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
We hear often about how we’re living through a “housing crisis”. It has become harder and harder for young people to secure a foothold on the property ladder and in certain areas there often hasn’t been enough affordable housing to go around. The Government have taken some positive actions to address this over recent years but it’s clear to me that a lot more needs to be done.
We know in Ipswich the Borough Council owns a significant amount of council housing. This council housing stock plays a crucial role in providing homes for local people across the Town, many of whom are on low incomes or may be unemployed. It’s vital that there is enough housing of this tenure type to house some of the most vulnerable people in our community. I am fully supportive of the need for there to be more affordable housing for this reason.
However, when it comes to the allocation of council homes in Ipswich, my strong belief is that it should only be local people with a strong connection with the Borough who should be eligible for council housing. In other words, “local homes for local people”. [MG1] A recent Freedom of Information request has shown that this is not currently the case. Ipswich Borough Council do not operate a local residency requirement to join their housing register. Meaning that people with no connection to Ipswich are able to join the Ipswich Borough Council Housing Register to secure council housing. I can’t support this. I’m very glad that Ipswich Conservatives have made clear in their local election manifesto that they would introduce a local residency requirement for council housing and housing association homes.
There are examples across the country of councils that have local residency requirements and it works very well. For example, the London Borough of Havering has a requirement that you have to live in the Borough for over six years before you’re able to qualify to join the local housing register. To me this sounds like a very sensible policy and it’s one that enjoys a significant amount of support locally. Why doesn’t Ipswich Borough Council adopt such a policy? It’s Ipswich council tax payers who pay for the council housing so surely this should be a service which puts them first.
As it stands, if the housing needs of someone with no connection to Ipswich are the same as someone with a local connection, then the person with the local connection will be given priority. This is absolutely right. However, if the housing needs of the person from outside the area and with no connection to Ipswich are higher than someone with a strong local connection, then the person with no local connection will be given priority. In other words, someone without a connection to Ipswich will have higher priority than Ipswich residents if their housing needs are deemed to be greater.
A question has been asked about the proportion of council homes that have been awarded to people with no connection to Ipswich but the Borough Council have not been able to provide this information. The Borough Council state that this information is not collected. I wish it was. It would be very interested to see what percentage of council housing is awarded to people with no connection to Ipswich every year.
So yes, Council housing plays an extremely important role and we clearly need more affordable housing both to rent and to buy. However, when it comes to Ipswich Borough Council-owned housing, let’s make sure it’s “local homes for local people.” The Ipswich Conservatives local election manifesto makes precisely this commitment.
As published in the Ipswich Flyer May Addition.
Last week I visited several areas of Ipswich that have witnessed significant levels of crime related activity over the past few years. I wanted to learn more, talk to residents and gain a greater understanding as to what needs to be done to turn the situation around and ensure that crime rates are falling, not increasing.
Fascinating tour of ABP Port of Ipswich this afternoon with Paul Ager and Andy Constable. Easy to forget its huge importance with the Port of Felixstowe on its door step but it employs over 1,000 people and is the number one grain exporter in the country. Long discussion about the future of the island site and the huge potential it holds for Ipswich.
Good to get the hard hat on again this afternoon in Ipswich. At the Maltings on Princes Street with Mark Pertwee and Vanessa Penn. A pretty wild night club back in the day by the sounds of things but has been sitting empty for 10 years.
New first class office accommodation (approx 24,000 sq ft) should be ready this May. Up to 300 employees could be based there. The Maltings is one of the first buildings you see when you leave Ipswich train station so this is a big positive. Will open at around the same time as the first Winerack apartments become available. Things are really happening!