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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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.

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

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.

 

 

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

 

Being a leading lady

(By Liz Harsant, as published in Waterfront Life)

When I was younger I took a great interest in two incredible ladies: Jennie Churchill (the mother of Winston), who was the cornerstone of high society, and behind the scenes a political dynamo when women were afforded few freedoms; the other was Nancy Astor – the first woman to sit in Parliament. Her campaigning spirit and enthusiasm for politics was
formidable and she championed many causes on behalf of underprivileged women and children. Strangely, they were both American, but I felt their lives were something I would love to emulate.

I became leader of Ipswich Borough Council in 2004 – the first female ever to hold that position, and at the moment; the last! It was a great privilege albeit rather daunting, and a realisation that I was often the only female in the room. To fight my corner and that of Ipswich I had to toughen up. However, the friendships and interests I formed during those 6 ½ years will always remain with me. I couldn’t write this article without mentioning Margaret Thatcher, who I was privileged to meet, and when you read her biography you realise what a hard time she had to achieve what she did. Every obstacle was put in her way but her determination shone through. Mrs May, our present Prime Minister, has more
than a hard job on her plate. I sometimes wonder how differently her negotiations would be if she was a man!

People ask ‘what are the advantages of being in local politics and what do you actually get out of it?’ Well, it goes back to my two heroines’ love of politics and the desire to help wherever I can and the great satisfaction that brings. What I have discovered over my years in politics is, although times are changing, we need more women to take part in local
politics and aspire to go further. I also realise that it is never easy to enter this world when you have young children, but local government recognises this now and tries very hard to accommodate young mothers. If you love politics then don’t leave it too long: us girls are breaking through the glass ceiling, so just go for it. I would be very happy to help.

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.