was spent in one deal than the entire Net Budget of IBC for 2 years! Nobody was consulted, most Councillors did not get the chance to scrutinise the deal, no Councillors could ask any questions.

It is a fine line the Council is treading – We understand the need to generate vital income to protect, and improve, frontline public services but we also understand the need for transparency. Councillors are elected to represent the public of Ipswich and we have a duty to uphold the core principle of openness.

Your Labour Council needs to ensure the balance between the two always favour the residents of our Town.

 

Taxis, Give the Power to the Drivers

At the Ipswich Borough Council Executive meeting of 10th July the ruling Labour Group set the fares for all Hackney Carriage drivers licensed in Ipswich. This is a process that has taken place for years.

The annual farce of the Ipswich Taxi Association asking for a fare they would like to charge then political leaders (are they really in-touch) deciding whether it is reasonable, both for the Drivers and the public, is a long, drawn-out and totally unnecessary burden on all involved.

Do the Labour group suitably qualified to know the market as well as the people that actually perform the job on a daily basis? Who has more at stake here, the Drivers or IBC? Of course the answer is the Drivers.

We have to move with the times and realise that IBC have no business in setting the fares of Taxi Drivers, or any other business. The Taxi market in Ipswich is competitive with a high number of Private Hire firms ensuring that the prices are determined by the market. If you are too expensive you wont get repeat business, that’s how it works.

The law gives Councils the right to set the fares but doesn’t make it mandatory. In these times of severe financial pressures it is senseless to take up valuable Council Officer time on anything that could and should be done by others.

Yes, IBC license Hackney Carriage drivers but it also licences shops selling alcohol, there is no need to extend the long arm of politics into business – I thought this became obvious in

the 1970’s!

Inspiring Community Projects

On Saturday 7th July Cllrs Fisher, Goldsmith & Xhaferaj accepted an invitation to visit the exciting Emmaus project in Dales Road.

Emmaus Suffolk is a new and different way of increasing the chances for the homeless and long term unemployed in Suffolk, entering back into work and have a more fulfilling life. The facilities centre around a thriving second-hand store with the recent addition of a little coffee shop selling a range of drinks and cake (I can recommend the Coffee & Walnut). There is a Workshop where people can upcycle used products, some of which were displayed in the Garden. A vital service are the washing machines which will soon be upgraded to industrial machines with extra work being undertaken to install shower facilities.

After a great tour we were treated to tea and cake in the wonderful garden you can see in the picture. All the work is done by volunteers and it provides benefits on so many levels.

A lot of this work is possible due to funding from the North-West Area Committee. Did you know that each year we have £15,000 to spend on community projects in the North West, which is Castle Hill, Whitton & Whitehouse? Each year we sponsor lots of great causes, some a few hundred pounds and some a few thousand.

This is your money, if you have any ideas, or projects that you working on but need extra help with get in touch. Local Conservative Councillors value the communities that we all share, let us help you make them better.

emmaus-gardendavid-claire office@ipswichconservatives.com