Time right for council move

IT'S been interesting to see the letters about the new Suffolk County Council headquarters that have been in the Star recently.I know it was almost inevitable that a massive council tax hike at the same time as plans to move into a shiny headquarters would raise a few hackles.

IT'S been interesting to see the letters about the new Suffolk County Council headquarters that have been in the Star recently.

I know it was almost inevitable that a massive council tax hike at the same time as plans to move into a shiny headquarters would raise a few hackles.

But I have to say that the critics who claim Endeavour House is an unnecessary expense at this time are totally wide of the mark.

It's right for the council to move to its new County Hall, and those who claim they can't afford it betray their total lack of understanding of local council finance.

1)The fact is that the cost of this move is coming out of capital, not revenue expenditure and council tax only goes towards the revenue equation.

2)The county is getting a bargain – the cost of building the headquarters was estimated by TXU at £35 million, the council is paying between £18 and £20 million for it.

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3)Many of the county's existing buildings are grotty. There's no other word for it. If you're paying to heat offices where the windows don't fit and the ceiling's covered in cracks it's going to cost a lot more than heating a state-of-the-art building with energy saving devices.

4)By selling the county's existing land holdings in the centre of Ipswich the council will probably raise more than it's paying for Endeavour House.

5)The council's organisation is currently very loose and not run as a single unit, being in a single office will make it much easier to work together.

6)The arrival in Endeavour House will revitalise the Ipswich Village area of the town.

If the move was so expensive and wasteful, would it really have got all-party support with the Conservative opposition being as happy as the Labour/Liberal Democrat administration?

The county has made a pigs ear of some of its decisions over the years. This isn't one of them – Endeavour House may be a naff name but the move will be the best thing it's done for years.

  

MOST commentators agree that Robin Cook's resignation speech to the House of Commons on Monday was one of the most riveting pieces of parliamentary theatre of recent times.

But I couldn't help noticing the reaction of the MP immediately behind him – and the apparent discomfort he was feeling during the speech.

By coincidence, Ipswich MP Chris Mole found himself sitting only a couple of feet away from Mr Cook during the speech.

And he really didn't look as if he was enjoying himself – at one stage he almost looked as if he was ready to drop off, well it was the middle of the evening and we know MPs don't like working late these days!

Mr Mole assures me it was merely a "Happy Coincidence" that Mr Cook sat near him for his speech – in fact the former leader of the House sat between his ex cabinet colleagues Frank Dobson and Chris Smith.

They're both leading opponents of the government's war in Iraq – and now Mr Cook has joined them.

"Robin actually summed up many of my own feelings about the situation in his speech," Mr Mole told me.

But the Ipswich MP still found it very difficult to decide how to vote.

"I've been called in for meetings with the prime minister and we've met the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan who says the only way to free his people is for the west to drive Saddam out.

"There are very compelling arguments on both sides – I probably won't make up my mind how to vote until during the debate itself," he said.

Now we know he did a u-turn on his previous position and voted for the government. I just hope he managed to keep his eyes open during the debate!

BOSSES at Ipswich council are ecstatic about the number of people who have signed up to vote by new technology in May.

They had hoped that between 3,000 and 5,000 people would pre-register for e-voting.

But already the number has shot through the 5,500 barrier and now officials are hoping it will rise to between 6,000 and 7,000.

That would mean nearly 10 per cent of the electorate in the town is planning to vote by using computers, mobile phone texting or touchtone phones in the local elections on May 1.

It's not a huge proportion – but it's something to build on when the average turnout at council elections in the town is only about 25 per cent.

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