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Northern Bypass - ‘The door is not yet closed,’ says MP

PUBLISHED: 05:30 06 March 2020 | UPDATED: 07:08 06 March 2020

Ipswich MP is to be a co-chair of the Ipswich Transport Taskforce.  Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN

Ipswich MP is to be a co-chair of the Ipswich Transport Taskforce. Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN

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As your local MP, it’s a great privilege to be in a position to effect real change in our town and to work on the commitments I made during the campaign, writes Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich.

This doesn't mean there aren't frustrations along the way too and new MPs quickly discover that there aren't any magic wands to wave once elected. Sleeves have to be rolled up and you have to be ready to keep banging on the door to get your town's priorities over the line.

This is exactly what I will do for Ipswich.

On the northern bypass, I'm clear that the door has not yet closed, and I will not give up the fight to see it delivered. I've asked the Secretary of State for Transport to remove the housing requirement attached to the northern route which has essentially given certain local authorities a veto over the project's progression.

I'll continue to make the case plainly to Government that Suffolk has already seen under-investment in infrastructure at the same time as significant housing growth, and we need the bypass to relieve the pressures we're already facing.

The decision to put the plans for the bypass on ice are disappointing, but I will not shrink in the face of the challenge. The political blame game started by the local Labour Party over the decision also leaves me undeterred.

Labour Councillors, all of which have been in office far longer than I have, have repeatedly turned down my offers to work together, instead choosing to score cheap political points. I'm sure the irony is lost on no-one that they were far less vocal about my predecessor's record. He spoke less about the bypass in Parliament over two years than I have done over the past three months.

Rather than join Labour on the sidelines, I will not lose focus on advancing the priorities of my constituents. I can't promise the bypass will be shovel ready this Parliament but be in no doubt that I will not go missing in action as others have.

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That's why I stand ready to use my position as the Local MP to support the work of Ipswich's new Transport Taskforce, which will look at the transport upgrades we can make in the short-term as we seek to move the levers of power over the bypass. These include improvements to key junctions, public transport as well as walking and cycling infrastructure.

It's essential that the taskforce does not become another talking shop and that it has real teeth to make improvements to the congestion problems our town is facing. I'm prepared to get hands-on with the Taskforce to ensure it is focused on concrete action and I will not hesitate to use my position in Parliament to bring its work to national attention if necessary.

It remains to be seen whether the Taskforce's work can be steered towards delivery but I won't hide away from the opportunity to push it in that direction and the possibility of real improvements to the traffic problems in our town.

Transport is not the only issue where shouting from the sidelines won't cut it. Crime and anti-social behaviour is the number one issue in our town and we won't be able to fight it if we imagine we're walking on a political minefield every time we talk about it.

The political repercussions of speaking openly and honestly should never restrict our ability to put the protection of the public first.

That's why I've called on the Government to amend the College of Police's guidance which mandates that the police record non-crime hate incidents and has even resulted in the investigation of law-abiding citizens for exercising their right to free speech.

At a time when the police are stretched, we must be unapologetic in saying this is not the way the police should be spending their valuable time and resources.

While the guidance from the top isn't up to scratch, I'm determined to support the brave police officers on the ground who are doing their best to keep us safe. I'll be joining new police officers on the front line for a total of 15 days over this year as part of the Police and Fire Service Scheme to see how they train, patrol, operate nightshifts and investigate crime.

I hope to gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges they face every day during my time at the coalface. And I'll bring back what I've learnt to Parliament to aid me in representing my constituents as strongly as I can on this essential issue for our town.

I can't promise I'll deliver everything I work on, but I can promise that I will never be caught missing in action when it comes to fighting for our town's priorities.

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