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.
This week I used my weekly column to talk about the Black Lives Matter UK movement. I have become increasingly concerned that some of the policies they promote, actions they undertake and language they use such as “white privilege” and “white fragility” are doing more to create division within our society. I was shocked and saddened by the brutal murder of George Floyd and fully acknowledge that a number of my constituents have and continue to endure racism but what we need is a unifying message and set of goals that seek to eliminate racism in all its guises without seeking to stoke further division and separateness.
Fortunately we are not America and race is not as divisive an issue in this country as it is across the Atlantic, we all have a duty to ensure this remains the case, this can be done by calling out and dealing with genuine racism whilst at the same time steering clear from organisations that promote a divisive agenda.
Yesterday I was on Channel 5 news to discuss the Court of Appeal’s recent decision to allow terrorist Shamima Begum to return to the UK. We rightly stripped her of her citizenship after she rejected this country and everything it stands for by joining the murderous ISIS terror organisation.
I share the disgust of many at this latest court decision. I’ve said before that the some of the judgements coming out of our courts at the moment just don’t reflect the public interest. And I’ve requested to speak in Parliament next week on the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Bill which will see terrorist offenders spend longer in prison.
Written a piece about the approach I believe we ought to take in tackling the illegal crossings we’ve seen over the past few months. In short, I think we need a more robust approach, one that is prepared to do whatever it takes to get a grip of the situation in the short term. It’s all well and good looking to come to an agreement with France but ultimately if this is not possible we need to be prepared to take the situation into our own hands regardless of international opinion or convention. Australia took a very robust approach and were successful in dealing with a similar challenge.
Our ability to tackle illegal immigration should not be dependent on our ability to strike an agreement with another country. Taking back control of our borders must mean that we are able to deal with this issue by ourselves if necessary. I know a number of you are very concerned about the illegal crossings we’ve seen and I’ve received hundreds of emails and letters on the matter. I share your concerns which is why I’ve published this opinion piece.
This evening I gave a speech about Ipswich’s churches and the effect Covid-19 has had on them. Our churches are fundamental part of the story of our town and they remain central to life in Ipswich today. Their closure has been particularly difficult for many in Ipswich who go to them to worship or to access important community services. That’s why I called on the Government to make support available to them if necessary.
I directly raised two community services provided at churches in Ipswich which sadly won’t be reopening after the lockdown because of the financial pressures of Covid-19 – the Quay Place wellbeing centre at the St Mary at the Quay church near the Waterfront and the Tourist Information Centre at St Stephen’s Church. Both these services have had a hugely positive impact on our town over the years and it won’t feel like going back to normal without them.
But as I said in my speech, both these churches have gone through difficult patches in the past and it’s now up to us to find new uses for them so they can continue to serve future generations. And I’m glad the Minister was able to provide assurances that the Churches Conservation Trust is working to ensure that the St Mary at the Quay church can reopen and serve our community again.
Last week, I also visited the St Lawrence Café at St Lawrence church which has recently reopened. The café has been sorely missed during lockdown and it’s good to see it back up and running. I was able to speak to the wonderful staff there about the challenges around reopening and let them know they have my full backing. I’ve also been in close contact with local church leaders during the Covid-19 outbreak and I’ve been clear that they and their congregations have my full support as Ipswich’s MP. I’ll continue to do everything I can to support all our local churches as we embark on our recovery from the virus.