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.

 

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Our town centre – a mixed picture

Why does the appearance of parts of Ipswich town centre vary from a little bit run-down  to smart and tidy?

You can take a look at the former Queen’s Head public house building at the top of Civic Drive.

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The former Queen’s Head building

It’s a right dilapidated mess with peeling paint and dirty windows. Ipswich Borough Council is the ultimate landlord but does not seem to care about its deteriorated condition. There is a lovely new restaurant next door in the former Iceland store. But the former pub is a prime spot at the entry to the town centre, and lets the town down. The Conservative group at the Borough Council have repeatedly pressed the Labour council gives it a tidy up, but Labour have refused to take any responsibility. Conservative Councillors even offered to paint the exterior themselves but the Labour councillor responsible made an excuse and rejected this generous offer !  It seems the Labour councillors want this area to look scruffy.

There have been a number of homeless people living in tents in the Elm Street and Civic Drive area. On the grass area in Civic Drive, the tents remaining were abandoned and mysteriously caught fire 2 days later and the fire brigade had to extinguish the potentially damaging blaze. Yet the Borough Council took over 2 weeks to tidy up the charred remains and other dumped camping materials. Why didn’t they clear the mess up immediately?

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Before the fire
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Abandoned and burnt out

You can then look at the smartened up Princes Street area from the railway station up to the Civic Drive area. Why is this area so much more attractive now? It is partly because the previous Conservative MP for Ipswich, Ben Gummer, worked with the government and councils to allocate this an Enterprise Zone. This means businesses pay reduced or nil business rates for up to 5 years and the Conservative government reimburses the local authority for their reduced rates. The Borough Council has taken advantage of this, through their arms length company, Ipswich Borough Assets, helping to develop the Birketts building.

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Princes St

So my conclusion is where the Labour Borough Council wants parts of the town to look run-down and scruffy, they do absolutely nothing. But where private sector developers, possibly working in conjunction with a Conservative government initiative, the incentive is there for everyone to work together to improve the visual appearance. The refurbished Buttermarket shopping centre is another great example of private sector money investing in improving Ipswich.

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Buttermarket Shopping Centre

Conservatives grant £1 million to support rough sleepers in the Ipswich area

We all see rough sleepers around Ipswich and some of you may wonder what is being done to help them.

You may remember back in August our Prime Minister Theresa May, promised £100 million of government funding to tackle rough sleeping. She said, “Nobody should have to sleep rough, and that’s why we must do all we can to help the most vulnerable in our society to get the support they need.” We thought you might like to hear how some of this money is being spent in the Ipswich area.

The Conservative government granted £986,500 to Ipswich Borough Council to tackle the issues surrounding homelessness, this is being spent in the following ways:

Firstly, there has been an increase in the number of emergency beds provided. This means if those sleeping on the streets wish for a bed for the night more are available.

However, the reasons why people are sleeping on the streets are complex and a number of interventions are in place to help support rough sleepers into long term solutions. Rough sleeper outreach workers go out and meet people who need help where they are. These outreach workers can support with many problems. In addition to this a special Mental Health Link worker is provided who can help those rough sleepers who suffer with mental health difficulties and two drug and alcohol outreach workers, for those who have addiction issues.

According to Ipswich Borough Council’s official count the number of rough sleepers in Ipswich is falling since funding has come into the town. In the first measurable period, the Conservative government’s funded programmes have helped over 50% of those they have worked with move into some form of accommodation. The programmes continue but this is a very good start.

2018-10-19 17.27.47 editedIf you are worried about someone sleeping rough, send an alert to StreetLink by visiting www.streetlink.org.uk or call 0300 500 0914

 

WE HAVE A CONSERVATIVE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE AT LAST

When the opportunity for a new Association Chairman arose at the beginning of 2018, I jumped at the chance to be elected for this role. Part of my “manifesto” commitment to Ipswich members was to get a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate in place as soon as the central party gave the green light. I pushed our central office to do this, and was delighted that once the local elections were out of the way, we commenced this journey.

The Conservative Party has prescribed candidate selection procedures which have to be followed. These take a while, but culminated in our Special Members Meeting on 27 September, which was moderated by former Suffolk Coastal Conservative Association Chairman, Graham Dines .Our 3 candidates were Alex Deane, Joel Charles and Tom Hunt.

I asked the members to make a good choice for candidate, and they certainly made an excellent decision in voting for Tom. My thanks to Joel and Alex who were also very high quality candidates, and we wish them the best of success. I am sure that they will both make excellent Parliamentary candidates and MPs elsewhere.

Tom has fantastic experience in fighting for what local people want in their communities, as a district councillor and now working for the elected mayor of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, where they are pushing for investment in this region.  His proficiency will now be brought to Ipswich.

The current MP for Ipswich is failing to stand up for what this town needs and does little but complain about what the Conservative government and County Council are doing, and telling the electorate that he knows better than the 38,655 (or 58%)of Ipswich electors who voted for Brexit. Tom is a breath of fresh air and will work constructively with the Councils, Government and Tim Passmore.

John Howard

Ipswich Conservative Association   -Chairman

DSC00153Ipswich Conservative Association   -Chairman

Shopping and car parking-what is happening ?

2018-08-15 12.55.17.jpgWhen talking to residents, two of the most common problems many talk about is shops in Ipswich, and the price of car parking.

SHOPPING.

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.

CAR PARKING.

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.

 

Employment in Ipswich -Which way is it going?

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What is happening with employment and unemployment in Ipswich?

Across the country, that the number of people in work is at a record high. Here in the East of England, employment is up 341,000.

But the claimant count in Ipswich has been going up ever since Sandy Martin replaced Ben Gummer as our MP.

5 years ago, the claimant count was 2515, in June 2017 it was 1745;  now it is 1910.

Down the road in Will Quince’s Conservative Colchester, the equivalent figures are 1830, 1380 and 1395.

For young people under 24, the figures had reduced from 550 to 285 but now it is up to 360. In Colchester, the figures are 450, 300 and 265.

Whilst some of the increases in claimant count is the result of the roll-out of Universal Credit, which does not reflect a deterioration of the local labour market, the ONS says we must treat some of the increase with caution.

But having said that, what is clear is that since Ipswich opted for a Labour MP, more people are now having to claim unemployment benefits. This is so disappointing after all the hard work which Ben Gummer put into improving the prospects for people and now young people especially are being affected.

Whilst we cannot blame Mr Martin directly, what I would suggest is that since he was elected, there is less confidence in Ipswich businesses. The Labour party are happy with this state of affairs as more people having to claim universal credit or other benefits, fulfils their self-fulfilling message of economic doom and gloom.

However despite Labour’s best efforts, it’s not all bad news and the total number of people employed in Ipswich rose from 65,700 in 2014 to 67,300 now, so more people are earning a living. Colchester was 84,500 5 years ago, it now has 96,200 people working, an incredible increase with an ongoing Conservative MP.

Here in Ipswich, we do have a lot of low paid workers, as it is known as a source of cheap labour for East Anglia.  Hundreds of people are sent out on buses every day to Cambridgeshire to do menial jobs.

So to conclude, Ipswich with a Labour run council and now a Labour MP is being left behind the pack in East Anglia. Whereas across so many other areas across the region and country, we are able to celebrate the annual increase in employment of 388,000 and unemployment down 84,000, things are not going completely to plan in this town.

What we need in Ipswich are more Conservative councillors to be elected to the Borough Council. Conservatives have a natural instinct to run organisations effectively and efficiently, and we can help build back the confidence and vision into Ipswich businesses that this town is the ideal place to invest and grow businesses, and excellently placed to take advantage of the promising new opportunities of a globally trading United Kingdom outside the EU.   Let’s develop and grow well paid jobs for our people here in Ipswich.

All data sourced from https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/