�8m 'job budget' to boost Ipswich

AN �8m “budget for jobs” for Ipswich would stimulate the local economy, encourage investment and help residents hit by the economic downturn, it was claimed today.

Graham Dines

AN �8m “budget for jobs” for Ipswich would stimulate the local economy, encourage investment and help residents hit by the economic downturn, it was claimed today.

The proposal has been presented by Labour councillors as an alternative to the spending priorities that will be put forward by the ruling coalition on the borough council later this week.

Labour argues the council's coffers should be raided to help Ipswich fight the economic downturn and provide a welcome boost to hard up residents.

The �8m package includes �4m of central government grants for capital spending and Whitehall grants of �3.24m to insulate homes in the most deprived areas of the town.

Labour leader David Ellesmere, who had his figures checked by the borough council's chief finance officer, said: “Councils should be at the forefront of protecting their residents from the worst of the economic breakdown.

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“Our programme will save jobs, save residents money, and help to save the planet. It is just the boost that Ipswich needs.”

Under the budget plans of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, which will be presented at the council meeting on Wednesday, council tax will increase by 2.93 per cent.

Deputy council leader John Carnall said: “I don't know how Labour is going to finance these plans - the figures it has presented look dubious at best. All Labour's proposals will do will be to add to the total debt burden of the council.”

He said the council was deliberately putting �800,000 into reserves as a contingency against the credit crunch.

“Our budget protects frontline services,” he added. “We have identified �4m of savings while remaining committed to providing vital services such as benefits, housing advice, sport and street cleaning and recycling initiatives.”

The majority of homes in Ipswich are in council tax bands A and B, and the 2.93 per cent rise will mean an extra �6.79 next year on annual bills. The figure for B and D properties is �8.73.

n. What do you think of the proposals? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

What Labour is proposing

No increase in the level of council tax from April

A freeze on bus fares.

Restoring cuts in grants to good causes.

Make the insulation of homes a top priority in the most deprived areas of Ipswich.

Accelerate the affordable housing programme.

Increase the take-up of small business rate relief.

Increase support to benefits advice services.

Restore council backing for the Fairtrade organisation.

Reduce the �500,000 currently set aside by the council for a “rainy day”.

Appoint two home energy efficiency officers, one person to work on small business rate relief, two welfare rights officers, and reinstate the post dealing with abandoned vehicles.

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