Of all the things Labour has done since winning control of Ipswich Borough Council probably the one I’m proudest of is something that hardly anyone notices, let alone comments on, writes Labour Council Leader, David Ellesmere.
It is this: despite huge cuts in funding from the Government – to the tune of millions of pounds – through good financial management we have managed to protect frontline council services for Ipswich residents.
So, for example, when the other Tory-run councils in Suffolk decided to start charging up to £50 for brown bin collection, we were able to keep this service free of charge in Ipswich.
We have been able to do this while still maintaining decent terms and conditions for our staff. We are an accredited Living Wage employer – the only council to be accredited in Suffolk – and we do not have single member of staff on a zero-hours contract.
On top of this – though it is getting increasingly difficult – we will also try to improve services where we can.
Last week we agreed a permanent extension to the council’s “out-of-hours” noise nuisance service.
Tackling noise nuisance is a major responsibility of the council. People’s lives can be ruined by inconsiderate neighbours persistently making loud noises late into the night.
Let’s be frank. Up until last year, Ipswich’s noise nuisance service wasn’t good enough. We only had a late-night service Friday and Saturday nights.
On those two days, if a complaint came through the officer on duty could come out, visit you, witness the nuisance, visit the person causing the noise and take enforcement action if appropriate.
However, on the other five days, if you had a problem in the evening then nothing could be done at the time. Someone would get in contact with you the next day and take down the details. If it was a persistent problem, you would be asked to keep a noise log over a period of weeks. Only when enough evidence was gathered in this way could action be taken.
Needless to say, this didn’t make for a very satisfactory service.
Councillors frequently received complaints from residents suffering terrible noise problems with the council seemingly taking no action other than to get them to keep filling in logs.
Over the last year, we have run an out-of-hours service throughout the week as a pilot.
To no one’s great surprise this has resulted in greater satisfaction about the service and a big reduction in complaints. It has also made it easier to get convictions in court as perpetrators plead guilty in the face of evidence witnessed by our officers. The Star has covered some of these prosecutions.
By analysing when calls came through we have worked out the optimum hours of operation. The new service will run until 2am on Thursday to Sunday and until midnight Monday to Wednesday.
This will give Ipswich a much better service than the rest of Suffolk.
From what I can gather from other councils’ websites the current service they provide is even worse than Ipswich’s old way of working.
Most do not seem to offer any kind of out-of-hours service. Two offer a service on Friday and Saturday nights but only from May to September. One website gives you template letters to send to the person causing the noise and suggests you take out a private prosecution against them yourself!
I prefer Ipswich’s approach. Clearly this costs more money to run but it’s worth it. You can’t put a price on a good night’s sleep.