Ipswich: Deputy PM’s radical bid to return town to its heyday
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg today outlined an ambitious move to kickstart Ipswich’s economy and return the town to its “heyday”.
Mr Clegg made the bold claim in an exclusive interview with the Ipswich Star in which he announced Ipswich Borough Council would be given the chance to take on budgets and powers only previously wielded from Westminster.
Under the “city deals” scheme introduced by the coalition, ministers have promised to hand councils central government powers and the budgets that go with them, if local authorities show they can use them to regenerate their economy.
Mr Clegg said: “This could be a return to the heyday of Ipswich when the town leaders would not have to go on bended knee to Whitehall to beg for help from politicians and officials.”
So far only the eight largest cities outside London have been granted a city deal and all have taken control of the skills training and apprenticeships agenda to varying degrees.
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Mr Clegg said: “In January I struck these deals with eight of the biggest cities, it was pretty radical, the biggest devolution of powers outside London.
“The aim of doing it is to boost the areas that have had problems with public sector cuts and, because of the lack of money in Whitehall, to make sure that local authorities have the freedom to stand on their own two feet.
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“What I’m going to be announcing today is wave two, and I’ll be publishing a list of 20 regions including Ipswich, all of which will be entitled to put forward their own ideas about what kind of city (or town) they want.”
A city deal for Ipswich could conceivably see it bidding for money to upgrade the town centre to attract business or taking control of transport budgets relating to roads and rail.
Speaking at last month’s Beacon Ipswich conference, retail guru Sir Stuart Rose outlined what he saw as major problems the town had with its image.
He said: “The railway station would not be out of place in Siberia! It is a depressing station that you want to get out of – and there is nothing to say ‘Welcome to Ipswich’”. He then described the Cornhill as “the most depressing place”.
Responding to today’s announcement from Mr Clegg, Ipswich Borough Council deputy leader Neil Macdonald said: “The selection of Ipswich in the next wave of towns and cities shows the importance of our regional position and economic influence. Inward investment and the creation of new industry and jobs is a key priority of this council.
“Ipswich enjoys many advantages, both geographical and commercial – excellent transport links and a centre both for high-tech research and the financial services sector – and we want to build on those strengths to provide more opportunities for investment.”
The Ipswich Star launched the I Love Ipswich campaign to celebrate all that is good about Ipswich and highlight the positive steps that are being made to boost the town.