Ipswich: Town a microcosm of Britain – Cameron

IPSWICH: The town can be a beacon to show the way forward for the country, Prime Minister David Cameron said during a visit to The Evening Star offices.

On the day we issued our clarion call for the town to be a blueprint to lead our country out of the economic crisis, Mr Cameron told us that it was communities like ours that are vital to the future of the country.

Clearly impressed by what he saw here, the PM said: “Ipswich is in many ways a microcosm of Britain. There are millions of people who live in our market towns and county towns who want to see those towns have real improvements.

“The government is not obsessed by the north on the one hand and the south on the other. We recognise the importance of other parts of the country and we want to enable them to develop.”

Mr Cameron brought almost his whole Cabinet to Ipswich for a regional meeting at Martlesham Heath before ministers fanned out to visit a number of locations in the area.

The PM himself had to return to London for a keynote speech on medical research, so the Star’s office in Lower Brook Street was the only business he was able to visit after the formal cabinet meeting.

He was impressed by yesterday’s Star with its eight-page supplement showing how the town could show a beacon to the way out of the country’s difficulties.

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And while accepting that times were tough, he said places like Ipswich could help re-balance the whole economy.

Mr Cameron said the most important thing the central government could do to allow towns like Ipswich to develop was to let local businesses and local authorities to develop at their own pace.

He said: “What we are saying is: if you build the houses you keep the council tax. If you allow businesses to develop you keep the extra business rate. You have got the LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) that can bring business and local authorities together.”

He said the area could be boosted by having the regional growth fund and central government getting out of the way so local people can get on and plan the improvements needed.

“Sometimes we have been so used to a top-down target-driven culture that some parts of the country are just waiting for the instruction, but that’s not the way it is going to work,” he added.

He was impressed by the infrastructure surrounding Ipswich, but accepted that there still needed to be improvements.

Mr Cameron said: “I think the eastern region in general and towns like Ipswich in particular can be rather forgotten by London because London politicians think of the north/south divide and they think of regional policy in terms of the north west and north east.

“They don’t focus on a region which is actually a net contributor to the exchequer, that’s got immense economic potential and that’s one of the reasons for bringing the cabinet here – to say too often this region gets forgotten about and I don’t want that to happen.

“And there’s a lot of success to celebrate. We have got a difficult time economically and we have to take tough decisions.

“The eurozone is in a very bad place and that affects us but actually the big picture is that Britain has to re-balance its economy away from just the south east and financial services towards more manufacturing, more exports, more technology and that is where developments like broadband, and life sciences in the Eastern region are very important.”

n A full transcript of Mr Cameron’s interview is online. Visit www.eveningstar.co.uk for the full interview.

n How do you think the prime minister can help Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.