I was glad to be invited to attend a meeting of the IP3 Good Neighbourhood Scheme (“IP3”) yesterday evening to say a few words and hear about the work that they have been doing to benefit the local community.
The group covers a big chunk of the Southeast of Town in Holywells, Gainsborough, Priory Heath, and some of Bixley and during what has been a really tough year they have stepped up to support the area. They have been handing out food parcels, collecting prescriptions, and talking to vulnerable people on the telephone. They have also done a lot of litter picking!
Last year when the pandemic first hit, I set up a “Talks with Tom” phone line to offer company to vulnerable elderly people who were shielding over the pandemic. I wrote to over 7,000 people over the age of 70 offering my support and I had lots of chats with my elderly constituents.
IP3 are also hoping to run some coffee mornings when restrictions are eased so that people can meet face to face again and socialise to take care of their mental health.
Last May I also shaved my head to raise money for AgeUK Suffolk as they had been struggling to stay afloat with a presence in our town. I managed to raise around £3,000 but unfortunately, they folded just after the money was raised which was a big shame. At the time I was very concerned that there would be a deficit for the services that they provided in Ipswich but local community organisations really stepped up to fill in where there was need and IP3 is a fantastic example of this.
I am really grateful to the huge group of volunteers they have assembled to help the most vulnerable and I think it is great that they are now seeking charitable status which will make fundraising much easier for them. I am very keen to support IP3 in getting this charitable status and in any way I can to help them to keep improving the local community.
I was privileged to be asked to speak at the Ipswich Christian Leaders Conference last Thursday.
Our Churches have played a crucial role over the past year. They have had to adapt and change in ways I can’t imagine any were expecting but they’ve been successful in doing so.
Not only have they provided invaluable spiritual and mental support to huge numbers across Town through initiatives such as the BASIC community pop-up shops they have also providing a great deal of practical support to those most in need.
It was incredibly uplifting to hear their vision for the future and their passion and hope for the Town. I look forward to working closely with them all in future.
Despite calling for one for the last 2 years it’s a shame that the local Labour Party refuse to introduce a proper local residency requirement for council housing. Local people get slight preference, that’s it as it stands.
What we need is a firm policy. Local Conservatives are proposing a new system that would mean you would have to live in Ipswich for at least 6 years before you’re eligible. They’ve studied other local authorities who have done this. No reason why we can’t do it here in Ipswich.
There is a long waiting list in the thousands for council properties. Let’s properly back local residents for all properties.
On Tuesday, Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch spoke in Parliament about the release of the Sewell Report on Race and Ethnic Disparities as well as some of the abuse the commissioners had been facing from organisations and even from Labour Members of Parliament.
I wanted to raise with the Minister concerns about certain organisations pre-judging the Sewell report for political ends without actually fairly assessing the findings.
One concerning example is the Runnymede Trust which organised a campaign against the report over a week before it was even published and broadcasted a livestream event with Patrick Vernon, Chair of Labour’s Race Equality Advisory Group where they argued that the report authors were equivalent to “Holocaust deniers being asked to develop a strategy on antisemitism”.
I asked if the Minister agreed that not only does this kind of bad faith political action undermine the Runnymede Trust’s charitable objective of improving race relations, but that their shameful treatment of the report’s commissioners may actually discourage ethnic minorities from contributing to public life and public debate.
The Minister explained that the action was part of the climate of intimidation surrounding the report’s authors and outlined how the Runnymede Trust is now the subject of a complaint to the Charity Commission.
One of these complaints describes some of the horrific behaviour of the Trust’s CEO and staff towards ethnic minorities who have a different approach to racial equality. Kemi Badenoch explained that it included calling a black Conservative a “house negro” as well as horrific views on mixed-race relationships expressed by one staff member comparing white people having relationships with black people to slave masters sleeping with their slaves. I do not believe that these actions are appropriate for a charity committed to racial equality.
It is notable as well that just before I spoke, the Labour MP, Dawn Butler even accused Kemi Badenoch of being a “racial gatekeeper”. Kemi replied that it was disgusting behaviour and that the fact that Dawn Butler MP stood up in Parliament to ‘use that phrase without any shame whatsoever just shows how far the Labour party has fallen’.
It is clear to me that some people are simply unable to have rational debates about these topics. I think it was right for Kemi Badenoch to condemn the attacks on the authors of the report and to fight back against the insults thrown at her from Labour MPs. Ultimately, it is ok for people to disagree about what to do with the findings of the report, but it is not ok to spread misinformation about the report or its authors.
I wanted to write to Michelle and Mal at Aqua Pharmacy to congratulate them on the milestone that they reached last week of delivering their 10,000th dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
It is great that they are now delivering 2nd doses and that they have even started with vaccinations for the 45 and overs. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we discussed the initial idea of Aqua Pharmacy becoming a vaccination centre.
I have visited them a number of times and have helped them on a number of key issues over the past few months and I really just wanted to thank them for all of their efforts to help Ipswich combat this pandemic.
Just received an Ipswich Labour “leaflet” through my door.
Very surprising to see that there is no mention at all of the £25 million Ipswich will be getting from the Government as part of the Stronger Town’s Fund. I guess even they found it too hard to try to claim credit for something they strongly dismissed as an “election bribe” and something that would never happen.
However, they did find space in their leaflet to launch a full-frontal attack on me and my record as the Town’s MP. I thought it was only fair for me to respond to their charges one by one.
ORWELL BRIDGE: “Broken his promise”. I think out of all the charges thrown at me this is probably the most comical. Since my election I’ve even been nicknamed by some of my colleagues as “Mr Orwell Bridge” for the amount I’ve gone on about it. I’ve been incredibly robust with Highways England in calling for a solution to the bridge closures. Fortunately, we are now at a point where a new speed limit is being introduced during periods of high wind that should eliminate the need for frequent closures of the bridge.
Some of you may remember that I even held a special debate purely about the Orwell Bridge in Parliament on the matter. Is this something the former Labour MP even contemplated?
After years of chaos associated with Orwell Bridge closures we are about to turn a corner and after years of inaction by Ipswich Labour and their former MP, instead of putting politics aside and acknowledging the work I’ve done, all they can do is pour scorn on me.
Last month I was up on the bridge in the early hours monitoring the works and hope to be up there again in the next few days to see the finished work.
ORTHOPAEDIC SERVICES: “FAILED”. Again, after the Orwell Bridge probably the local issue I’ve been most active on. Like with the Bridge I held a special debate in Parliament to raise my concerns and to oppose the relocation of elective orthopaedic services from Ipswich to Colchester Hospital. I’m disappointed with the outcome and I continue to raise concerns about the merger between Ipswich and Colchester Hospital. When it comes to who fought harder for Ipswich on this issue? Me, my Labour predecessor or the Labour council, I think its pretty clear what the answer is.
The reality is I came to this late in the day after inaction by my Labour predecessor and to a certain extent the decision had already been made. I did what I could, but we got the outcome we got and I’m determined to make the best of it.
I was also very much involved in Ipswich Hospital securing over £5 million in funding from the Government for a new Molecular Laboratory which has helped the Hospital dramatically increase its testing capacity and it will also provide long term benefits such as improved cancer diagnosis.
NORTHERN BYPASS: “QUICKLY GAVE UP”. This is a lie. I haven’t given up. In the short-term my focus has been getting the Orwell Bridge resolved but my long-term focus remains the Northern Bypass. A decision was made not to progress plans due to neighbouring local authorities not being prepared to take on all the additional housing necessary to help fund the project. I’ve challenged this and with the new Freeport in Felixstowe the case for the bypass has only got stronger.
NHS heroes: “REFUSED”. Lies again. I didn’t attend a meeting organised by the local branch of the Trades Union Congress TUC (a Labour Party affiliated organisation) for all key workers due to the abuse and threats I’ve received from some of its members/supporters in the past. The idea that I’ve point blank refused to meet with NHS workers who are constituents is a 100% lie. Throughout the pandemic I’ve written many letters on behalf of constituents who work in the NHS about their pay and conditions. Of course, my door is always open to them.
A-LEVEL RESULTS: “FAILED TO SPEAK OUT”. The truth is that I was on the Education Select Committee which produced a report ahead of last summers exam series warning OFQUAL about the effect that having an algorithm might have on that year’s results. I was outspoken in my views. Another lie.
Interesting that the Labour Party had nothing to say on this whole issue of awarding exam results when you’ve had no exams, until it all went wrong and then “Captain Hindsight” Starmer came to the rescue!
CLOSURE of SCHOOLS IN JANUARY: “HID AWAY”. I have no idea what Ipswich Labour actually mean by this. Other than the fact that I was literally locked away for a week during this time due to having to self-isolate because I’d tested positive for COVID-19.
CHILDREN’S CENTRES: “STAYED SILENT”. Another lie. I issued a statement. The statement largely welcomed the new family hubs and addressed many of the mistruths and scare stories put out by the local Labour Party. I do however continue to monitor developments closely. I must add though, that this year I haven’t, from what I recall, received a single piece of correspondence from a constituent complaining about how the new system is working.
FREE SCHOOL MEALS: “VOTED AGAINST”. I voted against a non-binding motion in Parliament. Eligible children in Ipswich and Suffolk continue to receive free school meals during the holidays. This has been funded by the unprecedented COVID WINTER GRANT SCHEME (£2 million was given to Suffolk).
ALLOCATION of POLICE OFFICERS: “SAID NOTHING”. Ipswich and Suffolk have had increased numbers of police officers benefitting from the Prime Minister’s plan to introduce 25,000 new police officers. I have been a keen advocate calling for the national funding formula to change so that Ipswich gets a much better deal.
EASING LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS: “CALLED FOR”. I signed letter calling for lockdown restrictions to be lifted at the end of May. By the rate of progress we are making at the moment, and bearing in mind that at the end of March every over fifty has already been vaccinated, what is problem with that? Think about where we will be in the next two months. Would Ipswich Labour rather us be locked down throughout the summer?
If this diatribe of lies is the best that Ipswich labour can do, then my only conclusion can be that Ipswich deserves better, and quite frankly, bring it on.