Find the right culprit to blame

IPSWICH council has been coming under fire from a number of quarters recently - and while no one would claim that it's perfect, some of the criticisms have been rather wide of the mark.

IPSWICH council has been coming under fire from a number of quarters recently - and while no one would claim that it's perfect, some of the criticisms have been rather wide of the mark.

First it came under fire because of the decision to bring in a professional pantomime rather the Co-op Juniors next Christmas.

What happened was, the council saw that the amount of money it was making from the Juniors' productions was falling significantly.

I know there is dispute about whether audience figures were falling or not - the takings certainly were and that affected how much the council, as the owners and managers of the Regent, received.


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So, not unreasonably, it asked the Juniors to increase their hire charge.

The Juniors consulted their paymaster, the Ipswich and Norwich Co-op, and its bosses felt it could not increase the amount it paid by a large enough amount.

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It all amounts to a question of supply and demand - and frankly council taxpayers would be outraged if they felt too much of their money was going to subsidise an annual amateur theatre production.

It's very sad news for the talented youngsters who love putting on a Christmas show, but there are other opportunities for them to perform.

The other subject that the council has come under fire about is the lack of action on the Mint Quarter.

Frankly the critics who blame the problems there on the borough council are so wide of the mark that a cricket umpire would have sent them back to the pavilion long ago!

The council can't order site owners NCP to develop the Mint Quarter, still less can it order retailers to knock at the door of NCP and demand the company builds them new premises.

The fact is the Mint Quarter has been dogged by bad luck and poor timing in the economic cycle.

The original Cloisters scheme collapsed because of the economic recession of the early 1990s - you could hardly blame the then Labour council for that!

Then the Mint Quarter scheme came forward at the end of the 1990s, everything looked good.

NCP had signed up with developers Helical Retail to build the new shopping centre with new stores for Woolworths and Argos at its heart.

Just as all the contracts were due to be signed, Woolworths' owner Kingfisher announced it was to demerge, and all new developments were suspended.

The new Woolworths' company eventually decided it couldn't justify the cost of moving and pulled out of the deal. Without Woolworths, the scheme became uneconomic.

Then the developers Helical Retail fractured into different companies.

Then NCP itself was taken over and became far more interested in running car parks than in property development.

Now Argos, the other key element of the original proposal, has opened a new store on the Suffolk Retail Park in Ipswich - so it doesn't look as if it will be falling over itself to move to the Mint Quarter as well.

Call me naïve, but how on earth can any of these really be blamed on Ipswich Council?

To quote the title of a popular children's film: it all looks like an unfortunate series of events!

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