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Council salvages credibility

PUBLISHED: 16:29 21 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:24 03 March 2010

I'VE really been quite impressed by the way Ipswich Council has reacted to the crisis over the town's market over the last couple of weeks.

True it had dug a massive hole for itself with years of indecision and delaying tactics.

I'VE really been quite impressed by the way Ipswich Council has reacted to the crisis over the town's market over the last couple of weeks.

True it had dug a massive hole for itself with years of indecision and delaying tactics.

And when the crisis first hit the front page of the Star some of its officers and senior councillors immediately went on the defensive.

It couldn't be helped, it doesn't deserve to be helped, we were told in the early days.

But as the strength of feeling in the town became apparent a strange phenomenon started happening.

The borough's backbench Labour councillors – who do sometimes have a tendency to become lobby-fodder for the executive – suddenly realised they were on to a real loser.

And with all-out council elections in May, they started putting pressure on their leaders.

It was impossible to move the market to the Cornhill on January 22. By February 8 council officials were looking at how it could be moved – on Saturdays only.

By this Tuesday, February 19, it could go on the Cornhill three days a week.

During this time I'd been speaking informally to several councillors – yes, they still do talk to me, and they were horrified by the impression that they were opposed to the market.

The message came across again in the planning meeting which finally gave the go-ahead for the move.

Everyone started their comments with: "We want to see the market thrive." And they were all very keen that I should note that the vote to allow it planning permission was unanimous.

We were seeing democracy in action. Of course, councillors might not have been so desperate to do what their voters wanted without the election looming.

But let's not be too cynical about this. Councillors are elected to represent the views of the voters, and that is what has happened in this crucial issue.

What they might now look at is how the council leaders and officials got into this mess in the first place.

Frankly the council officers and senior councillors took their eye off the ball so far as the market was concerned.

They were so concerned with the "big picture" of IP-City and Ipswich Village that they ignored what was happening under their nose – literally.

Hopefully this painful episode will be a lesson to them.

Yes, you need long term vision for the future.

But you also need to keep a weather eye on the fabric of the town as it is now – the people of Ipswich showed that they didn't want their historic market sacrificed on the altar of a high-tech future.

And eventually they made the politicians listen!

IS THIS the most dangerous man in Ipswich?

Borough executive committee member Keith Rawlingson has clearly got his political opponents worried because they're determined to see him knocked off the council.

They've been queuing up to tell me that he won't be standing in May because he lives outside the borough and he no longer works in Ipswich.

I checked this with him, and sorted it out straight away – he moved house last year, now lives in the borough and will be standing in May.

But still the stories keep coming back to me that he's having to stand down from the council – even though I've put people right straight away.

"I really don't know why people keep going around saying this – if they want to know where I live they only have to look in the Ipswich Angle or go to the council's website.

"I know some people make malicious comments – but I really don't see the point in spreading stories that are so clearly untrue," he told me.

I know that Labour is a party which has become closely associated with spin-doctors – but in this case Mr Rawlingson is certainly someone who is more spinned (corr) against than spinning!

THE prize for the most pointless political act this week was surely the arrival of the so-called "Metric Martyrs" at the High Court in London.

"Metric Martyrs" my foot(or metre)! They look more like Moronic Martyrs.

Don't these people realise that for the last 20 years, children at school have been taught in metres, kilos, and litres?

I may know I'm six foot five inches tall – to my children I'm 1.96 metres tall.

There's no problem with using both measures alongside each other – then we all know where we are.

It's just that when people get a bee in their bonnet and then other fools start dressing up as John Bull and start going on about this country being taken over by Europe that I start to despair.

It's all come as a bit of a shock to the system for those of us who thought that the pantomime season was over!

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