Last of town’s housing offices shuts its doors

IPSWICH: Angry tenants and councillors in Chantry joined in protest after the last of Ipswich’s neighbourhood offices closed its doors for good.

The borough council’s decision to centralise its housing services and increase home visits by mobile estate officers was met with scepticism from long-term tenants living in the area who gathered at Hawthorn Drive to protest against the changes.

They were joined by councillors representing Gipping, Sprites and Bridge wards, as well as former mayor of Ipswich Hamil Clark and representatives of Chantry residents association.

Tenants say they have lost count of the number of years the office had stood in Hawthorn Drive, serving up to 1,000 residents a month.

Their protests followed similar object from All Hallows branch users who made their emotions known to The Evening Star in Raeburn Road last month.

Pamela Pammet, of Sheldrake Drive, one-time tenant of the year, said: “I have spoken to moire than 200 people from the area and only two of them were in favour of the housing office closing.

“By taking it away they are taking away our choice. Lots of people would choose not to have officers coming to them but now they don’t have that option.”

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The borough council has called the move a forward step which will see home visits from estate officers rise by 70 per cent. Housing services chiefs promise residents better access to a custodian and more home visits for old and vulnerable residents.

But Gipping councillor and Labour group leader David Ellesmere disagreed, saying: “It is clear that this is something tenants really value and, despite what the council says, will be sorely missed by everyone.”

Bridge councillor Bryony Rudkin said her constituents were unanimous in their disapproval, adding: “The office has been a mine of information on housing and wider issues, especially for older people.”

Jeannette Macartney, Labour councillor for Gipping, said the decision was one the council had rushed into. “One of the many purposes of the office was to make sure people were paying the their rent on time,” she said. “I can see the council spending a lot of time chasing arrears.”

Her sentiment was echoed by Sprites counterpart Richard Kirby, who must now look elsewhere to host his regular ward surgeries, while Gipping’s Peter Gardiner argued the importance of face to face assurance for vulnerable tenants.

n Have the area housing office closures affected you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail