Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


Ipswich Borough Full Council Meeting: 29th January 2014

Last Wednesday’s Full Council may well be the last I attend for quite sometime as I am moving out of the area so I thought I’d make an effort to witness the political shenanigans one last time.

I won’t give a verbatim report, as now you can watch and listen to the entire meeting of the councillors who bothered to turn up (the Mayor’s apology list was nearly as long as the attendance list!) courtesy of the Ipswich Spy parish (scroll down for video).

Even with the apologies from all parties, Labour still rule the roost in Ipswich with three long rows occupied by the socialists with the Liberal Democrats (all two of them!) and the Conservative Group shuffled off to the far side of the room. It will only get worse come the May local elections when, as I have predicted before, there will be another bloodbath of the blues. Thankfully, it will be the high water mark for Labour but the Tories will be out of power for up to 20 years (and that’s no exaggeration).

Council Questions covered a broad range of subjects and were kicked off by local Tory blogger, Kevin Algar, who asked questions on tourism and facilitating social media reporting. It was somewhat amusing to hear Mr Algar ask what the council were doing to facilitate filming of public meetings, whilst Ipswich Spy‘s Ben Redsell was filming to his right hand side. A case of being a bit late to the party!

Mr Algar also encouraged the ruling Labour group to have Ipswich Borough Council meetings in Suffolk County Council’s head office because it is set up for webcasting. Rightly, Labour leader Cllr Ellesmere slapped him down and pointed out Ipswich Borough should have their meetings in their Council chamber in the magnificent Town Hall not a corporate office block.

The questions on tourism from Kevin Algar were typically not answered by Labour’s Economic Development chief Cllr Carole Jones. She has a perfect ability to just waffle a reply to any question which – if you can hear her rather grating and whining voice at all – are couched in local government speak to the point of incomprehension. 

For some reason only known to Cllr Kym Stroet, he asked a question to Labour’s culture spokesman Cllr Bryony Rudkin which managed to reignite the Broomhill Pool row. “Does the portfolio holder believe that spending £1 million on a lido, likely to be used by very few people, is a wise use of taxpayers money?”, Cllr Stroet posed. This caused an uproar of heckling from the public gallery. Now, I’m not in a favour of any public money being given to starting up an outside pool business, which very few people want to pay to use, but there are a lot of people in North West Ipswich who are exercised by the Broomhill Pool nostalgia – and most of them vote in seats the Tories are trying to win or hold on to! Baffling.

Labour’s housing chief from the 1970s and also in the year 2014, Cllr John Mowles, was asked a question by former Tory group leader Cllr John Carnall about the decision by the Council to knock two homes together to house an unemployed couple and their (now) thirteen children and why he didn’t listen to the 84 petitioners who were against the move at a cost which is now almost three times the original budget. “I have no intention of discussing this and I am surprised this was raised and it disappointments me and demoralises councillors when such a question is asked – it should not be aired in public!”, Cllr Mowles replied. What on earth is he talking about? The council is spending a large chunk of taxpayer’s money commensurate with the Borough Council’s relatively small budget and Cllr Mowles has the audacity to say it is an issue which should not be raised in public. This smacks of Labour not wanting to discuss a subject they are ideologically influenced by and was boosted by Cllr Sandy Martin saying during the Council Rent Increase report later in the meeting he would prefer to see everybody in Ipswich live in a council house! Well, if he is that keen on living in a council-owned property, why doesn’t he move down the road from his privately rented cottage on Milton Street to the Priory Heath estate?

As was decided at last week’s Executive meeting (the real power-base of the Council), Full Council on Wednesday was asked to rubber-stamp a 5.5% increase in council house rent. Several Tory councillors asked how this policy ties in with Labour nationally always bleating on about the “cost of living crisis” – no answer did cometh from Cllr Mowles or Labour leader Cllr Ellesmere except to say they were “only following Government guidelines”. Conservative Cllr Carnall retorted the only reason rents were going up was to fund the new Council home building programme done to bolster Cllr Ellesmere’s Labour parliamentary campaign. There’s more than a grain of truth in that statement!

Later in the same meeting, there was a report discussing business rates and the Government’s plan to let Councils keep most of the money raised (before the Coalition came to power, all of the business rates were sent to Whitehall for re-distribution into Labour heartlands). Supposedly, there has been a few issues with the paperwork and Grafton House mandarins haven’t been able file their documentation to Whitehall yet.

The Labour group naturally blamed central Government and Cllr Ellesmere used the opportunity to let the Council know he was still waiting for Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, to tell him the council tax increase percentage threshold at which the Borough must ask permission of residents in a referendum – no doubt so he can lower it by 0.0.1% and then that will be this year’s council tax increase in Ipswich! Just for the record, Government guidelines stipulate council tax should be frozen but it seems the Labour-run council are ignoring the guidelines when it suits them.

There was an interesting report from Labour’s rising-star and Borough communities chief, Cllr Adam Leeder, where he told the meeting Area Committees were receiving new powers, mainly to do with being able to spend their budget as they see fit rather than always deferring back to the Executive. The points of interest weren’t in the detail of the report but in the debate amongst councillors. Cllr Sandy Martin made the most pertinent point when he told the meeting just one Area Committee represents a greater population size than any parish or town council in the rest of Suffolk, but still Conservative-run Suffolk County Council were not engaging with Ipswich’s Area Committees despite actively engaging with a Parish council in Lavenham or Bury St Edmunds Town Council. You just need to look at Suffolk County Council’s ‘Find your County Councillor’ site, where Ipswich is relegated to a ‘Parish’ to see the point!

This is one of the most powerful arguments for Ipswich being a Unitary Authority. Ipswich Borough Council has very little power, apart from planning application matters. All the roads, verges and any changes to traffic flow in the town are in the hands of Suffolk County Council; earlier in the meeting, Liberal Democrat Cllr Inga Lockington raised the condition of grass verges in the estates of Ipswich since the County Council took away the Highway Authority from Ipswich (meaning no decisions on anything to do with transport are now taken by the Borough Council) and low and behold it is nigh on impossible to get a verge repaired in Ipswich because it is like trying to climb Mount Everest to get it in the hands of a bureaucrat at Endeavour House, who has the whole of Suffolk to look after. Additionally, all the local authority schools are run from Endeavour House and as Cllr Martin made patently clear, the corporate structure at the County Council doesn’t even recognise the main conduit of communication between the electorate and their councillors. It is as if Ipswich is East Germany behind a modern day Berlin Wall, out of sight of County leader Mark Bee and his Cabinet in the “West”.

Despite Labour’s Cllr Martin articulating the raw deal Ipswich receives from Suffolk County Council, it was pointed out by Cllr Carnall that Ipswich has 11 Labour county councillors compared to just the one Tory in the Borough and perhaps they should get on with lobbying the County Council on behalf of Ipswich and its residents.

Another notable aspect of the Council meeting on Wednesday were the number of people in attendance to ask and support questions on the proposed Northern Fringe development. Questions on sewerage, traffic congestion and the New Homes Bonus were asked – all with an anti-development slant. Both Labour and the Conservatives (who cares what the Liberals think!) are in favour of building houses on the northern outskirts of Ipswich’s borough boundary; it was the Tories who approved it in the Local Development Framework when they were in power before 2011 and Labour are naturally in favour of upping the number of social houses built. So it really has become now a Town versus Country issue. As soon as the Council Questions were over, there was a mass exodus of rich baby boomers and their flat caps as they traipsed back to the 4X4s and their pretty villages. God forbid Ipswich will have more houses for their children to live in!

And this was the main thrust of the meeting, all two hours of it filmed below for your infotainment. Next time, Ipswich Spy won’t have to beg the Grafton House mandarins for permission, as the right for public meetings to be filmed by bloggers and the mainstream media is now enshrined in law, courtesy of Eric Pickles’ Local Audit and Accountability Bill which obtained Royal Assent the next day.

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Yeo deselection latest

Tim Yeo with his agent, Peter Burgoyne, at the South Suffolk constituency count in the 2010 General Election

Tim Yeo with his agent, Peter Burgoyne, at the South Suffolk constituency count in the 2010 General Election

Conservative South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo, as expected amongst the commentariat, will appeal his deselection by the Executive Committee of his local Conservative Association by opting to appeal to all members of the South Suffolk Tory party.

There will now be a full ballot of the local members with voting papers going out on 20th January. If there is a majority amongst the membership for Mr Yeo to be re-adopted as their candidate, the Executive Committee’s decision last month will become null and void and Mr Yeo will be re-selected as the Conservative candidate for South Suffolk at the next General Election in 2015.

However, should Tim Yeo lose the membership ballot, he could still decide to put his name forward once the local party begins proceeding to select a new candidate – but having been booted out twice by then, that is unlikely.

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The Conservative Party still cannot connect with its supporters

Non-politician Anna Soubry

Non-politician Anna Soubry

I was watching BBC Question Time last night and they had that ghastly woman, Anna Soubry, on again. Some may ask why I say such an awful thing as she is a Conservative. Yes, well the difference between Tories and Socialists is us Tories have independent minds and don’t just bleat away whatever the leader tells them to say.

Miss Soubry is one of those non-politicians who never says anything meaningful and spends her whole time shovelling platitudes on to minority interest groups in a desperate overcompensation for being a Tory in the hope voters will not think she is evil. She doesn’t seem to realise most voters don’t think the Tories are evil – a lot of people used to vote for the Conservative Party, especially in times of Conservative governments, not the mish-mash Coalition we have today.

Last night Anna Soubry excelled herself in her response to fellow panelist Nigel Farage’s answer to a question on immigration. Soubry, as all liberal wets and socialists do, tried to shut the debate down by by accusing the UKIP leader of putting “fear in people’s hearts” and he was being “prejudice”. She might as well have accused Mr Farage of being a “raaacist” and have done with it.

The junior defence minister was earlier exposed for not knowing her defence brief when she said it was “just not true” that South Korea is building four Royal Navy tankers in the week the shipyard in Portsmouth was closed – in fact, it is true! Anna Soubry then was rattled and lost control, just like the Coalition government continues to do over immigration.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage

UKIP leader Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage, earlier on the programme, had recalled an exchange with David Blunkett on BBC Question Time ten years ago when the former Labour Home Secretary said there would be just 13,000 Poles a year who would come to the UK after EU accession in 2004. “I said that was nonsense because logic said if you extend to poor people the ability to come to a rich country they’ll come in huge numbers. And in the first two years, 800,000 people came. That…is a fact”, the UKIP leader told last night’s audience.

This then sparked Anna Soubry’s rant. It would seem any mention of immigration, in Soubry’s mind, must be shut down, never to be discussed. This was despite the programme being broadcast from Boston, Lincolnshire, which has seen one of the highest influx of East Europeans in the last decade meaning it takes two weeks for local residents to get a doctor’s appointment and the local schools and hospitals are creaking under the strain of catering for a population size the public services were never designed for.

David Cameron’s election strategist, Lynton Crosby, was probably watching with his head in his hands. He was understood to be furious when another liberal wet, Ken Clarke, called UKIP supporters “clowns” just before the English County Elections, when Ukip pushed many Tory incumbents into third place. Since then senior Conservative ministers have been told to zip it.

But either Lynton Crosby has changed tactics or Soubry didn’t get his memo, just like she didn’t get her full briefing on defence I guess!?!?


Sir John Major calls time on the big six energy firms

Former UK Prime Minister Sir John Major

Former UK Prime Minister Sir John Major

The last Conservative prime minister to win a general election (and to win big, with the greatest number of popular votes ever recorded) has entered into the national debate on the energy market crisis by calling for a windfall tax on the big six firms.

Sir John ably describes the Conservatives are in favour of the private market (quite right!) but when it goes wrong real Conservatives will not stand-by and see people suffer as a result.

It’s a great pity David Cameron does not think the same, pithy saying in response to Sir John’s speech it was an “interesting contribution” but the government has no plans to impose a tax. Then again, Mr Cameron’s not really a Tory is he?

A combination of Labour-imposed green taxes (i.e. Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act of 2008) and Corporatism which centres around greed and profiteering has led to British people paying £1,500* a year to heat and light their homes.

I said at the time of the banking crisis, Northern Rock should have been sent to the wall just as President George W. Bush did to Lehman Brothers. It would have been a deterrent punishment used widely in the justice system to keep the masses in check. Some, mainly rich businessmen and equally rich politicians, said it would have destroyed the world. No it wouldn’t have! The Government would have protected savers at the cost of shareholders or there would have been a revolution.

Another winning Tory, Margaret Thatcher, believed in Capitalism for the many not Corporatism for the few. Now is the time for today’s Government to show some leadership: We’ve had enough. Send a signal to the failed energy market and punish the big six by imposing a windfall tax on them in the Autumn Statement in December.


*nPower yesterday put up their dual-fuel prices by 10.4% taking an average bill to £1,500

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Boring, bland politicians – no wonder we’d rather talk about knitwear!

Follow my lead: David Cameron keeping warm in his jumper

Follow my lead: David Cameron keeping warm in his jumper

I was chatting to a fellow politico online earlier about the BBC’s Question Time and he was suggesting it was biased (shock, horror!). I countered by saying it wasn’t the production that was bias but more the fact the three main parties are all the same – you could hardly put a cigarette paper between Labour’s Tristram Hunt (yes, he is Labour even with a Tory name like that!) and Mark Harper (what a dull dull politician if there ever was one!). And then the producers need to fill out the panel with people who can actually string a sentence together so they book, on the whole, media types or celebrities and they are nearly always left-wing, which is hardly surprising considering they collect their dime in an industry which has always been stacked full of lovies and right-on metrosexuals! Every now and again a right-winger from the media world turns up such as TV historian David Starkey or former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie. I have also been in the audience when they record Question Time and there are fair few right-wingers but they don’t tend to speak up for fear of being stigmatised, especially when the panel is generally to the Left, Cameroon Tories included!

So what has politics descended to when there aren’t any ideological differences – in fact, there isn’t any ideology at all. Yep, that’s right – jumpers! I kid you not. For my international friends, a jumper is – in the American-English parlance – a pullover sweater (or sweader, as they say on the other side of the pond!). Something bizarre happened in the journalists’ briefing in the heart of Government this morning – also known as the Downing Street Lobby – when the Prime Minister’s spokesman said it would be a good idea for all those people out there feeling the cold, but unable to pay the cartel-level energy prices, to jolly well put on a nice jumper. Cue the Labour Party leader’s team descending to Twitter and the hacks falling over themselves to tell a good jumper yarn.

The best write-up of Jumper-gate (yep, it had to get it’s own “-gate”!) has to be Guido Fawkes who has been delving in the picture archive. One of the best ones has to be master of the political dark arts, Lord Mandelson.

Peter Mandelson

Former Labour minister Peter Mandelson

I have just received a note from David Cameron entitled “Help us to finish the job”. It is full of vacuous phrases like “Let’s never lose sight of what we’re fighting for: a recovery that all hardworking people can share in. Good, decent, well-paid jobs.” I don’t normally comment on these CCHQ missives but when I actually SEE the Government fighting for “decent well-paid jobs” I’ll start to parrot the rhetoric. That is just not true. Much of the unemployment decrease is down to people being forced into part time jobs and those who kept their jobs during the Great Recession (caused by Labour) have had to endure pay decreases to keep those jobs. And this does not even take into account the fact prices are outstripping wages month after month. Now, I’m a Tory member (still) but even I can’t swallow falsehoods of this kind.

One of the arts of political rhetoric is to at least be on the right track if tackled by your opponents. How on earth could this Coalition Government claim to be fighting for “good, decent well-paid jobs”?There is zero evidence of this – all around us prices are rising above wages, the Government’s goal seems to be to keep people off the dole come what may, even if it means Britons working for a pittance, which many are now enduring! I’m not blaming the Government for this per se, but saying they are trying to do something about it is ridiculous! I’d love to hear what my fellow right-wing readers think of this.


What is Dave going to do about the cost of living crisis?


And in other news, voters have dumped a strong incumbent party politician in a provincial poll in Nova Scotia, eastern Canada, and replaced him with a Liberal party candidate who, lo and behold, promised to bring under control soaring electricity prices.

David Cameron should take note, especially as he doesn’t even have a strong incumbency. The Nova Scotia result is what will happen to the Tories on a massive national scale unless they get their act together and come out soon with a clear, concise cost of living policy.

Conservative backbenchers are imploring him to counter the Labour leader’s announcement to freeze energy bills by ditching the green levies Ed Miliband forced on energy firms with his Climate Change Act 2008, and paid for through your increased electricity and gas prices. Only last Friday, darling of the Tory Right, Priti Patel, MP for Witham, speaking at an Ipswich Conservatives’ fundraising dinner, said the leadership needed to start talking about Conservative values and in a language the electorate will understand about the economy and the cost of living. Ms Patel rightly said “deficit reduction” didn’t mean anything to the ordinary voter in marginal seats like Ipswich.

Without mentioning him by name, she made it clear Ed Miliband’s rhetoric on energy prices – albeit hypocritical considering his actions when he was Energy Secretary in the last Labour government – was hitting home amongst the British people and the Conservative Party needed to counter with a distinct message of their own on how the Tories will tackle the cost of living.

Priti Patel signalled her party was constrained by being in Coalition but did not believe the Coalition would fall apart before the 2015 election, not least because the 2010 Coalition Agreement forms the statement of work for the Civil Service. Whitehall mandarins move slow at the best of times so there is no chance of a formal break-up of the Coalition government before the next general election.

But this should not stop David Cameron doing what the Liberal Democrats do already from their standpoint. The PM should set out a coherent Tory offering to the British people now and not be afraid to criticise the Yellow Peril when necessary. The Prime Minister could start by announcing his government is going to help with rising energy bills in a way government actually can: by scrapping the green taxes on our bills within weeks.

Lib Dem Ed Davey (what is it with these Eds!?), the current Energy Secretary, may have come out publicly to defend the plethora of green levies his department imposes on everyone’s gas and electricity bills but unless David Cameron wants to take his party down to the abyss of electoral defeat he needs to unleash his inner Tory. If he waits too long, the voters may have already decided to follow the Nova Scotian lead.

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Coalition Government deems all parents unfit to feed their kids

All infants between 5 and 7 will now get free school meals

All infants between 5 and 7 will now get free school meals at a cost of £600m to the taxpayer

Yes, that’s right, Nanny has determined every parent in the country can no longer be trusted to feed little Johnny so the State will just have to do it herself. Oh, but you’re paying for it. If you pay taxes that is.

So we now have, thanks to Matron Clegg, the perverse policy of providing free meals to the sons and daughters of millionaires paid for out of the taxes of a 16 year-old earning the minimum wage stacking shelves at Tesco’s. That just about sums up this Coalition Conservative-Lib Dem Government doesn’t it? We’re on the side of hardworking people. Give me a break. You are taxing us until the pips squeak (hat-tip Denis Healy)! The deficit is already £120bn – it’s just about to get larger which will mean more higher taxes in the future to pay it off. Cheers Nick and Dave!

We now have a situation where people who decided to have children – no one forced them – are now receiving MORE money from taxpayers who do not have children. These same taxpayers are likely to be children of the baby boomer generation: they cannot afford to have children as they are taxed to the hilt in professional jobs which thirty years ago would have paid a handsome wage but now just about get the person from one end of the month to the other. And then we have the baby boomers themselves who have done very well – thank you – from being born at the right time in the right place and are sitting pretty on gold plated final salary pension schemes. But let’s not forget these same gold plated pensions are topped up with the taxes of their children who are compelled by law to pay their heating, TV licences and public transport costs.

I think I am entitled to be a little peeved…


UPDATE (1): The Lib Dem Deputy Leader is against free school meals for those who can afford them:

UPDATE (2): Boris has spoken – he’s against free school dinners where parents can afford them. The London Mayor told Guido: “I tell you, it would be very easy to say, I think.. I think that it’s real you know errr I, what I think is there should be compulsion to eat the school meal, but I am in no means against getting parents who can pay for to pay for it.” Hat-tip to Guido.


Labour happily see Ipswich lie derelict

Derelict: Grafton Way site - just as Labour like it

Derelict: Grafton Way site – just as Labour like it (Pic: Ipswich Spy)

During the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Ipswich Borough Council controlled days Tesco approached the Council with a very large cheque book and requested permission to build a new superstore, a hotel, a piazza, apartments and smaller retail units on the former B&Q site on Grafton Way. Tesco also offered – if they achieved planning permission for the Grafton Way site – to pay for new traffic flow improvements where the flawed double roundabout currently exists outside the Novotel hotel. Total investment would be £90 Million from Tesco. Total jobs would be 900. And that’s not counting the construction jobs which local firms would have enjoyed during the build stage.

The Conservative-led council weighed up the pros and cons of such a development (cons very difficult to envisage) and duly gave Tesco planning permission and looked forward to the massive investment and jobs Ipswich was soon to enjoy. Labour had vigorously opposed the investment and new jobs every step of the way.

The economy, run by the Labour Government, then took a disastrous turn for the worse and by the time Labour took control of Ipswich Borough Council in 2011 Tesco were wondering if they could afford to go ahead with such a scheme. Their new chief executive, Philip Clarke, ordered a review of their proposed developments. Despite this, Tesco proposed to still invest in Ipswich but perhaps with just the superstore element of the scheme, which would still create hundreds of jobs and payment for the road improvements.

Labour’s response was not to promote Ipswich as an area where Tesco would be welcome to spend their cash and create much needed jobs for local people. Instead, Labour councillors made it perfectly clear to anyone who would listen (local paper, radio, TV) they didn’t want to do business with Tesco and in fact hated Tesco so much they opposed their smaller investment into a site in East Ipswich only to find out Tesco weren’t seeking planning permission – it was Sainsbury’s.

Needless to say when Tesco’s planners at their Cheshunt HQ were deciding where in the country to invest millions of pounds they concluded it was not worth their while to tackle rabid socialists in Ipswich on top of the challenges of developing their business in very difficult economic times. So they pulled the entire scheme, superstore and all. Bye bye millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs. I bet Cllr David Ellesmere and the Ipswich Labour politburo were very pleased with themselves. I can hear them now in Silent Street patting each other on the back for helping to keep people on welfare payments and trapped in their council-owned homes.

And today we learn the consequences of Labour’s hatred of enterprise and business. Tesco have put the Grafton Way land on the market with the Borough Council promoting the site for sole residential use which will bring in only a fraction of the investment Tesco’s scheme would have ploughed into the Ipswich economy. Consequently, this part of the Waterfront from the ‘wine rack’ down to Princes Street bridge will be derelict for many years to come.

But why should we be surprised by the destructive economic policies of Labour. Ipswich docks was one of the last in the country to be privatised and so the kick-start to regeneration of the Waterfront was ten years behind towns with similar inland ports such as Bristol – with the Ipswich redevelopment only taking place from 2003 onwards. I wonder who was in charge of Ipswich when towns like Bristol were investing for the future in the early 1990s? Yep, you guessed it. The good Old Labour party.


Putin takes a pop at the UK

cameron putin

It is being reported across the mainstream media that in the small hours this morning Russian President Putin’s spokesman called Britain a “small island”.

WTF! Let me explain to Mr Putin what Great Britain actually is. It is the world’s 9th largest island by territory; the UK is the 6th largest economy in the world. Russia is 8th.

Granted we have been bigger. When the Conservatives left office in 1997, we were the 4th largest economy on Earth after Japan, Germany and the US but Labour screwed that up. And need I mention Margaret Thatcher and the Cold War.


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Does Ipswich do Change?

Bishops Hill Traffic Lights_Travel Ipswich

I’ve lived in Ipswich for 12 years now and there are many things I enjoy about the town: it’s low crime rate, it’s real ale pubs, the community feel which is unusual in the South, and the surrounding beautiful countryside.

But Ipswich (or more to the point indigenous Ipswich people) really finds it difficult to embrace progress and change.

A recent case in point is the new transport scheme being rolled out across the town. All you hear is moan, moan, moan. The Government has whacked £21 Million into a provincial and quite remote town, which most Whitehall mandarins have never heard of never mind be able to place on a map, and local people almost tell the Government to stuff it.

The town is very old, arguably the oldest recorded town in England, and has a road layout to match. The dock was the central part of the town up until the middle of the last century because trade was focused around water: now rail and road are our main means of trade communications.

Ipswich was one of the last places with a port in the country not to have it regenerated. If you look at Liverpool, Bristol, and of course, East London, the people there embraced change decades ago. Ipswich only got round to privatizing the port in the late 1990s!

But the town is being gradually brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century and sorting out the archaic road network is a key aspect of that Conservative County Hall-led change. Ipswich must adapt to survive. Ipswich Fit for the 21st Century Project, now known as Travel Ipswich, is the scheme for the improvements we are seeing at the Civic Drive junction, the renewal of two bus stations and excellent proposals to get rid of what has to be the most bizarre roundabout system in the country on Norwich Road. There have been teething problems – there always are in projects of this size – but once all the works are complete, the benefits to residents, visitors and businesses alike will be enormous.

The £21 Million will also pay for traffic lights at the top of Bishop’s Hill, which sees traffic backed all the way up Nacton Road and beyond. There is quite clearly a problem here – caused by the vast increase in cars on the roads in Ipswich during the last ten years and the opening of the new University on the Waterfront – and it needs to be fixed. There is no point sticking your head in the ground hoping the problem will go away.

I was speaking with a senior Tory activist on Saturday and he made the point that roundabouts and other uncontrolled junctions only work when there are few cars otherwise you can never get out of the junction. He is entirely right, hence the technology called traffic lights was invented. And in the 21st century, traffic lights have got even better at their job with another technology called UTMC (Urban Traffic Management Control). UTMC synchronises any number of traffic lights so if there are, say, three sets of traffic lights over a half a mile stretch, they will all turn green at the same time, thereby reducing the stop and start action of traffic which creates jams. Again, the £21 Million from central Government is paying for UTMC to be introduced into Ipswich: most provincial towns do not have such advanced traffic management systems in place. We should be rejoicing, not moaning. The reason for the teething problems on Civic Drive is because UTMC hasn’t been switched on yet but it will be and queuing in this area will vastly reduce.

Suffolk Transport chief Cllr Graham Newman

Suffolk Transport chief Cllr Graham Newman

New transport chief Cllr Graham Newman and his team at Suffolk County Council are proposing traffic lights at the top of Bishop’s Hill. The engineers at County Hall didn’t just wake up one morning and said, hey, let’s put some new traffic lights in East Ipswich for the fun of it. They have seen the problem of queuing traffic and using computer models which simulate traffic patterns,  motorist behaviours and the introduction of UTMC they have seen results that will reduce the queue lengths.

So there is a problem: long queues into town from Felixstowe Road down the hill to the Waterfront. What shall we do about it? Moan about it and then moan about it some more when it gets worse (which it will as young people buy cars and older drivers live longer)? Or shall we implement a proposed and evidence-based solution to fix it? Errr, let me think…

The moaning and reluctance to engage change is not just an irritant: it is the reason why Ipswich takes so long to develop and progress. But it doesn’t have to be this way: think outwards and embrace solutions not problems and, you know what, the people of Ipswich are the ones who will reap the rewards. Isn’t that what we want?