I met with the Karibu African Support Group at Burlington Church Hall. It is the first time I’ve met with them since a very lively and well attended Platinum Jubilee party they held in summer 2022.
I was very pleased to hear they’ve just secured a £127,509 donation from the National Lottery Community Fund. This will enable them to increase the support they offer to a number of vulnerable people throughout the community.
They’re very committed to promoting integration and empowering women.
I was pleased to be able to raise the plight of my constituents at the Mill directly with the Prime Minister today.
The behaviour of NAMA has been shocking and deeply immoral. A huge sum of money was provided for the purpose of tackling many of the remediation issues at the Mill and they have simply run off with it. It may be legal but it is shockingly immoral and the PM should raise with the Irish Taoiseach.
My question to the PM followed the session on the select committee where I got to grill the Fire Safety Minister on other elements of the situation at the Mill, St Francis Tower and Cardinal Lofts.
I hope the Fire Safety Minister will be making another visit soon to Ipswich to meet directly with residents at the Mill and outline a way forward.
PMQs are a great way of really shining a spotlight on injustices and I was pleased that today I had that opportunity.
The year I spent as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme was extremely worthwhile. It gave me a fascinating insight into the lives led by our brave armed forces personnel and the challenges they face.
The scheme took me to north Norway with th Marines artic training, to the Russian border in Estonia, to Cyprus and to Gibralter! I actually met a fair few Ipswich residents along the way who are serving our country overseas.
This is an incredibly good scheme which is incredibly helpful for MPs such as myself who don’t come from a military background. Certainly when we have Defence Questions and Statements I will far more able to make contributions now and next week I will be launching a new Parliamentary Group to help more neurodiverse people to enter the armed forces.
I was pleased to be able to attend a “graduation dinner” a few weeks ago to commemorate my completion of the scheme.
The building safety crisis is clearly a national one. However, I think it’s legitimate to ask why Ipswich has been so badly affected. Hard to think of a place in the country with such a high concentration of buildings that have been impacted.
Certainly seems to be a number of buildings were approved by Ipswich Borough Council that should never have been approved. Buildings that fell short of the building safety regulations at the time.
The situation at The Mill is complex and I will continue to take steps to try and help the over 200 people who have been stuck in a cruel limbo for far too long.
Will continue to meet weekly until all issues resolved. So many answers still to secure.
Meeting with Dr Dan Poulter MP, the River Gipping Trust and Suffolk County Council about making the river more pedestrian friendly
Visited Great Blakenham with Dr Dan Poulter MP, representatives from the River Gipping Trust and Suffolk County Council. Three goals. Making the river fully navigable between Ipswich and Stowmarket for both boats and canoeists/paddle boarding, cleaning up the river particularly in Ipswich, and being able to easily walk the whole length of the river to enjoy the amazing countryside and nature along it.
I have long been campaigning on this issue. I have written to ministers to stress the importance of such a local river and the history behind it, highlighting how it has been used since Roman times.
I have also been working closely with the River Gipping Trust, pushing Ipswich Borough Council, the Government and Environment Agency as well as local developers to bring joined up thinking as well as see that any new developments near the river carefully consider its impacts and how it can become more pedestrian friendly.
I particularly want to see improvements to the pathway beside the river between Princes Street and Stoke bridge, as it links the station to the Waterfront, and I am encouraged by recent positive discussions.
Overall there is about sixteen miles of River Gipping between Ipswich and Stowmarket and due to the height difference between Ipswich and Stowmarket locks are needed to regulate the water levels. As we discussed today one of them, near Claydon, is broken and local groups are trying to source the funds.
Getting the locks installed has been a part of making the River Gipping more accessible and I am continuing to lobby with Dr Poulter MP to see the installation of Lock gates as a priority. There are steep funds for this at 15 million but we cannot allow such a treasured part of our historic town fall into disrepair. This project will make it more accessible to boats and, alongside other plans, will make the river a more environmentally friendly and safer place for our whole town to enjoy.
I know local groups and residents work incredibly hard to see the river is in the best condition and I have expressed my concern that their work isn’t carried forward by a singular public authority. I have been strong in tying these local authorities, agencies and stakeholders together to see a clear vision going forward.
It is still my belief that we should aspire to have the River Gipping in the category of one of our highest valued local resources enjoyed by the whole community. This river represents the whole history of Ipswich and should be looked after as such.
I visited the Park View Care Home to talk to residents. Whilst there I met with General Manager Emma and Mel the Head of Wellbeing. The care home has been open for 11 years and prides themselves in supporting residents by helping them socialise and stay active.
Whilst there I saw their incredible care facilities such as Ipswich Town Football Club Dementia Café and their huge garden, which provides a positive sensory experience.
Recently they have undertaken a major refurbishment, to modernise their facilities, including adding a cinema for residents. They also have facilities for training new staff and encouraging people to engage and take up a role in adult social care.
They have the capacity for 70 residents, but currently have 46, due to the refurbishments. The youngest resident is 74 and the oldest two residents are 101 and I was fortunate enough to meet them both. Speaking to them it was clear how happy they and all residents are at the home.
Fascinating visit to the Combined Cadet Force unit at the Ipswich School. They have about 140 pupils between years 10 and 13 who do this as a Thursday afternoon activity, evenly split between the army and RAF section. It has been operating at the Ipswich school for well over a century.
I have a real interest in the cadet forces as a result of being on the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme for the past year. I really believe that the cadet forces provide fantastic experiences for young people and also helps them to gain invaluable skills and confidence which they can take forward into military and civilian life.
It was great to see the cadets enjoying command tasks, and their skills at arms training and shooting. It is all overseen by Squadron Leader Richard Welbourne and a hugely experienced and dedicated staff team including four regulars, and it also benefits from the support of the Royal Anglians and RAF Regiment.
It’s massively encouraging to hear about ambitious plans to expand the ccf to more state schools. This has already started at Westbourne Academy where the army section is in its third year with 75 cadets already signed up. I’m really keen to see the cadet experience rolled out to more schools in Ipswich so more young can benefit and have offered my support on this.
It was really good to meet with Ayhan and others from Bella Napoli. They’ve been at the heart of fundraising efforts to support all those who have been the victims of the recent devastating earthquake in Turkey/Syria. Bella Napoli has been one of the main collection points for those wishing to make donations.
All in all, 5 large van worth of donations have been sent to Turkey. Temperatures in this part of Turkey are very cold at this time of the year so lots of blanks, electrical heaters and sleeping bags have been donated.
Ipswich has a large Turkish community and sadly a number of my constituents have relatives who have either lost their lives or had their lives turned upside down by this earthquake. It’s heart-warming to see how the local community have come together and been supported by those across the Town.
We also discussed the possibility of a new Turkish community organisation and a centre. The local Turkish community being a lot to the Town in so many different places ways.
Bella Napoli is a great set of restaurants. Good quality but affordable. Very friendly staff. I’ve been to all three many times. Queen Street, Woodbridge Road and Pownall Road!