Don't be afraid of change

TALKING to a senior figure at the borough the other day, I get the distinct impression that more and more people are reluctantly reaching the conclusion that the “North Haven” or “Orwell” proposal will never actually happen.

TALKING to a senior figure at the borough the other day, I get the distinct impression that more and more people are reluctantly reaching the conclusion that the “North Haven” or “Orwell” proposal will never actually happen.

The problem is that opposition is now coming from two sides.

On the one hand the county council is still trying to persuade the government that the “One Suffolk” option would be better than creating a new authority containing Ipswich, Felixstowe and the Shotley peninsula.

On the other, Labour councillors have struck up an unlikely alliance with West Suffolk's Tory leaders to try to persuade the government to re-introduce an east/west/Ipswich split in the county.

This week we carried a letter from former Ipswich Labour mayor Ian Grimwood, calling for the town to be given unitary status on its current boundaries.

I have a lot of time for Mr Grimwood - he has been a fine servant of the town and no one knows more about its history than him.

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But looking to the past is no answer for the town in the 21st century - and the government recognised this by rejecting the proposed unitary authority proposed on the existing boundaries at the end of last year.

I know why the Labour Party is so keen to retain the existing boundaries - it's because so many of their members have no confidence in their ability to win council seats outside the existing borough envelope.

The existing boundaries of Ipswich are ridiculous. Anyone can see that the town of the 21st century doesn't end halfway along Foxhall Road or London Road - it has to include communities like Pinewood, Warren Heath, Purdis Farm, and - like it or not - Kesgrave and Martlesham Heath.

Labour's old guard might not believe that they can win council seats in places like that - and that is probably true in the current political climate.

But the political earthquake of the 1990s and early years of this decade showed that Labour was capable of winning council seats anywhere - so the party in Ipswich does not need to be too defeatist!

And frankly if the North Haven/Orwell proposal is successful, then Labour really should be able to win some council seats in the port area of Felixstowe as well.

However, in joining with the Tories from west Suffolk who still dream of resurrecting a Bury-based council, Labour is muddying the waters to such a degree that the government might eventually turn round and say: “A plague on all your houses,” and decide to retain the status quo.

The fact is opposition to the One Suffolk idea is growing - I haven't heard anyone who isn't either a current or former employee or councillor from the county (or Mid Suffolk) supporting the idea.

And if Gordon Brown goes ahead with his long-expected reshuffle in the autumn and Hazel Blears moves to a new job, then the new Communities Secretary may well decide to look again at the whole principle of local government reform.

The fear is growing at the borough that they will eventually come to the conclusion that if no one likes any of the options proposed then Suffolk should be left alone.

As one very senior borough figure told me: “That would be a disaster. When 80 per cent of the country is run by single-tier authorities, two-tier authorities will be third-class bodies in the eyes of everyone else.

“It would be terrible if that happened, we have to hope that the Boundary Committee's proposals are accepted in the face of any opposition there may be.”

I KNOW the polls don't look good for him at the moment, but I wonder if Gordon Brown wondered whether to call a snap general election this week?

Sporting success, or failure, has often been blamed by politicians for success or failure in the polls.

Harold Wilson was convinced that England's World Cup exit in 1970 was the reason for Labour's loss in the general election four days later.

I'm not sure that the success in Beijing has really done that much for the Labour government, but certainly it has restored something of a feelgood factor that has been difficult to find over recent months.

I HAVE no more time for benefit cheats than anyone else, and it is right that Rex Seeley was punished for claiming benefit while playing music in Ipswich bars.

However, I can't work out why the court decided to impose a curfew on him. His offence was not one of drunkenness caused by nights of boozing - and if he is able to earn a living from playing music in pubs and clubs, surely that is better than the state providing him with an income.

By imposing a curfew, is the court not condemning taxpayers to keeping Mr Seeley when he has proved he would otherwise be able to pay his own way?