I was interested to see that the Borough Council are intending to launch a bid to gain City status for Ipswich.
This will be a highly competitive national process with only one place being granted new City status to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year.
I can definitely see that there could be some practical benefits associated with Ipswich becoming a City. However, I do also believe that bound up within this matter are complicated issues to do with local identity that many of my constituents feel differently about.
Ultimately for the bid to be successful I think it’s an absolute must that there is clear public support from the people of Ipswich for the bid. The reality is that we’re going to be up against many different areas where there is clear and enthusiastic public support.
Last week I carried out my own poll which I promoted on social media and which 1000s took part in. I note also that the Ipswich Star carried out its own poll which likely had a higher participation rate that my own one. In my poll 66% rejected the City status bid and 70% rejected it in the Ipswich Star poll.
I take the point that these are hardly scientific polls but ultimately, they’re all we’ve got to go on as it stands. And when I add to it the fact that it’s rarely ever been brought up on the doorstep with me nor in correspondence, I simply don’t think that I’m in a position to say with any degree of confidence that City status is what my constituents want.
I say all this knowing that Ipswich Central strongly back City status. I do sympathise with many of the reasons why local businesses see City status and bringing economic benefits to the Town.
However, bearing in mind this is a significant change from the status quo I think the burden is on those who want to change the status quo to provide evidence of significant support from across the community at every level.
I appreciate that the Borough council have said the bid wouldn’t cost much money or be a distraction from key priorities, but if it were to be done properly it almost certainly would be. And if we weren’t to do it properly what would be the point of doing it?
I don’t think it’s fair to brand those people who are happy for Ipswich to remain a Town as not being ambitious for the place where they live. I can see both sides of the argument and could well see a time in the future where we could really unite together as a community to push for City status. I just don’t see now as being that time.
Ipswich is a great place to live and I’m incredibly proud to represent one of this country’s oldest Towns in Parliament. We don’t need to be a City to achieve what we want to achieve and just because we’re not a City it doesn’t mean we’re a lesser place to, say, Norwich or Chelmsford. Of course, I’d argue we’re a far better place.
My number one focus is and will continue to be addressing all the major issues there are across Town and working with the Borough Council, Ipswich Central and other key partners to deliver the £25 million Town Deal projects whilst keeping an eye open for new opportunities for investment.” — Tom Hunt MP
It really is looking like bridge closures due to strong winds are a thing of the past.
The first time the new 40pmh speed limit on the bridge will be in use. Likely to be the case tomorrow as well. Very pleased that the major disruption associated with bridge closures will be avoided.
This new much more sensible approach which has been made possible by the new electronic signs was a v long time coming but I for one am glad its here.
On the whole, I think this is a really good budget for Ipswich. Clearly there are two items that are specific to Ipswich and the local area that stand out. Firstly, the £25 million that was announced for the Ipswich Town Deal that will fund 11 projects across the Town. These projects have now been confirmed having previously gone out for public consultation and I look forward to working closely with Dr Dan Poulter and other members of the Town Deal Board to turn these projects into a reality and a positive legacy for the Town.
Having Freeport East confirmed as one of the first freeports in the country was also great news. All in all, around 6,000 of my constituents are either directly or indirectly employed by the Port of Felixstowe and I’m very excited about what the implications of the Port being a freeport could mean for skills, jobs and investment in the area.
More generally however, I was also very pleased to see the significant amount of new support for businesses. Particularly the hospitality sector that has been so badly impacted by the pandemic. The recovery grants and the positive news regarding VAT, business rates and duties may well end up being a lifeline for many.
I signed a few letters ahead of the budget with other MPs. I signed one calling for the £20 increase in Universal Credit to be extended for as long as the pandemic and its effects go on for. I’m pleased it was confirmed today that the increase has been extended for 6 months. I also signed a letter calling for fuel duty to be frozen. I’m pleased that it was confirmed today that it has been frozen for a record 10th consecutive year.
I also believe that the decision to extend the furlough scheme until the autumn is wise. Hopefully by the time it ends, the economy will have had a good few months to really kick off following the end of the restrictions and we can safeguard as many of those jobs as possible.
Clearly, over the coming years the Chancellor is going to have to make a number of tough decisions to repay the huge debts we’ve incurred fighting this pandemic. He made a start today in outlining some of the ways he plans to do this. However, I was pleased that in outlining his approach to increasing Corporation Tax over time he is acutely sensitive to the need to not hit smaller businesses.
Back in May, the landlords of the Arcade Tavern pub got in touch with me to highlight the despicable behaviour of their insurance company. I raised in Parliament today how this insurer is refusing to pay out on the Arcade Tavern’s insurance against notifiable diseases by blaming the Government for the pub’s loss of income rather than Covid-19. And using technicalities in the contract’s wording to get out of paying.
This has left the Arcade Tavern facing the double burden of this pandemic while also having to fight for the money they’re entitled to. I’ve already written to the Chancellor and the insurance company in question about this case, but so far nothing has budged and it was appropriate to call out what’s happened to the Arcade Tavern in the Chamber today, and urge the Government to look very unfavourably on insurers who don’t honour their contracts. This mustn’t go without consequence when the pressure on pubs and other businesses in Ipswich has never been greater.
The Arcade Tavern is one of my favourite pubs in Ipswich and it’s not right they’re having to fight for this money when they did the responsible thing by taking out insurance. This case does have all the hallmarks of the small business being stitched up by the bigger one, and the Business Minister was right to describe it as incredibly concerning. I’ll be sharing the letters I’ve received from the Arcade Tavern directly with the Minister so this case can be looked into directly. I won’t let this drop.
This morning I asked the Transport Secretary to communicate very clearly to Highways England Ipswich’s expectation that a speed limit solution to the closures is in place before the next windy winter period. The closures of the Orwell Bridge grind our town to a halt and cause immense disruption to residents and businesses alike. And this was something that came across very clearly in the responses to my surveys in Ravenswood and Chantry recently. It was good that in response to my question the Transport Secretary did send the message very clearly to Highways England today that the timetable mustn’t slip.
He also mentioned the safety work being done by Highways England in a wind tunnel. This wind tunnel was closed due to Covid-19 but I was able to get the work prioritised after I sent a letter to the University in question. I’m glad the Transport Secretary is also expecting this on his desk by the end of this month. I’ve got another progress call with Highways England next month where I’ll be sure to raise the results of the wind tunnel work and the timetable. The pressure on Highways England to deliver must be kept up as we reach the crucial point in this campaign.
Visited the Mansion and Ipswich Museum yesterday to hear about plans to acquire new funding to make significant investments in the offerings over the next couple of years. Significant opportunities for improvements particularly at the Museum where I believe there is greater capacity to tell the story of the Town particularly over the recent past. Would be good to have strong focus on all the different parts of the Town and communities and how they all came to be. There is a slight focus on this towards the end of the Museum exhibition but could be a lot more.
Would be interested to hear all your views. There is currently a public consultation ongoing regarding future plans.
Our town centre is at the heart of life in our town but it faces many challenges which have only been made far greater by Covid-19. That’s why I used a question in Parliament today to call on the Government to release the £25 million Town Deal Funding allocated to Ipswich in the October funding round, in line with our local strategy for the regeneration of our town centre.
A lot of work has gone into developing a clear strategy for our town centre under the Ipswich Vision Partnership, and I hope the Government will recognise that come October.
Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State of Housing, Communities and Local Government who responded to my question today came to Ipswich during the General Election where I gave him a tour of the town centre and made the case for Ipswich to be included in the Fund. Now we’re in the Fund, I’ll continue to do everything I can to make sure Ipswich town centre can benefit as much as possible from it.
Clearly the future of our town centre is far from certain and this money will not be a magic bullet. But it’s a positive step which we must make the most of.