Ipswich loses more from council austerity than other East Anglian cities
PUBLISHED: 00:01 28 January 2019
Ipswich has suffered more than any other East Anglian "city" from the results of austerity on local councils over the last eight years according to a new national survey.
Residents have seen the amount spent on local authority services in the town fall by £354 a head – or 18% – according to the think tank “Centre for Cities.”
That is a larger fall than anywhere else in the region – and puts Ipswich at 23 in the national league table (out of 63 cities).
The report uses the term “city” to cover all the urban areas they are looking at, which are based on size. It does not distinguish between those officially called cities and towns – and does not include small “official” cities like Ely, Truro, or Salisbury.
Generally cities in the north of England, especially smaller cities, suffered more than those in the south or midlands.
The report – which is published annually – also highlights other issues facing Ipswich.
It is one of a small number of cities across the country where the population fell last year – by 40 – while on average cities across the country showed a 0.6 increase in the number of residents.
Housing growth in Ipswich is also one of the lowest in the country – in 2017/18 there were only 260 new homes completed in the town, boosting its housing stock by 0.4%. The national average was a 0.9% increase.
There was also a 2% fall in the number of private sector jobs in Ipswich, from 51,000 to 50,000. Across the country there was a 1.1% rise in private sector jobs.
The average weekly wage in Ipswich fell last year from £517 a week to £516. On average across the country the figure went up by £4 a week from £551 to £555 – but the national average is heavily slewed because London figures of £751 a week average wages distort it.
One factor where Ipswich does do very well on is air pollution. It is the “cleanest” city in the country with the lowest proportion of CO2 emissions of any of the 63 cities. There will still be pollution hotspots in the town like St Margaret’s Plain and Chevallier Street – but overall its figures on this scale look good.
Ipswich is also one of the most productive cities in the East of England in terms of Gross Value Added by workers. Its GVA figure of £56,300 per worker beats Cambridge, Norwich, Peterborough, and Southend in East Anglia.
What the politicians have to say about the age of austerity in Ipswich
The report shows that government grants to local authorities have fallen by 60% since 2009/10 – and councils have been prevented from putting up council tax to make up the difference.
And it also says that the cuts to the 63 cities included in the report have been much greater than to the public as a whole – the per capita cut in cities has been an average of £386 per person per year rather than £172 per year in other parts of the country.
Ipswich council’s Labour leader David Ellesmere said most of the cuts suffered in Ipswich had been to county council services – and the closure of the Caribbean Centre came when the borough was being run by a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.
He said: “The government cuts have caused real financial problems which we have had to work hard to address by reducing costs (like reducing the number of senior managers which is saving in the region of £750K a year) and increasing income (like investing in commercial property which is now bringing in around £2.25m a year).
“Without taking these measures we would have been looking at severe cuts to the services Ipswich Borough Council provides.”
Ipswich’s Labour MP Sandy Martin added: “It is disgraceful, but no great surprise, that Ipswich has been hardest hit by Austerity in the East of England. It is precisely those people who most need support to get their lives back on track who have been hit hardest.
“It has been the County services which help prevent people becoming dependent which have been cut hardest. And now the Citizens Advice Bureau, which is the last port of call for so many, is also facing the removal of its grant.”
Paul West, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Ipswich, said: “Suffolk County Council if fully committed to the development and continued success of Ipswich.
“We’ve recently invested in some major projects here, including The Hold, junction improvements, the forecourt at the railway station, as well as supporting the tidal barrier and St Peters Dock projects.
“The autumn budget was the first sign that things may be getting a bit easier as Suffolk has secured additional funding for adult social care and pothole repairs. This funding will benefit Ipswich and Suffolk as a whole.”
What has Ipswich lost during the Age of Austerity?
2010: Ipswich Caribbean Centre closed. Restrictions placed on senior citizens’ free bus passes – they could no longer be used before 9.30am on any day.
2011: Bury Road Park and Ride Centre closed. Suffolk County Council stopped the Explore Card scheme offering cheap rail and bus fares to thousands of young people. A new “Endeavour Card” is far more limited in scope.
2015: Two well-used Ipswich Children’s Centres were among nine across Suffolk closed by the county council.
2016: The fire service reorganisation saw a reduction in the number of appliances based in the town.
2017: The Ipswich Foyer which offered accommodation to young people closed because funding could not be found to keep it running.
2018: The Mygo centre for young unemployed people, supported by local councils, closed to save money from shrinking budgets.