This week I submitted a letter of objection to the planning application to build 98 dwellings on the site behind Ravenswood Primary School. Opposing new affordable housing in Ipswich is not something I take lightly at all. We do need more housing in our town, including more council houses for Ipswich residents. But unfortunately the Borough Council has come forward with plans in this case which would do more harm than good in their current form.
A number of weeks ago I wrote to every resident in Ravenswood about the plans. I received dozens of responses which overwhelmingly objected to them and I felt this letter was an important representation to make as their MP. I don’t have a formal role in the planning process but I share the key concerns many of my constituents have raised.
Ravenswood has successfully established itself as mixed tenure community with around a 65%/35% split between private and council housing spread throughout the estate. But the Borough Council’s plans turn this on its head with over two-thirds of the homes proposed for social rent and all clustered in single area. This does risk undermining part of what has made Ravenswood a success story of integration and the plans need to take into account the community these homes would become a part of. I am pleased that 10 new starter homes have been allocated in these plans for key workers to get their foot on the property ladder, but I do question why it’s only 10. Now more than ever we are in debt to our local key workers and this would be good opportunity to give more of them the chance to buy their first home in the town.
And before any new development goes ahead and more cars are added to the roads there must be better access for the estate to the road network in place. I’ve personally been caught up in the congestion at the Nacton Road roundabout at rush hour and it’s clear that the addition of more cars to this chokepoint puts Ravenswood in real danger of grinding to a complete standstill. I met again with the County Council today to raise this issue after my Ravenswood survey underlined just how disruptive this bottleneck is. But Ipswich Borough also needs to realise this is a quality of life issue for residents and can’t be brushed under the carpet.
I’ve also mentioned in the letter how local homes for local people are crucial source of public trust in this development. If these plans do go ahead I will work with Ipswich Borough Council to make sure all the new council homes go to people with a strong local connection to Ipswich. This means people on the Borough Council’s waiting list who have lived in Ipswich for over 6 years or who’ve had a strong connection to our town for a similar period of time.
The consultation is now closed but I’ll be monitoring these plans very closely going forward as they go to the Planning Committee. I’m working with Ravenswood’s Residents’ Association and local Conservative Councillors to keep making the case that we need more homes in Ipswich but we need to deliver them in a smart way that respects the distinct communities in our town and brings people with us. I’ll be providing more updates over the coming weeks.
Used a question in the Commons today to ask about the Government’s Kickstart Scheme and how we can make sure as many young people as possible in Ipswich benefit from the job placements it will create. I called on the Government to do this by also prioritising the excellent work being done by local charities like Inspire Suffolk to help young people improve their skills and wellbeing at this crucial point in their lives. This was something I saw first-hand when I visited the charity in Lindbergh Road last month.
It was also encouraging to hear more details about the roll out of the Kickstart Scheme in Ipswich, including the work that’s underway with local employers to get young people onto the Scheme. And that a local youth hub and new apprenticeship positions are being looked into. I’ll be following up on the progress with this over the coming weeks. Covid-19 has increased the challenges but I’ll keep doing everything I can to make sure young people in our town have every opportunity to succeed.
Supporting young people has to be one of our main focuses now Parliament has returned. And today I asked the Education Secretary to continue funding for charities like Inspire Suffolk which works with disadvantaged children in Ipswich and complements the work done by local schools. This is even more important when charities have faced significant difficulties fundraising themselves during Covid-19.
Last week I brought the Childrens Minister to Lindbergh Road to see Inspire Suffolk’s excellent work to run summer activities for children over the summer. Their School Holiday Programme has been backed by Government funding and this type of funding for charities must continue as we face the next challenges like the return to school and addressing the disadvantage gap that’s opened up when schools have been closed.
Charities play an invaluable role in supporting young people across our town and it’s vital that local young people can keep benefiting from the work they do. I’m glad the Education Secretary recognises this and has committed to work with me and local charities to see how Government support can be delivered going forwards. I’ll be working closely with Inspire Suffolk and others on this over the coming weeks.
Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, has welcomed the Government’s decision to reverse course on its earlier plans not to extend the Free School Meal Voucher Scheme over the summer holidays. The Government announced today that a new £120 million Covid summer food fund would be set up to ensure 1.3 million children in the most hard-pressed families receive a food voucher worth £15 a week over the 6 week summer break.
The Government’s change of course follows a number of efforts made by Hunt and other parliamentary colleagues behind the scenes to stress the importance of these vouchers to families facing hardship during Covid-19 and to urge the Government to extend them over the summer holidays. Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford also made a high profile intervention in support of the extension of the Scheme yesterday.
On 5 June, Hunt penned a letter to the Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, detailing his support for the extension of the scheme and highlighting its importance to many families in Ipswich undergoing severe financial pressure and struggling to make ends meet. Hunt’s letter also came in the wake of a study finding that one in four children in Ipswich are living in relative poverty.
Hunt’s correspondence on the 5 June followed an earlier letter which Hunt co-signed as a Member of the Education Committee on 13 May which urged the Minister for Children to look early on into what can be done to extend the free school meal voucher scheme over the Summer holiday.
Today before the Government’s new plans were announced, Hunt was ready to vote against the Government in a motion calling for money to be available to disadvantaged children over the summer holiday.
Following the Government’s announcement today, Tom said:
“I am pleased the Government has listened to the concerns raised and has decided to extend free school meal vouchers over the summer as part of a new fund. This is an issue I have been intimately involved in as a member of the Education Committee and I know that for many families in Ipswich these vouchers are an essential source of support during Covid-19.
“In my letter to the Minister for Children almost two weeks ago, I raised the fact that there are 3 million children at risk of holiday hunger in the UK and that many of them will be children in Ipswich. This is a scenario which must be avoided and I was ready to vote against the Government today on this issue. But I am glad the Government has listened and will now provide a £90 food voucher for the most disadvantaged children over summer.
“The Covid-19 outbreak has been an exceptional time and it’s important we are ready to implement exceptional measures to ensure that no child is left behind. We will be dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on children’s education for many more months and years to come and it would only have compounded these issues if we didn’t do everything it takes to ensure children come through the summer holidays well-nourished.”
Yesterday I had the pleasure to be the guest on the BBC Radio Suffolk Lesley Dolphin show. During my interview I discussed a range of topics including my first week in Parliament, opportunities for people with special educational needs, closures to the Orwell Bridge and long term fixes to our rail network. You can listen to the full interview below.
I was back at the Nansen Road Baptist Church this morning to welcome the Home Secretary Priti Patel to meet the inspirational volunteers behind the reflections youth club.
I write in response to your story in last Tuesday’s Star (“Row breaks out over slogan for Ipswich Tories’ housing policy”).
I find it extraordinary that local Conservatives have been accused of “dog whistle politics” by a former Lib Dem councillor because they are trying to ensure that local people are properly prioritised when it comes to access to council housing. What is so wrong about using the term, “Local homes for local people”.
I note the Labour leader of the council has responded by stating that council housing is not allocated based on the strength of local connection to the Borough but that it’s a major factor. Having looked into the matter I would argue that its not a major enough factor. As it stands anyone can join the local housing register even if they have no connection whatsoever with Ipswich.
If the level of need is exactly the same between someone with a local connection and someone with no local connection, then the person with a local connection will get priority. However, if the person with zero local connection has only slightly greater housing need then they will get priority over someone who may have lived in Ipswich their whole live. I don’t agree with this. We need local housing policies that put the people of Ipswich first.
I support the local Conservative proposal that states clearly that you need to live in Ipswich for at least six years before you’re eligible to join the local housing register and therefore access council housing. This is a sound policy that is practiced in other councils across the country, such as the London Borough of Havering.
When Ipswich Borough Council were asked what proportion of council homes went to people with no connection to the Town compared to those with a connection, they weren’t able to answer the question because they said “the data hasn’t been collected”.
Yes we do need far more affordable housing, both to rent and to buy, but lets make sure Ipswich people are put first.
Conservative PPC, Ipswich