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.

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More Money in Your Pocket!

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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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

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/