Ipswich city bid dropped after failing to get backing from MP Tom Hunt
- Credit: House of Commons
Ipswich seems unlikely to go ahead with a bid for city status next year after the town's MP said he could not support it.
The bid has to come from the local council which would have to show that there was widespread support for the change in status from across the town.
Conservative MP Tom Hunt has issued a statement saying that after speaking to constituents he does not believe there is enough backing for a city bid.
He said: "I can see both sides of the argument and could well see a time in the future where we could really unite together as a community to push for City status. I just don't see now as being that time.
"Ipswich is a great place to live and I'm incredibly proud to represent one of this country’s oldest towns in Parliament.
"We don't need to be a city to achieve what we want to achieve and just because we're not a city it doesn't mean we're a lesser place to, say, Norwich or Chelmsford. Of course, I'd argue we're a far better place."
Mr Hunt's statement came as a crushing blow to Ipswich council's Labour leader David Ellesmere, who said last week that city status would be good for Ipswich,.
After reading Mr Hunt's statement he said: "To have any chance of success we would have to prove there is widespread backing for city status. With a statement like this from the town's main MP it is effectively dead in the water.
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"In that case, unless he changes his mind, there would be no point in wasting time on mounting a city bid this time around."
The decision to drop the bid was greeted with dismay by the business community. A statement from Ipswich Central said: "On something as important as an application for Ipswich to be granted city status, we would have expected there to be a range of views collectively considered before any decision was made.
"Ipswich Central represents the town centre business community and we have taken soundings among this group. We found broad support and particular recognition that city status would both help to attract more inward investment and, thereby, improve wider economic prospects for the benefit of all."
Mr Hunt's statement on the City Bid in full:
"I was interested to see that the Borough Council are intending to launch a bid to gain City status for Ipswich
"This will be a highly competitive national process with only one place being granted new City status to coincide with the Queen's Platinum Jubilee next year.
"I can definitely see that there could be some practical benefits associated with Ipswich becoming a City. However, I do also believe that bound up within this matter are complicated issues to do with local identity that many of my constituents feel differently about.
"Ultimately for the bid to be successful I think it's an absolute must that there is clear public support from the people of Ipswich for the bid. The reality is that we're going to be up against many different areas where there is clear and enthusiastic public support.
"Last week I carried out my own poll which I promoted on social media and which 1000s took part in. I note also that the Ipswich Star carried out its own poll which likely had a higher participation rate that my own one. In my poll 66% rejected the City status bid and 70% rejected it in the Ipswich Star poll.
"I take the point that these are hardly scientific polls but ultimately, they're all we've got to go on as it stands. And when I add to it the fact that it's rarely ever been brought up on the doorstep with me nor in correspondence, I simply don't think that I'm in a position to say with any degree of confidence that City status is what my constituents want.
"I say all this knowing that Ipswich Central strongly back City status. I do sympathise with many of the reasons why local businesses see City status and bringing economic benefits to the Town.
"However, bearing in mind this is a significant change from the status quo I think the burden is on those who want to change the status quo to provide evidence of significant support from across the community at every level.
"I appreciate that the Borough council have said the bid wouldn't cost much money or be a distraction from key priorities, but if it were to be done properly it almost certainly would be. And if we weren't to do it properly what would be the point of doing it?
"I don't think it’s fair to brand those people who are happy for Ipswich to remain a Town as not being ambitious for the place where they live. I can see both sides of the argument and could well see a time in the future where we could really unite together as a community to push for City status. I just don't see now as being that time.
"Ipswich is a great place to live and I'm incredibly proud to represent one of this country’s oldest Towns in Parliament. We don't need to be a City to achieve what we want to achieve and just because we're not a City it doesn't mean we're a lesser place to, say, Norwich or Chelmsford. Of course, I'd argue we're a far better place.
"My number one focus is and will continue to be addressing all the major issues there are across Town and working with the Borough Council, Ipswich Central and other key partners to deliver the £25 million Town Deal projects whilst keeping an eye open for new opportunities for investment."