Small and Medium Enterprise Roundtable
This morning I was at a Roundtable event hosted by the Federation of Small Businesses, at Epsilon House.
With many local businesses and Ipswich-based entrepreneurs represented at the table, it was a good opportunity to hear directly about the challenges they currently face.
We talked about how to encourage shoppers and footfall in the town centre. Feeling safe and comfortable on the high-streets is central to this. The local business leaders here agreed that anti-social behaviour is keeping some people away. Following my meeting with the Minister for Crime and Policing yesterday, this is something I will be continuing to keep a close eye on.
Of course the cost of living situation was raised, with impacts on small businesses at the forefront of the agenda. I heard about how fuel costs are affecting our small businesses, as well as costs of other raw materials.
I also heard about the current situation with staffing. Some of the businesses here told me that they were advertising for positions that they weren’t able to fill. At the moment, young people in Ipswich often seek opportunities elsewhere – like apprenticeships in London. We need to be supporting young people in Ipswich to take on local apprenticeships and gain the right skills here, which match up to the jobs on offer.
I’ll be speaking at an event this afternoon about how to make the most of the East of England’s economic opportunities. Skills and apprenticeships for young people in Ipswich is definitely something on my agenda and I will be mentioning it this afternoon.
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.
Minister for Crime and Policing visit to Ipswich
Today I brought the Minister for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse, to Ipswich.
We have seen a spat of antisocial behaviour and vandalism affecting local independent businesses, so I wanted to talk to the Minister about preventing crime in the Town centre.
When I speak to residents, one of the main comments I get is that they want to see more uniformed officers on the street. Through the national Police Uplift Programme, the Government is recruiting 20,000 police officers in England and Wales to deliver more police officers and increase visibility. Today, the Minister came to meet the new recruits in Suffolk Constabulary’s Neighbourhood Crime Proactive Team, ‘the Kestrel Team’.
I also took the Minister to Dial Lane, where we have sadly seen some acts of vandalism affecting shops, and even the brand new Big Hoot owl. We discussed concerns of local shop owners here, particularly the need for CCTV in the area to reduce anti-social behaviour.
Thank you to Minister Kit Malthouse for coming to Ipswich, and for a productive discussion on preventing crime and anti-social behaviour in our Town centre.
Train Service Disruptions
So often it feels that train service provision at weekends is an afterthought. How often have we been stuck using rail replacement buses at the weekend? If I never see Newbury Park tube station again it will be too soon!
Of the four days over the next few weeks where there will be strikes on Greater Anglia lines two will be on a Saturday. I appreciate that everything should be done to avoid disruption Mon-Fri but disruption at the weekend is not pain free. There are significant consequences for local businesses, people who want to get to work and to travel for leisure purposes. I was pleased that in response to my question the Transport Secretary said we need to move to a proper 7 day per week train service that we can rely on. I was also interested to hear the Secretary of State point out that post pandemic the biggest increases in customers coming back to use train services is actually at the weekend.
I appreciate the work Greater Anglia staff carry out; a number will be my constituents. I’ve met many at Ipswich station and I’ve always found them polite and courteous. This hasn’t always been the case at London Liverpool Street I must add!
However, the fact remains that many of my constituents who rely upon the train service will be greatly inconvenienced by this week’s strike activity and will also most likely be on salaries below that of the majority of those who are striking. This is something I’m sure some will find deeply frustrating.
Jubilee Card Competition
After 14 schools entered over 1000 cards for my Jubilee Card Competition I had the very difficult task of picking out a winner. With so many entries this surpassed my Christmas Card competition last year. It’s great to see so many students wanting to wish the Queen a happy Platinum Jubilee.
This was obviously a really hard decision to make as we have so many fantastic artists in Ipswich. We had cards of all styles with some bright colours and different ideas for designs. With much deliberation I am pleased to announce that Freya-Nicole, a Year 6 pupil at Ranelagh Primary school has won the competition.
I was pleased to present Freya-Nicole with her own personal version of the card that will be sent to her majesty on behalf of myself and all the people of Ipswich. With so many great entries, many students who entered will be getting certificates to congratulate them on their great efforts.
Whilst at Ranelagh Primary, I met many of the pupils who also sang a song for the Queen on this special occasion. I’m proud to see pupils in Ipswich feel so strongly about our Queen. Well done to all the pupils who entered!
It’s clear that Ipswich is gearing up for the Jubilee Celebrations next week to celebrate this incredible milestone!