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A major issue in the recent elections was the plans by Conservative-run Suffolk County Council to cut the Ipswich’s fire service in half so that we would only have three fire engines to cover the whole of the town.

This was raised again and again by people on the doorstep. Of particular concern was the plan to cut the number of engines at the Princes Street fire station – the busiest fire station in Suffolk – to a single engine.

These cuts are hugely unpopular and I said in my column last week that the plans would have to be rethought.

A few hours after it was published – I think it was probably a coincidence! – the County Council did indeed put out revised plans, with a reduction in the level of cuts.

This has been portrayed as a U-turn in the face of public opposition but the truth is that Conservative councillors are still ploughing ahead with cuts:

  • Instead of cutting three out of Ipswich’s six fire engines they are now “only” planning to cut two.

  • Instead of cutting the number of full time firefighters in Ipswich by twenty they will “only” be cutting sixteen.

  • Instead of cutting the number of on-call firefighters in Ipswich by eight they will “only” be cutting six.

There is a strong suspicion that these are the level of cuts Conservative councillors wanted all along.

They knew they would be unpopular so put forward even bigger cuts. That way, when they “backed down”, the level of cuts they’d wanted all along wouldn’t seem so bad.

The County says that their new proposals are responding to what people said in the public consultation but I haven’t met a single person who told me: “I don’t want Ipswich’s fire service to be cut in half but I’ve got no problem with it being cut by a third”.

We are assured that this new level of cuts is perfectly safe, but of course we were assured that the previous level was perfectly safe too. If Conservative councillors were really convinced that the bigger level of cuts was safe, then why haven’t they stuck with them?

And if they were wrong before how can we be confident that they are right now?

One extraordinary statement was that only having four engines in Ipswich was fine because quite often that’s all we have available now. One may have been sent to cover at a retained station in the rest of Suffolk and one could be in for repairs.

But of course if that happens in future then we’ll only have two fire engines covering the whole of Ipswich!

And it does not address the issue that if there is a fire in a tower block – of which we will have more in the future when the Winerack and the Mill are completed – six engines need to attend. Some of these will now have to come from outside Ipswich.

This exercise has been about one thing and one thing only: saving money. All other considerations have been secondary. The one constant throughout the proposals – and the one thing we have been told is non-negotiable – is the amount of money that will be saved.

These new cuts haven’t been finally agreed yet but time is running out. If you aren’t happy with these cuts to one of our emergency services, please contact your county councillor and let them know.

Was Tory U-turn on Fire Service part of their plan all along?

A major issue in the recent elections was the plans by Conservative-run Suffolk County Council to cut the Ipswich’s fire service in half so that we would only have three...

Helping young Ipswich people gain skills and employment, through apprenticeships, was a key part of Ipswich Labour Party's strategy for economic prosperity in our town.

It formed part of our Manifesto "Labour for Homes and Jobs".  Smaller firms found the prospect of taking on apprentices daunting, so we set up our Apprenticeship Brokerage Scheme.

The result last year was 1200 new apprenticeships in Ipswich - the highest number for at least ten years.  And so far this year, 620 apprenticeships have been created in Ipswich - the highest number anywhere in the East of England.

 

The Apprenticeship Brokerage Scheme assists small and medium sized Ipswich businesses when taking on an apprentice, offering support with sourcing suitable candidates for interview, finding a training provider and providing ongoing customer care through the life of apprenticeship.

The scheme, which is part of the Borough Council's Jobs and Skills Fund set up to support the Council’s ambition to support job creation and increase skills within the workforce, is delivered through Papworth Trust.

Council Leader David Ellesmere said: "Our apprentice brokerage scheme was set up to help small local companies who had never taken on an apprentice before.

"Around 96% reported that taking on an apprentice has led to benefits to their business such as new ideas being introduced to the organisation, better morale amongst staff and better staff retention."

Earlier this year, Ipswich company Fizzwig Designs was able to demonstrate how much it has benefitted from the Council's apprenticeship scheme, by winning the 'Apprenticeships 4 England' Silver Employer award. Fizzwig recruited its first apprentice in January last year and now has three who are working towards NVQ qualifications.

The Council, itself, has employed five apprentices in the past year and offers apprenticeship opportunities in fields such as event management, plumbing, gardening, IT and customer service.

Labour's Apprenticeship Brokerage Scheme makes Ipswich top performer

Helping young Ipswich people gain skills and employment, through apprenticeships, was a key part of Ipswich Labour Party's strategy for economic prosperity in our town. It formed part of our Manifesto...

What a difference a year makes, writes Labour Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere.

Last year’s Ipswich Borough Council elections were held on the same day as the General Election and were just as grim for Labour, with a loss of four seats to the Conservatives.

Conservative councillors were cock-a-hoop. I remember one confidently telling me that they would take control of the council this year.

Unfortunately for them, voters in Ipswich hadn’t read the script.

In Thursday’s council elections Labour won thirteen out of the sixteen Ipswich wards, gaining two seats from the Conservatives. One of these gains was in Holywells ward which Labour has never won before.

I’ve got to be honest, at the start of this year’s campaign, we did not think we’d do so well.

National opinion polls and political pundits were all saying that Labour were going to lose seats so that’s what we were expecting.

But throughout April our campaigners were out on the doorstep day after day speaking to thousands of people. We started to notice that there was a steady stream of people coming across to Labour.

And there’s something else a bit more intangible that the seasoned campaigner can pick up: how positive or otherwise your supporters are. You may get someone who always tells you they are going to vote for your party but in some years they do it through gritted teeth and in others they can’t wait to get off to the polling station.

This led us to believe that we would do better than the pollsters were saying, but this was tempered with the knowledge that we thought we were going to do well last year…

So what are the lessons to be learned from this year’s elections?

  • Labour is regarded as running Ipswich Borough Council well in contrast to the way the Conservatives are running Suffolk County Council. It was striking that the vast majority of complaints people have in Ipswich are about County Council issues.

  • We put forward a small but achievable set of proposals which proved popular: continuing to protect frontline services, keeping brown bins free of charge unlike Conservative-run councils across Suffolk, re-building Crown Car Park and continuing to build new council houses.

  • Because of our existing track record people believe that we can deliver on these promises.

  • The two big cuts that the County Council are threatening in Ipswich – to halve our fire service and to close the Park and Ride – are very, very unpopular. Conservative councillors need to rethink these cuts now.

  • In a few short months David Cameron and George Osborne have squandered much of the support they garnered in the run-up to the General Election. There was a noticeable shift towards us in the aftermath of George Osborne’s second omni-shambles Budget.

  • It probably won’t be popular with either his supporters or his detractors but there isn’t much of a discernible “Jeremy Corbyn Effect”. I met a small number of people who said they wouldn’t vote Labour because of Jeremy Corbyn, balanced by an equally small number who said they would vote Labour because of him. Both these were dwarfed by the number of people who wanted to complain about the state of the roads in Ipswich. The national press need to get away from Westminster a bit more often and speak to some real people. It isn’t a coincidence that the Star’s Paul Geater had a much better handle on what was going to happen.

So a big thankyou to everyone in Ipswich who voted Labour this year.

We will now get on with the job of delivering on our promises so that we can repay the trust you have shown in us and deliver a better Ipswich for everyone.

What a difference a year makes. David Ellesmere reflects on Thursday's elections

What a difference a year makes, writes Labour Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere. Last year’s Ipswich Borough Council elections were held on the same day as the General Election and...

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