Frequently Asked Questions 13th February 2018:
What is your opinion on the recent developments happening in the town? (Upper Orwell Crossing, Cornhill Project, Wine Rack)
I want our town to flourish, and that will require economic investment. Some of that investment is in projects which everyone can support – such as the Winerack – which will improve the look of our town, increase the amount of useable space and make it easier for people to live and work here.
Some investment is in projects which are now being built but which some people oppose – such as the Cornhill. It would be impossible and counterproductive to stop those now, and I hope they succeed in improving our town. In the case of the Cornhill, I feel sure that once it is finished people will come to love it, and it will make our town centre look and feel fresh.
Some is proposed investment in projects which may or may not go ahead, such as the Upper Orwell Crossings. I have already laid out my position in previous articles for Archant, but in short I am wholly in favour of the short bridges to the Wet Dock Island which will help Associated British Ports realise their exciting plans for developing the island, but I am not convinced about the usefulness or affordability of the big bridge – Bridge B – which does not appear to me to meet any of the travel needs of Ipswich.
Do you think the town will benefit from population growth?
Growth can improve a town, but it’s got to be the right sort of growth and it’s got to have the investment needed to be successful. Ipswich can benefit from additional commuters, but only if they spend significant amounts of their leisure time and money in Ipswich, and only if they travel to work in a sustainable way, so town centre commuters are far better for us than edge-of-town commuters. I want more people to be able to work in Ipswich so they don’t have to travel, I want more people to walk and cycle to work so they can be healthier and not cause congestion and pollution, and I want the roads to work better so that people don’t waste so much of their lives in traffic jams. We need to grow our “cutting edge” economy, such as IT and Life Sciences, and our arts-related economy which will make our town more attractive both to tourists and to potential incoming companies. I think the Waterfront is a fantastic focus for both of those things, and our University and Colleges have a central role to play. Although there is a degree of unemployment in Ipswich, the biggest problem is actually low-wage employment. The way to deal with both of those is to increase the level of skills and training – our schools, colleges and apprenticeships are key to a successful future for our town.
New trains will be introduced soon – do you think this will help give Ipswich people more opportunities?
New trains will start to be introduced from May of next year. It will take about 2 years for the whole train fleet to be replaced. Passengers will start to see improvements almost immediately, but the most significant improvements would come from (1) improving parts of the track, including building passing loops so that slow trains don’t hold up fast ones, and (2) improving the Felixstowe to Nuneaton line so that we can get most of the freight trains off the Great Eastern Mainline. Fast access to London does several things – it helps people who want to work for some of the time in London (this will become more and more common as people start to do a lot of their work from home); it encourages people who are thinking of relocating their businesses to Ipswich, so that they can rely on being able to invite clients or investors up from London; it enables more people to visit as tourists, especially foreign tourists, most of whom won’t have cars with them; above all, it will provide a more attractive alternative to driving up and down the A12 which is still the means of transport that most people use to get to London, which will help protect our environment and reduce climate change.
How can the town get back to the economy it had before being hit hard by the recession?
We don’t need to “keep” a stable economy, we need to grow a more modern and sustainable one. Ipswich is in the process of transformation – we can’t go back even if we wanted to. We need to develop exciting new opportunities to replace some of the jobs that are inevitably going to disappear. We need to build a workforce that is skilled and imaginative.
What is your response to Brexit?
I think Brexit is a mistake, but the British people have voted for it and for a Conservative Government. As the elected representative for Ipswich I will continue to do whatever I think is in the best interests of Ipswich, and with Brexit I think that means voting for every measure where I think we can possibly succeed in protecting the economy, jobs and the environment. If, as I suspect, the Conservative Government do not succeed in providing those protections, it won’t be for the want of trying on my part or on the part of the Labour Party. Ipswich voters will then have to decide who they are going to blame for any damage done by Brexit – the Government that led them into it, or the Opposition that did its best to try to soften the blow.
What is your response to the recent stabbings in Ipswich?
The murder of Tavis was tragic and avoidable, but not completely unexpected. Far too many boys – including Tavis – have been involved in gang-related violence before. And teenage girls are involved with the gangs too. All public bodies need to do more to prevent our young people becoming involved in gangs and dealing drugs and carrying knives. We need to work with young people and their parents to stop them wanting to get involved in violent gangs.
What things would benefit Ipswich the most?
- Enough Council Houses to eliminate homelessness in our town
- More resources for our Colleges and Schools, so we could make sure our children and young people got a first rate education
- A road to the north of Ipswich, to provide relief to the town centre and an alternative access to the A12 and A14 to traffic in North East Ipswich, as well as a proper alternative route for vehicles when the Orwell Bridge is closed.
- A first-class freight railway from Felixstowe to Nuneaton, which will improve the profitability of Felixstowe port (a lot of the port workers live in Ipswich), remove a lot of the lorries from the A14, and get many of the freight trains off the mainline to Liverpool Street which currently slow down the other trains.
- A national centre for the creative arts (painting, graphics, sculpture, pottery, textiles) – not just a museum or gallery, but somewhere where people can learn, create, view, enjoy and sell.
What can Labour do to help Ipswich people?
I think there are two questions here – “What can a Labour Borough Council do to improve life in Ipswich” – and “What could a Labour Government do to improve life in Ipswich?” Labour policies are designed to help the people who need the most help, rather than the people who want the biggest tax cuts. The Labour-run Borough Council does its best to provide good public services, such as free bin collections, affordable car parking, council homes, and enjoyable parks and sport opportunities and entertainment. But they are hampered by the Government cuts which prevent local authorities from providing the services that people need and want. I believe that a high-investment high-public-spending philosophy actually benefits every level of society. However much money you may have, surely a good education, an effective Police Force, houses for everyone, and a strong and improving NHS are more important than tax cuts. The dog-in-the-manger attitude of some people who object to public spending tends to reduce the overall capacity of the economy in the long run, so that even those people end up by suffering too. Why not read the Labour Party Manifesto for last year, on the following link here.
With the issues about a lack of council homes, do you think more can be done to utilise land in the area?
Yes, clearly it can, but only if the money is available. The present government has forced Councils to reduce the amount they charge for Council rents, made it even easier for people to exercise the “right to buy” (which often means that the houses involved end up by being privately rented at much higher rents instead of being rented by the council), capped the amount that councils can borrow in order to build, and in some cases such as in Ravenswood actively stepped in to stop the Council from building council houses. No government which was serious about dealing with homelessness would act in this way – the present Government is clearly ideologically opposed to council houses, but Ipswich Borough Council is still committed to building as many as it can, even though the number will be far fewer than it could build if it had the support of a Labour Government.