Some of you may have seen the disappointing news that Ipswich Borough Council’s bid to the Levelling Up Fund was not successful this round.

Having lent my full support to the bid, I’m clearly disappointed as well.

I guess this news feels particularly surprising because we’ve got so used to our bids being successful.

From the Town Deal, to Freeport East, to the Shared Prosperity Fund and Safer Streets Fund, Ipswich has been bidding successfully for tens of millions in funding recently, so we had our hopes up for this one too.  

Ipswich Star: Ipswich MP Tom HuntIpswich MP Tom Hunt (Image: House of Commons)

One of the biggest bids we were successful in has been the £25 million we were awarded for the Town Deal.

As you may know, the Town Deal is a vision for 11 major projects in Ipswich to revitalise our Town, provide opportunities for skills training, support local business, and help make Ipswich a place that we can really be proud of. Some of them are already finished, and others are well on the way. 

Just this week, we saw the launch of the Shopping Parade Regeneration Fund after Ipswich was awarded £2.81 million to spend on our local shopping parades.

Our shopping parades are often at the centre of our communities, and the people who run these businesses are at the beating heart of their communities.

One of the most popular projects in public consultations is the plan to revamp the old Paul’s Silo building on the waterfront.

Ipswich Star: The Paul's Silo on Ipswich Waterfront.The Paul's Silo on Ipswich Waterfront.

The old silo is one of the tallest buildings on the waterfront but currently just sits derelict.

Over the next few years, the £3.75 million in funding Ipswich has secured through the Towns Fund will convert it into a major attraction.  

Currently, there’s a proposal for a rooftop restaurant overlooking the waterfront, as well as an indoor and outdoor climbing centre complete with the largest climbing wall in the UK.

These plans would be a major benefit to Ipswich’s visitor economy and draw people from all over to come visit, shop, and dine here. Currently, the goal is to have it ready by spring 2025. 

While some of these projects are still in the works, others are already finished. In fact, anyone who’s been to The Botanist on the Cornhill will know the benefits of the Town Deal first-hand.

This used to be the old post office building, and it was restored under the Town Deal to convert it into a popular local restaurant and bar.  

The Ipswich Oasis project, meanwhile, will create new green spaces in our Town. Some of the plantings around the Novotel roundabout are already done, and ultimately there are plans for a Green Trail running from south of Christchurch Park to the Waterfront. 

The Town Deal also provides some of our community educational assets like Suffolk New College and the University of Suffolk with major investments in skills training.

Suffolk New College recently built a new Tech Campus with almost £1 million in Town Deal funding, while an Integrated Care Academy at the University of Suffolk for health and social care celebrated its first year up-and-running this month.

Spirit Yachts will also receive £1 million for their yacht building academy to teach the next generation of Ipswich boat builders. 

Another major bid that we got just last week was the exciting news that Freeport East has got final Government approval.

Freeport East will become the fourth freeport fully up and running, and we were one of just 8 selected among 40 bids.  

Giving freeport status to Felixstowe, Harwich, and Gateway 14 in Stowmarket will provide a package of tax incentives and £25 million in funding to turn our local area into a hub of global trade, boosting UK trade by £12 billion a year and creating £5.5 billion in new Gross Value Added over ten years.  

Ipswich Star: Freeport EastFreeport East

Even though the free tax sites aren’t in Ipswich, we're at the heart of the area set to benefit.

Ipswich is closely connected to the port of Felixstowe. 6,000 Ipswich residents are already employed there directly or indirectly, and that number will only grow as the project goes ahead at full steam.

In fact, when I visited the Port of Felixstowe last week, I met a constituent, Adam, who is the commercial director of the port. Ipswich is also a crucial part of the skills pipeline that will support the freeport. 

Residents of our Town will be able to benefit from jobs and skills training opportunities as the Freeport comes together.

The Freeport will create almost 14,000 new high-skilled, high-paying jobs right on our doorstep that Ipswich residents can benefit from.

I’ve seen some of the ambitious plans for new warehouses at Felixstowe and Gateway 14 at Stowmarket that will support more manufacturing and jobs.  

Ipswich’s education sector will also be vital to delivering the skills needed for the project. Suffolk New College and the University of Suffolk have already partnered with the freeport to help make it into a hub for green energy, and SNC’s £1 million grant from the Town Deal to help build their new Tech Campus in Ipswich will help deliver the necessary skills.

Ipswich residents will be crucial for this. This partnership in particular shows how funding like the Town Deal can work together with the Freeport to really provide opportunities to people in our Town. 

On top of this, in December we learned that Ipswich would be benefitting from almost £1.4 million from the Shared Prosperity Fund to help boost our daytime police presence in the Town.

This funding helps support three additional police officers patrolling the Town during the day, in addition to funding we got from the Safer Streets Fund for extra presence in the evening.

Ipswich Borough Council successfully bid for £500,000 from that fund, and the Council was able to match it for a total of almost £1 million to support public safety. 

So, with how successful we’ve been with our bids lately, we had our hopes up, and the decision on Levelling Up feels like a let down.

I personally am disappointed, as I leant my full support to the Borough Council’s bid and signed off on both projects.

I thought the proposals were exactly what Levelling Up should look like in action. I lobbied hard, raising them in Parliament, including during Prime Minister’s Questions, and I’m already in talks with the Government to put our bid in again. 

Thankfully, there will be a third round of funding, and I'm hopeful we can get it across the line next time and learn from the process. I won’t let up until we get the money we deserve for our Town.  

Clearly the news on Levelling Up funding was disappointing, but on the whole we can see many areas where Ipswich is benefitting from Government support and additional funding. I’ll be continuing to push to make sure we get the funding we need.