Be boring - but don't turn everyone away

WHEN the Prime Minister issued his call for more boring banking at the weekend, his words attracted the praise of many commentators.But I have to admit I was rather unimpressed - it might have sounded as if he was making the right noises, but I'm far from convinced that his sentiments were really right.

WHEN the Prime Minister issued his call for more boring banking at the weekend, his words attracted the praise of many commentators.

But I have to admit I was rather unimpressed - it might have sounded as if he was making the right noises, but I'm far from convinced that his sentiments were really right.

It's all very well to talk about ending 100 per cent mortgages and forcing home-buyers to put up a significant deposit, but how many first-time buyers can find 10pc of the �100,000 cost of a small home?

Graduates, in particular, face the real danger of being hit by a double-whammy.

They have to pay back their student loans in the first years of earning a salary, and to expect them to save a significant amount of money to raise a deposit for a mortgage might be a very tall order.

Certainly there does need to be more prudent lending by banks - they have to be more careful in vetting applications. They have to ensure that the figures put down by applicants are not massaged to make them look better off than they are.

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But it would be a disaster if buying a home became as difficult in the 21st century as it was in the 1960s and 1970s.

In those days fewer people bought their own home, there were many more council houses - and the idea of renting did not carry the same stigma as it does today.

While the government is putting more money into “affordable” rented homes, this really does not make up for the millions of homes that were sold off to their owners over the last three decades.

So most people want to aspire to owning their homes - and it is wrong to make it too difficult for people to reach the first step on the housing ladder.

I DO hope Gordon Brown enjoyed his visit to Suffolk yesterday - although I must confess a trip to Martlesham and Ipswich in February is perhaps not quite as scenic as a week in the River Blyth valley in August!

One of the positives about living in this part of the world is that the economy is generally strong - when recession does hit, other parts of the country can be hit worse.

That is the case this time, to some extent.

The motor industry and heavy engineering is taking the pounding it always gets in a recession - and East Anglia is not known for its car plants or steel works!

So all too often this region is ignored by senior politicians when recession strikes, there has seemed to be a feeling that: “They're all right, we'll go to the north east instead.”

But while things might be better here than in some other parts of the country, the recession is biting and making life more uncomfortable than it was a few months ago.

It was good to see Gordon Brown here yesterday as he learned how East Anglia is being affected by the recession - and how we are fighting against it.

Let's hope he learned some useful lessons that he will put into practice during whatever time he has left in Downing Street.

WHEN I saw the pictures of the last stump of the civic centre, I must admit I felt a bit of a pang.

No one would claim that the Civic Centre was an attractive addition to the Ipswich skyline - it certainly reeked of its late 60s/early 70s construction.

But I still don't think it was the worst building we've had to suffer in the town - it was not as harsh as the grain silos around the docks nor as claustrophobic as the original look of the GRE building before AXA smartened it up.

Borough chief executive James Hehir always said the best view of the town was from his 10th storey window because you could see all Ipswich's landmarks . . . except Civic Centre.

I'm not going to argue that it was a building of great beauty or one that should have been preserved - but it had a starkness that symbolised its purpose.

And there was never any doubt where the borough's offices were!

Now the borough is based in Grafton House which is a building with its own merits, but it is a building that blends in with the rest of Ipswich rather than becomes a feature of the town itself.

So farewell Civic Centre. Let's hope the Westgate Centre which replaces it soon starts taking shape.

A FEW months ago, the county council elections of 2009 looked like a remote possibility as talks continued about changing the structure of local government in Suffolk.

Now though, with the whole local government reform business put off until the twelfth of never, the elections are firmly on the agenda.

We've already had some sparring between the parties over jobs and day care, and we're sure to see more of that over the next few weeks.

But what is the real point? It's as clear as clear that this is not a year in which the Conservatives are going to lose control of authorities like Suffolk.

There may well be some interesting personal battles in a few seats - but nothing has persuaded me that there will be enough of these battles to upset the overall balance of the council.

What will be interesting will be to see how the Tories do in Ipswich, where they managed to win only one out of 13 seats up for grabs last time around.

Will the unpopularity of the government lead to Labour seats tumbling? Or will the Tories continue to allow their vote to be split and end up as second almost everywhere.

We should know in early June.

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