Row over Ipswich council housing as MP urges leader to change policy
PUBLISHED: 15:38 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:50 18 September 2020
CHARLOTTE BOND/SARAH LUCY BROWN
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has launched a second attack against council housing policy - with the authority’s leader hitting back at claims it disadvantages people trying to find accommodation in their home town.
The Conservative, elected to parliament last year, criticised Labour-led Ipswich Borough Council’s council housing policy in a column in this newspaper, saying: “We can’t have an honest conversation about council housing in Ipswich until we ask why people with no local connection can be prioritised over people who grew up here or moved here years ago and now need our support.”
However, David Ellesmere, leader of the authority, hit back in his own column for this newspaper - arguing that there are “sound reasons” for allocating homes on a regional basis, in conjunction with neighbouring district councils.
“Ipswich Borough has a very tightly defined boundary which excludes areas many people regard as ‘Ipswich’,” Mr Ellesmere said.
“The current system allows people from Chantry to access housing in Pinewood and people from Rushmere to access housing in Kesgrave.”
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However, Mr Hunt has now written to Mr Ellesmere saying: “As it stands nothing you have written convinces me, or I believe the majority of Ipswich residents, that it wouldn’t be in the interests of local people to operate a robust local residency requirement for all the properties the borough council owns, both new build and existing.”
Mr Hunt believes that it is a “point of principle that only those who have lived in Ipswich for at least six years, or who have held a strong connection to our town for a similar length of time, should be able to join our housing register.”
However, Mr Ellesmere believes the regional housing policy benefits Ipswich residents, as “it also allows Ipswich people to access to social housing outside the town boundary so they can, for instance, move for work or to be closer to family”.
He said in the past three years, over 100 more people a year from Ipswich had got a council house outside of the town than vice versa – something that wouldn’t be able to happen under Mr Hunt’s system, he said.
He added: “I do not believe Ipswich Borough Council’s housing allocation system disadvantages Ipswich people.”
In his latest letter, Mr Hunt said: “I fully accept we should cooperate with our neighbouring authorities, particularly when we have cases of vulnerable individuals fleeing the area they are in because of domestic violence.”
However, he said: “We should not sacrifice our own ability to prioritise our council housing for people for whom Ipswich is their home.”
Mr Ellesmere added: “If you bring in the system he wants, it doesn’t help Ipswich people – it would actually be worse.”
He believes more council housing is the only thing that will solve the problem once and for all.
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