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?

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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.

Fascinating tour of ABP Port of Ipswich

Fascinating tour of ABP Port of Ipswich this afternoon with Paul Ager and Andy Constable. Easy to forget its huge importance with the Port of Felixstowe on its door step but it employs over 1,000 people and is the number one grain exporter in the country. Long discussion about the future of the island site and the huge potential it holds for Ipswich.

Liz on Planning

When you first become a Councillor, apart from the great honour and excitement you, feel it changes your life completely.  Suddenly, residents are asking you for help: some with very private and sad issues, others asking for help on matters that involve, perhaps, a whole area.  When I was first elected, back in 2002, one of the biggest issues that came to light was a planning application for building on the area known as the Woodland off Mitre Way.  This application and subsequent ones failed, which was purely because the residents came together to fight the applicant and even this year we have been successful again.  In Holywells Ward we have had some really testing issues over the years:  traffic lights at the top of Bishops Hill; the proposed large bridge so close to Cliff Lane and still ongoing; a proposal to put a supermarket where Holmes Oak Court is now right next to the Park; not cutting the grass along Nacton Road and Clapgate Lane and many more.  So working together the Power of the People is a very successful tool.

Often services are improved in the area you represent because of your work with the community – pavements, grass cutting, road improvements including calming measures, parking issues, the need for more buses, bus shelters, more police the list is endless.  Councillors just have to be persistent.

In Holywells Ward, Associated British Ports is very important.  Not only does it employ local people it plays a big part in the community.  This is also the case with the University and Suffolk New College and having students living amongst us is a great asset locally and for the rest of the town.  It is also important to involve local businesses, restaurants and to promote local charities in their work in the town and in the Ward you represent.

I have to say over the 16 years I have been a Councillor I have found residents are keen to improve their local areas and to help where they can by taking part in community events.  I have also found that the schools, churches, Friends Groups, charities, Community Interest Companies and businesses all pull together when there is a need and I have been very proud to help and to represent them and the residents in Holywells Ward.

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,

 

 

 

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

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.