Pleased to host an Eastern Powerhouse event in Ipswich this afternoon.
The aim of Eastern Powerhouse is to make a strong case for investment in the East of England, and to propel economic growth. They are an independent organisation focussed on making the most of the opportunities we have and ensuring the potential of the region is recognised.
Unleashing the potential of the East of England means making the most of economic opportunities locally, upskilling our local population, and funding our core services.
Projects like Freeport East and Sizewell C present significant economic opportunities – we need to ensure that local people have the skills to seize these new job opportunities. Not only do these project increase employment prospects, but put the East of England on the map domestically and internationally. Historically, Ipswich has been a thriving port town. With the Freeport East close-by and many residents benefitting from trade there, the East of England is taking on increasing international importance.
Taking advantage of these opportunities means demanding investment in our infrastructure and transport. It also means funding core services and investing in skills and education.
Levelling up the East of England is vital. We need to be shown that the Government’s Levelling Up mission is about Ipswich as much as it is about the North and the Midlands. Levelling up Ipswich will come through the community standing together through organisations like the Eastern Powerhouse and demonstrating the potential housed in this region.
I will keep banging the drum for Ipswich and the East of England, and am very pleased to see the organisation Eastern Powerhouse onboard with pushing for fair investment and fostering economic growth.
Meeting with Suffolk Chamber of Commerce
This morning I met the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce to discuss my priorities for Ipswich.
This includes supporting businesses and tackling crime, building a thriving and safer Town centre.
In our meeting I mentioned the work I have been doing on the Education Select Committee with prison education, and how to get disadvantaged young people as well as ex-offenders into work.
We also discussed inflation, and the need to support businesses in Ipswich through challenging economic times. With the cost of living rising, households are struggling to make ends meet as bills creep up. This is a serious concern for many constituents and a big priority for me as the MP, and for the Government.
Devolution was a topic of conversation today too. Devolution can bring benefits like greater control on spending, and usually comes with a greater slice of funding too. This is something we are continuing to consider alongside Suffolk County Council in terms of how to get the best deal for Ipswich.
Apprenticeships were also raised. I am personally very supportive of the hands-on skills that apprenticeships offer. Getting experience in the work-place is valuable and we should be encouraging students to follow the best route for them. Something I would like to see improve is the link between schools and post-16 skills opportunities, giving pupils an introduction to the opportunities available at a younger age.
Working closely with the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is an important component of being an MP, so debriefs like this are very valuable to make sure we are keeping Ipswich moving in the right direction.
Comments on the Queens Speech
In the chamber yesterday I had the chance to comment on the Queen’s speech.
The Queen’s speech outlined the Government’s priorities, and at the top of that list is the cost of living. Of course this is going to be a difficult yet vital challenge to tackle, and it was right for the Government to emphasise this in the speech. I personally feel more can be done to tackle this and I hope the Chancellor will be announcing more measures very soon to help ease the burden of the cost of living.
We also heard about new provisions to improve our town centres, which I welcome. In Ipswich, this is a subject close to our hearts, with some feeling our town centre has gone downhill. It is our main civic place and somewhere we are passionate about. I am pleased that since election in 2019 I have been able to secure £25 million in the Town Deal and I know the improvements have started already.
We have many brilliant small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs. On Monday I brought the Chancellor to meet these passionate and entrepreneurial local people for himself, and to see the Micro-Shops concept.
In Ipswich, we need to continue working on bringing buildings back to life, like old post-office becoming the fantastic new Botanist venue. The new powers of local authorities for compulsory rental auction will help give councils the impetus and the ability to bring these important old buildings back into usage, rather than letting them collect dust.
To increase footfall across high-streets and town centres we must also address constituents’ concerns about anti-social behaviour, with some residents avoiding town at certain times because of this. I urgently want to see enforcement of no-alcohol zones as well as hands-on dispersal of groups causing problems, in order to make this a space where everyone can feel safe and comfortable.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak Visits Local Retailers
While the Chancellor was in Ipswich, I wanted to show him some of our wonderful independent shops. St Peter’s Street is a great example of this. As well as Applaud Coffee, I brought the Chancellor to see Maria in Hug Womenswear and Cathy at OneLove gift shop.
Rishi Sunak also met Antonio, who runs The Italian Shirt Shop. Antonio thanked the Chancellor for his support for small businesses throughout the pandemic – and said that without the drastic action and unprecedented grants, his and many other small businesses wouldn’t have survived.
It’s clear that these unique shops bring a lot of atmosphere to the street. The Chancellor was impressed with the culture of support and commented that it is places like this that really make Ipswich a vibrant town centre and a great place to shop.
Meeting with Google and visit to Microshops
Surprise visitor in ipswich this morning. Big meeting with Google at Portman Road followed by trip to meet business owners along St Peter’s Street and ended up at Microshops-Ipswich on Carr Street.
Many of the businesses we’ve met with have raised numerous concerns over the past few years so it was great for them to be able to meet the Chancellor in person.
Was also really pleased for him to meet with many of the small independent businesses at Microshops. It’s been a great success story giving a foothold to many small independent businesses, many who have no got premises elsewhere in Town.
Meeting the new leadership team at Portman Road
Pleased to be able to meet with the new leadership team at Portman Road this afternoon. Chair Mike O’Leary and Chief Executive Mark Ashton.
A lot of ambition for the club and a determination to make sure it climbs the leagues. Clearly the Premier League needs to be the end goal.
I will be back at the ground tomorrow for the Shrewsbury game and hope Town can find the sort of form necessary to propel them up the table.
Was also pleased to hear about their ambitions to be top custodians of the club and to continue the great work of the Ipswich Town Community Trust across the Town.
Ipswich BMX track
Was great to be at Ipswich BMX track yesterday on Landseer Park. It’s grand reopening after months of work to redevelop the track. It’s been transformed making the track an even greater asset to the local community and Town as a whole.
Tracey Reeve and others have done a great job leading the fundraising efforts. British Cycling made the major contribution here and it was clear when I met with them how much importance they place on supporting grass roots clubs such as Ipswich BMX Club. Ipswich Borough Council also made a contribution and the hope is that the £25 million we got as part of the Town Deal can also make a small contribution to further enhance the facilities.
Clearly excellent resources such as Ipswich BMX track are great from the perspective of encouraging physical exercise but it also gives young people in the area something very positive to get involved in and aspire towards. Potentially even keeping them out of trouble.
As you will know, the track sits at the heart of the Gainsborough community where there are pockets of significant deprivation.
LOCAL SHOPPING PARADE FUND
Good meeting with Azzouz El-Mahraoui earlier this week to discuss the new shopping parade regeneration scheme that has been funded via the £25 million Town Deal. Azzouz will be heading up the taskforce that will manage the scheme.
There will be around £2 million available to invest in supporting shopping parades across the Town. The taskforce will have its first meeting soon where it will be drawing up the process for how the money is distributed.
I’m very keen to ensure that the money is distributed to every corner of the Town and as soon as possible.
There will be extensive public consultation as part of the scheme. I will post more details when I know more.
Chantry Community Charity
Fantastic lunch this afternoon at the multiple award winning Codfellas in Chantry. Every other week that goes by Ozzie and his team seem to receive another reward recognising their fantastic produce.
Main reason for visiting was to discuss the Chantry Community Charity that he has established to raise money for important local causes. There is a box in Codfellas but Ozzie is now looking to distribute them across Chantry. I understand the Kingfisher will be getting hold of some soon.
Two great reasons to donate. There is a promise that every penny is spent on good causes and that every penny will be spent in Chantry.
Port of Felixstowe
Just got back from visiting the Port of Felixstowe. Met with the Chief Operating Officer Clemence Cheng and others.
On the ship behind me there are 22,000 containers apparently. If you lined them all up the line would go on for over 80 miles. From Felixstowe to about Cambridge.
Discussed Freeport East and what this could mean for Ipswich. Over the next 10 years it is predicted that 13,500 new jobs will be on the way. There will be a major focus from the Government to make sure these Freeport’s are a success and I think there could be a significant amount of new investment across a number of different areas.
There is a significant agenda here re education and skills. The hope is that Freeport status will lead to a significant increase in manufacturing, particularly high end manufacturing, taking place locally bringing forward a number of high skilled jobs in the area. We need to make sure that it is local people who benefit from these opportunities.
Ipswich sits in the middle of the Freeport zone and my clear view is that we need to be at the heart of what is happening with the Freeport and benefit to the fullest extent. I will be working closely with the Port and the Government over the next couple of years to make sure this is the case.
Freeport’s are a key benefit that has come about as a result of Brexit.