What is the borough playing at?

I'VE been trying to work out what the borough's game is with the “will it, won't it” saga over the �900,000 it is supposed to be finding for its contribution to the second phase of UCS.

I'VE been trying to work out what the borough's game is with the “will it, won't it” saga over the �900,000 it is supposed to be finding for its contribution to the second phase of UCS.

Most people understood that the finance for the university that is really taking the town forward in the 21st century was a done-deal, but now those with their fingers on the purse strings at Grafton House are apparently having second thoughts.

I fully understand that those in charge of our money need to make sure that it is being spent in the right way - especially in the current difficult economic circumstances.

Like most people I hate the idea of money I have handed to the borough being wasted.

But it would be a disaster of unimaginable magnitude for the town if the development of the second phase of UCS were delayed or - perish the thought - cancelled altogether because one of the partners could not get its act together to stump up a small proportion of the cash needed.

I don't think that will happen - and of course it might be that the cash is cleared very soon after there has been one more examination of the figures.

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What I hope isn't happening at Grafton House is playing a game of “chicken” with a government intent on pumping public money into major projects in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

I do worry that somewhere in the administration someone has thought: “The government has loosened the purse strings. If we pay hardball with our cash, they'll foot the bill for the last �900,000.”

That might well be true in the current climate but it would be a disaster for the borough, and by extension for the town of Ipswich as a whole, in the long term.

Phase two of the university might go ahead, but a government of whatever political colour may be reluctant to help with any further phases of the university in years ahead when conditions are not so tight.

If the borough was to get a reputation for being untrustworthy - for agreeing to provide finance one month and looking for get-out clauses from that agreement the next - then governments might well look for other places to spend their money in the future.

ONCE the government gave its backing to the expansion of Heathrow, the Conservatives hit back by saying they would cancel the expansion if they win the next general election.

David Cameron was very keen to use this to promote his green credentials - and on the face of it the Tories' policies seem very sound from an environmental point of view.

Cancelling airport building and promoting new high-speed rail lines is just what is needed to ease pressure on the growth of greenhouse gases.

But a few days later London mayor Boris Johnson made some very disturbing comments during a major BBC interview - comments which could blow the Conservatives' green claims to shreds.

Mr Johnson said that while his party ruled out any further expansion of Heathrow, he would be in favour of developing a new airport in the Thames gateway.

That is the most environmentally-damaging proposal imaginable - and any government that proposed that would face an environmental battle which would make the rows over Heathrow and Stansted look like vicar's tea parties!

There should be no need to expand airports anyway if more sensible methods of travel are developed - but the idea of building a huge new airport in the middle of an estuary with internationally-important wildlife sites is unthinkable.

And the very fact that senior Conservatives are contemplating such a move is very worrying.

If David Cameron is serious about his green credentials he should stamp on this idea straight away - and dismiss it with the same force as he stated his opposition to the expansion of the south east's existing airports.

AS I sit here crafting the words for my column every week, I always imagine that they might be read in high places - but I'm impressed that David Cameron has become such a fan of mine!

Two weeks ago I told him that bringing back Kenneth Clarke was the way to bring back voters who have shied away from the Tories for the last 17 years.

Now he's taken my advice - even if it has upset the right-wing of the party.

That must have been a tough decision for him. Do I bring back Ken and upset the Tebbitists, or ignore the extremists and do what's best for the party? It really was a no-brainer.

I still think it would have been best to bring Ken in as shadow chancellor - he could have out-argued Alastair Darling on the floor of the House of Commons and as it is he'll just be arguing with Lord Mandelson's deputy.

But I suppose it was too much to expect Mr Cameron to demote his mate George Osborne. Certainly the Tory front bench looks a great deal more heavyweight today - there will be many more Labour MPs in marginal seats feeling a bit more nervous after this reshuffle.

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