Ipswich: Town’s growth set to continue – but better education needed to reach potential

The state of Ipswich was outlined at the conference.

The state of Ipswich was outlined at the conference. - Credit: Archant

Ipswich has low unemployment and is one of the most affordable places to live in Britain – but the poor standard of education probably contributes to it having one of the lowest average wages of any town in the country.

That is one of the key findings of the State of Ipswich 2014 report which was discussed at a conference hosted by University Campus Suffolk.

Statistical data about the town has been gathered by the borough council and was presented to a meeting of business leaders, academics, and local politicians from the town.

The population growth of Ipswich between the 2001 and 2011 was nearly 14% – ahead of regional trends and statistically similar cities like Exeter and Gloucester.

If the current trend continues, by 2021 the population of Ipswich borough will be 151,000 – and that does not include urban areas like Rushmere, Kesgrave and Pinewood, which are seen as effectively part of the town.

A presentation by Tibbs Pinter of Ipswich Borough Council demonstrated the importance of Ipswich to the economy of Suffolk as a whole.

The Ipswich “built-up area”, which includes Pinewood and some of the new homes to the east of the town’s boundary, has a population of 145,000 – more than twice the size of Lowestoft and almost four times the size of Bury St Edmunds.

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Individual council wards in Ipswich have much larger populations than some significant Suffolk towns like Leiston, Halesworth, Bungay and Needham Market.

Social research data shows that Ipswich has fewer “wealthy achievers” than the rest of Suffolk, but it has a higher proportion of the population classed as “comfortably off” than any district, apart from Forest Heath in the north west of the county.

The average gross pay for full-time workers in Ipswich was £23,686, but this hid a significant variation between the genders – men averaged £28,340 while women averaged £20,488 for full-time work.

Ipswich also had 25% of workers earning below the “living wage” level of £7.65 an hour.

Again, there was a difference between the genders with 18% of men earning below this figure but 32% of women below that line.

Mr Pinter pointed out that this difference in wages was in spite of the fact that girls did much better than boys at school.

Andrew Carter from the Centre for Cities think tank said Ipswich came 58th out of 60 cities for the number of people with GCSEs – and was 54th out of 64 when it came to average wages.

The good news was that homes are relatively affordable. The average home in Ipswich costs £154,000, about seven times the average wage. The lowest figure in the country is Wigan where the average home costs five times the average wage.

In Oxford and London the average home costs 14 and 15 times the average wage.

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