OPINION: Sunak's budget delivered a fantastic boost to help Ipswich 'level up'

The Cornhill in Ipswich during the third national lockdown

Ipswich will receive £25million under the Town Deal initiative - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

The chancellor’s budget this week was well needed for the country, but it has especially been a real boost for Ipswich.

The two main direct benefits for Ipswich are the £25 million Town Deal which has been awarded by the Government and the establishment of the Port of Felixstowe as one of the country’s new Freeports. Both these initiatives will boost the local economy and will be vital in targeting pockets of deprivation within our town in order to help facilitate the ‘levelling up’ of Ipswich.

The best news for Ipswich is our securing of the maximum amount possible from the Town’s Fund. We were ambitious with the amount we requested, even asking for more than the maximum, because the Town Deal Board after months of consultation really believed that we had an opportunity to fund great new projects which would enrich areas across our town, and I am very glad that it paid off.

The £25 million we are receiving from the Government will be put towards 11 projects which will really provide a much-needed boost just at the right time as we come out of this pandemic and look to the future.

The money will provide an important opportunity to improve the lives of people throughout the town including in communities like Chantry and Gainsborough which will see improvements to their local shopping parades and community facilities with a specific allocation of £3 million.

Other projects include the regeneration of the town centre through greening initiatives and public realm improvements to improve the air quality and beauty of our town and to increase footfall to stimulate our local economy.

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his budget on Wednesday - Credit: POOL/AFP via Getty Images

It will also include the restoration and renovation of some of our most iconic old buildings such as the Old Post Office in the town centre and the Paul’s Silo Building on the Waterfront, which have fallen into disuse and been left to gather dust for far too long.

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There are also schemes focussing on skills, such as the Integrated Care Academy which will be based at the University of Suffolk to train new local nurses and care workers. The establishment of the Academy of Yacht Building on the island site with the Town Deal money, is also particularly exciting. The University of Suffolk and Suffolk New College are working with Spirit Yachts, a world-leading yacht-building company, to train up the next generation of craftsmen, a perfect example of the way in which we can develop apprenticeships programmes in conjunction with local businesses to provide jobs and expand our local skills base.

I have only touched briefly on some of these projects and there are so many more which I am incredibly excited about. I am hoping to go into more depth about each of the 11 exciting projects over the coming weeks.

I have to admit that I was reassured by the reporting of the comments made by Labour Leader of the Borough Council, David Ellesmere, in the Ipswich Star on Wednesday. After the announcement he was quoted as welcoming the bid. Naturally, he should – It’s fantastic news – but it does demonstrate a remarkable sea change from his earlier position when the Government’s Town’s Fund initiative was first announced.

In October 2019 around the time when Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary visited Ipswich and I showed him around, David Ellesmere dismissed the Government’s offer of a £25million cash boost as a pre-election bribe! In light of the recent news, this unsubstantiated claim has been clearly shown to have been nonsense.

I am, however, still shocked that some Labour councillors such as Alasdair Ross are continuing to attack the town deal for being a bribe. I’m not really sure that the argument saying ‘the town voted in a Conservative Government and have now secured the money they were offered’, is likely to win back any former Labour voters who put their trust in our party.

The Government has realised the fantastic potential our town has and has recognised that there are a number of areas in which some residents understandably feel they have been left behind. This money is very real and will make a very big difference in Ipswich.

The announcement of the Freeport for Felixstowe only added to the great news for Ipswich on Wednesday.
I have been supporting the Port of Felixstowe in their bid over many months and wrote to the chancellor in November expressing my support for a Freeport in Suffolk and laying out our case for being included in the scheme. All in all, around 6,000 of my constituents are either directly or indirectly employed by the Port.

The Government’s Freeport initiative will play a crucial role in our post-Covid economic recovery by bringing new opportunities for inward investment, economic growth and regeneration. There are areas of deprivation in Ipswich which will benefit hugely by the introduction of the Freeport and this will help us deliver on the levelling up agenda for Ipswich.

Finally, the more general measures which the cancellor announced in his Budget will guarantee more support for people and businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, which have been struggling this year through the uncertainty of the pandemic.

I signed a few letters ahead of the budget with other MPs. I signed one calling for the £20 increase in Universal Credit to be extended for as long as the pandemic and its effects go on for. I’m pleased it was confirmed on Wednesday that the increase has been extended for six months. I also signed a letter calling for fuel duty to be frozen and I was happy to see it was confirmed to have been frozen for a record tenth consecutive year.

I also believe that the decision to extend the furlough scheme until the autumn was wise. Hopefully by the time the scheme ends, the economy will have had a good few months to really kick off following the end of the restrictions and we can safeguard as many of those jobs as possible.

Clearly, over the coming years the chancellor is going to have to make a number of tough decisions to repay the huge debts we’ve incurred fighting this pandemic. He made a start today in outlining some of the ways he plans to do this. However, I was glad that in outlining his approach to increasing Corporation Tax over time he is acutely sensitive to the need to not hit smaller businesses.

All in all, I believe that this budget has been a great one for the people of Ipswich.

The extension of the furlough and uplift of Universal Credit will benefit many who are struggling and the huge investment that will come from the Town Deal and as a result of the Freeport puts us in great standing to progress out of this pandemic positively, with effects that will last long into the future.

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