It is great news that £8m of Town Fund money is finally going to be spent on, hopefully, giving a kick-start to empty buildings in the heart of Ipswich.

But it seems to have taken an inordinate amount of time to reach this stage - how much value of the original Town Fund money that was granted to the town in 2020 has withered away with inflation over the last four years?

Because the whole administration of this "windfall" we were promised in the run-up to the last general election looks from the outside like something of a farce.

I don't think any individuals can really be blamed. It is the result of the total political paralysis that grips Ipswich at the best of times (and the last four years certainly hasn't been the best of times!).

It feels as if the administration of the Town's Fund money has become a total political football whenever the local councils have become involved - and nothing has been done.

I know there's been quite a good supply of money to the university and as part of that we're getting a new dental school that will help local people as a result of that.

But the minute local politicians become involved in Ipswich the whole thing becomes a total disaster.

Look at the town centre. It's an object lesson in how to fail a community.

The Butter Market, one of the major streets in the town is a mess. Most of the shops seem to be closed and the paving is literally crumbling under your feet. 

The town's Tory MPs use the Towns Fund to attack the Labour council. The Labour borough blames the Conservative county for the state of the streets. Maybe they have a point - when they do come out to make improvements it looks as if they don't really care!

Ipswich Star:

Ipswich Central sometimes seems to just sit there rolling its eyes at all of our politicians - fed up with their failure to do anything other than engaging in political sniping.

When the Towns Fund was originally flagged by then Local Government secretary Robert Jenrick in 2019 he came to Arras Square to be shown somewhere that could really benefit from it.

Ipswich Star: Robert Jenrick visited Ipswich in 2019 with promises of help to improve Arras Square. Nothing has happened.Robert Jenrick visited Ipswich in 2019 with promises of help to improve Arras Square. Nothing has happened. (Image: Archant)

I first wrote about the dreadful state of the area early in 2019. Since then there have been promises of improvement.

Last year a plan was drawn up which seemed to get universal approval - until Suffolk Police weighed in and said it might attract anti-social behaviour.

Frankly someone at Suffolk Police might like to reflect on the fact that anti-social behaviour is much more likely in a grotty abandoned area than in one where some trouble has been taken to improve it!

Frankly there's been £25m sitting there losing value while Ipswich town centre has been on a downward spiral over the last half decade.

Go to other towns in the county. Woodbridge. Stowmarket. Sudbury. Felixstowe. You see places that give off a sense of civic pride.

Right now Ipswich town centre doesn't know the meaning of civic pride.

Last Saturday I went to Bury St Edmunds, to do a bit of shopping, visit an exhibition at Moyses Hall and have a light lunch.

The place was buzzing. The market was busy, new shops had moved into stores that were empty when I was there a few months ago and Primark has got its "opening soon" stickers all over the old Debenhams.

The next day I went into Ipswich town centre for a coffee with a friend. The only thing missing was the tumbleweed.

The atmosphere seemed flat, at 11am it felt empty - and my main aim was to get home as soon as possible.

As a town Ipswich still has much to commend it.

But its town centre is an object lesson in decay - and it feels as if too many civic leaders are more interested in their own turf wars than they are in coming together to do something positive.

The opinions expressed in this column are the personal views of Paul Geater and do not necessarily reflect views held by this newspaper, its sister publications or its owner and publisher Newsquest Media Group Ltd.