Tom Hunt’s plea for ‘left behind’ areas like Ipswich’s Bridge Ward
PUBLISHED: 07:30 07 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:34 07 March 2020
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has raised the plight of the Bridge Ward in the town – one of the most deprived areas in the country according to the government – during a debate on “left behind areas” in the House of Commons.
Bridge Ward, the area of Old Stoke and part of Maidenhall, is one of the 206 most deprived areas of the country according to research by The Local Trust.
To identify left behind areas, the Local Trust looked not only at economic indicators but social factors as well. These include connectivity, how active the local community is and the number of places where the community can meet and socialise.
Following the meeting, Mr Hunt set out in the House of Commons what this means in terms of people's health in Bridge.
In Bridge, healthy life expectancy at birth is around five years lower than the national average and deaths from cancer are more than 25% higher than the national average.
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Long-term illnesses for those aged over 65 are also 10% above the national average.
To address this, Mr Hunt called on the Government to create a £2 billion Community Wealth Fund to be targeted specifically at areas like Bridge. The fund would redirect existing money, currently sitting dormant in assets like bonds and shares, to the most deprived communities over a 10 to 15-year period.
The money would be targeted locally, with local residents taking the lead on how the money is spent. His plea backs up a call by a group of MPs from across the East of England to the chancellor not to ignore this region in his budget.
Mr Hunt wants to work with Local Trust and other MPs to move these plans forward. And he pledged to support to a new All Party Parliamentary Group on left behind neighbourhoods which will develop detailed proposals to take to Government.
After raising the problem in parliament, Mr Hunt said: "I have spent a great deal of time in Bridge and I've shared many positive conversations with residents there, but there is a sense that the area is not fulfilling its full potential. New research from the Local Trust has also highlighted that Bridge has been left behind.
"A lot has now been said about levelling up the country but now it's time to get on and do it. That's why I've called on the Government to create a Community Wealth Fund which will target investment specifically in areas like Bridge. Crucially as part of the plans, residents would be at the heart of the decision making process when it comes to how the extra money is spent.
"It's vital that we focus our energies on places which haven't had enough support in the past and empower local residents to have a voice on the future of their communities. I'll be working hand-in-hand with the Local Trust and other Members of Parliament over the coming months to see this happen."