ST FRANCIS TOWER
I was very disturbed by what I witnessed during my visit to St Francis Tower yesterday to meet residents. A massive shrink wrap now covers the Tower. My constituents are literally living in the dark, virtually no natural sun light. No consultation and they’ve been told it could all last 18 months.
Bizarrely construction work on the building hasn’t even started. I fear that this will be debilitating to the mental health of my constituents.
The building manager has shown a total lack of respect and regard to St Francis Road residents and it cannot continue.
I have already written one letter to the building manager but will be sending a second very strongly worded letter following my visit. I will also be alerting the Housing Minister and raising in Parliament as many times as I need to until this is sorted.
As a word “angry” doesn’t do justice to the emotions I felt when I left the Tower.
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
Levelling Up Agenda
This week I have written my weekly column on illegal immigration and on why the views of some prominent members in the SNP and the Labour Party mean they shouldn’t be in power.
The tendency of certain factions in the Labour Party to be weak on illegal immigration was shown last Thursday, when two men were in the process of being deported by the police in Glasgow.
A crowd of activists thronged the police vans and held them in a stand-off until the police were forced to release them from the van. These activists on the ground were joined by a chorus of Labour MPs applauding them on Twitter.
Nadia Whittome MP tweeted: “This is what solidarity looks like. When the Home Office carried out an immigration raid on two Muslim men during Eid the people of Glasgow got their neighbours released.”
This was echoed by Angela Rayner MP, Sir Kier Starmer’s deputy, Zarah Sultana MP and Bell Rebeiro-Addy MP, to name but a few. Each of them mentioned the fact that it was the Muslim festival of Eid. They were also joined by the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, who was the Scottish justice secretary at the time – not company I would like to keep.
Unsurprisingly, these Labour MPs jumping on the activist bandwagon had no idea what they are talking about.
Firstly, Sumit Sehdev and Lakhvir Singh, the men being taken away by the Home Office and the police were not Muslim – they were members of the Sikh community. They were from India, a democracy which doesn’t regularly torture or persecute its citizens. Their visas had expired, with at least one having been expired as long ago as 2016.
Secondly, it seems odd to me that activists and MPs are suggesting that we should somehow suspend our laws on illegal immigration when it suits them. We can’t have a bar on applying the law during Muslim holidays, or any other festivals for that matter.
Thirdly, it is clear to me that this stance is not going to be an election winner for the Labour Party. 77% of the public thought that illegal immigration was a serious issue facing the UK in 2018, and 62% of Britons say those arriving illegally via the Channel do not need to claim asylum in Britain and should be sent back. I agree with this. France is a safe country and people crossing from Calais are not escaping persecution. Moreover, encouraging illegal immigration like these Labour and SNP politicians are doing is not compassionate. It encourages vile human traffickers to take advantage of vulnerable people and wastes our resources processing people who should not be here when we should be focussing on people coming from the most dangerous parts of the world and the most horrid persecution.
If only the Labour party chose to actually listen to the people who they are trying to win votes from, they might do better in elections!
Common Sense Conservatism
Today the Common Sense Group of MPs have launched our new book, Common Sense: conservative thinking for a post-liberal age, which covers a range of topics.
I have contributed a chapter, co-authored with Chris Loder MP, on ‘Taking the Politics out of Policing’ which is an area I have spoken about since I was elected.
I have been a member of the Common Sense Group since its founding shortly after the 2019 general election and think it is incredibly important as a way of voicing some of the concerns of ordinary people that I speak to in Ipswich. It allows us as MPs to put pressure on the Government on some key issues such as tougher policing. The expectation of our voters is for a government that reflects the will of the people, rather than pandering to the peculiar preoccupations of the liberal elite and the distorted priorities of left-wing activists. This is why we have written this book.
In my chapter I have written about the creeping role of the force in policing public discourse, particularly with regards to the recording of non-crime hate incidents. These are incidents which are registered without being crimes and despite being non-evidenced and yet they are formally recorded and can even show up during DBS checks when applying for work. This is unacceptable. It has a chilling effect on free speech and allows the police to be used as a weapon by ideologically driven activists who unfortunately think they should be able to control what people say.
It is very clear to me from knocking on doors in Ipswich that the vast majority of people want to see more police out in our town doing what they do best – protecting us from dangerous crime and anti-social behaviour on our streets. This is the people’s priority, but also that of regular police officers. They want don’t want to have to waste their time investigating offensive jokes made on Facebook which don’t constitute a crime, but sadly this is exactly what the College of Policing Guidance tells them that they must do.
I have welcomed the 20,000 new police officers being introduced by the Government and have spoken at length about wanting to push for a fairer funding deal for police in Ipswich. But I think that is just one half of the approach we need to be taking. I believe that we should be creating a framework for policing which ditches the ambiguous guidance about non-crime hate incidents, cuts bureaucracy and paperwork and allows them to do their jobs. This would be a framework which incentivises them to deal with actual crimes.
I have also written about amending the Public Order Act 1986 to enable police to more effectively deal with the most disruptive protests that have taken place over the past year. There is a place in our society for protest, but the police need to be able to act effectively when things become violent and intimidating. As previously stated, I am also a firm believer of the need to get more police on the streets which is another proposal I have recommended in my chapter.
There are a range of other issues tackled in my chapter and across the book as a whole, and I am looking forward to continued discussion in parliament on all of these.
NEW 40 MPH LIMIT IN USE FOR FIRST TIME
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.
IP3 GOOD NEIGHBOURHOOD SCHEME
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.
Christian Leaders Conference
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.
Local Homes for Local People
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.