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The Leader of the Labour Group at Suffolk County Council has slammed the Conservative administration after it was revealed that £70,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on a fourteen-page report.

The report, entitled ‘Suffolk’s Strategic Housing Role’ and produced by the think tank ResPublica, cost the council £5,000 per page, a rate of £11 per word.

Cllr Sarah Adams, Leader of the Labour Group, described the threadbare report as a ‘bad joke’ saying that the council’s reputation and economic credibility had been undermined, once again.

Cllr Adams said: “To say that this report was disappointing would be a gross understatement. Leaving aside the significant cost to the taxpayer, it is devoid of any discernible substance or purpose.

It is true that this latest farce started as a Cllr Noble power grab, but instead of taking control of the situation, Cllr Hicks has simply rearranged the deckchairs of the Titanic.

At £5,000 a page, this report acts as a metaphor for the current Tory administration; inconsequential, directionless and profligate in the extreme.”

The Conservative party seem obsessed with wasting vast sums of money on vanity projects rather than concentrating on providing their core services.

They have turned the council into a laughing stock. Money and resources were thrown at Barley Homes without a single house being built. £8 million lost on the Upper Orwell Crossing white elephant. All the while funding has been slashed for our public services like the Citizens Advice with Suffolk’s residents paying the price for Tory incompetence and failure.

It is an absolute disgrace.

The publication of the report follows the news that Suffolk County Council spent £95,000 on award ceremonies over the past three years, one of highest expenditures in the region.

County Tory report costs Suffolk taxpayers £5,000 a page

The Leader of the Labour Group at Suffolk County Council has slammed the Conservative administration after it was revealed that £70,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on a fourteen-page...

Rough sleeping is a problem all year round, but it is even more acute during the cold winter months, writes Ipswich Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere.

Across the country, homelessness and rough sleeping has been rising.

Government cuts to benefits are largely to blame. The problems with Universal Credit are well known but the punitive sanctions regime can leave people without funds for weeks or even months. The value of housing benefit has been frozen so that it no longer covers the cost of rent for many houses.

Caption: Council Leader, David Ellesmere, and Housing Portfolio Holder, Neil MacDonald outside Ipswich's new homeless unit.

Support for people who are in most danger of becoming homeless - such as drug treatment programmes and mental health support - has also been cut.

Cuts are continuing despite Theresa May’s claim that “austerity is over”. In Suffolk County Council’s budget, there is a cut of £450,000 in “support to people at risk of homelessness”.

It is against this unfavourable background that Ipswich Borough Council is battling to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.

I am pleased that we are having some success here.

We have won additional funding which is paying for more emergency beds for people sleeping rough and two extra months opening for the Winter Night Shelter. Latest figures from the Shelter show that 10 people who have stayed a night there have moved out into more permanent accommodation.

The latest autumn rough sleeping counts show that 11 people were sleeping rough in Ipswich compared to a high of 27 in 2016. That is still 11 too many but it is a welcome downward trend.

Of course, we also need to focus on trying to stop people getting on to the streets in the first place. The Council provides help and advice to hundreds of people each year, largely without being noticed, to stop them becoming homeless.

We are also investing more than £2.5million in a new facility to give families safe temporary homes, rather than unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation. This new unit for up to 40 families should open in late spring.

But, quite often, it feels like we are running to keep still. We need the Government to stop the policies that are pushing more and more people into homelessness and rough sleeping.

Ipswich is reducing homelessness and rough sleeping, but we need government policies to change

Rough sleeping is a problem all year round, but it is even more acute during the cold winter months, writes Ipswich Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere. Across the country, homelessness...

Written before the latest Brexit votes on Thursday evening, Sandy Martin MP sets out the UK's position, six weeks prior to 29th March.

There are now just 42 days left until the UK leaves the European Union. Some readers might want to add “unless we annul Article 50, or delay it”. But the only “we” that can do that is the Government, and Theresa May has made it very clear that she has no intention of doing any such thing.

Labour called a vote of no confidence in the Government because we wanted to get a grip of the Brexit shambles and the only effective way to do so was to form a new Government.  The result of that no confidence vote makes it clear that the only Party which can possibly be held responsible for the way Brexit is being handled is the Conservative Party.

On Thursday, after I have written this post, Parliament held yet another round of votes on Brexit, in a desperate attempt to break the deadlock. I cannot be certain of the outcome, but I assume that as before the Government has turned down all the substantial options for progress. The motion put forward by the Government may or may not have been defeated but it was fairly meaningless anyway. I should tell you what options Labour and others have put forward, though.

At the end of January Labour proposed a permanent customs union and a strong relationship with the European single market – this would have protected British jobs and our economy, and made the so-called backstop unnecessary – and to give Parliament the possibility of proposing a second referendum on the agreed deal. This was voted down by the Tories.

We also proposed to debate the matter until it was resolved – this was also rejected, as was the proposal to allocate as many days as it would take to resolve it, and the proposal to delay Brexit if the matter hadn’t been resolved in time. The one vote we did win was to reject the idea of leaving without a deal. And the Conservatives voted through an amendment requiring the backstop to be replaced, but without identifying anything to replace it with.

On Thursday 14th February, we will have voted on whether to ditch the Prime Minister’s failed deal, whether to delay Brexit for 3 months until a deal can be struck, and whether the Government should come clean on the economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit. My guess is that each of those options will have been defeated.

So far, the only thing that a majority of MPs have agreed with is that we must not leave without a deal. The problem is, that unless we can agree about what we must do, we will crash out without a deal on March 29 willy-nilly. I believe that would be a disaster.

Not all MPs agree about that, of course, and many Conservatives outside Parliament also seem to think a no-deal Brexit would be a fine thing. If we produced all our own food and goods, and didn’t need to travel or buy or sell anything abroad, and didn’t need any of the nurses or doctors or builders who are not British citizens, and didn’t need to cooperate with anyone else on anything, then they might be right. They could have been right in 1819, but not in 1919 and certainly not in 2019. If we leave without a deal we will not just be going back to 1970, we will be tearing up the deals we have made with other countries as part of the EU too. It won’t just make trade with Europe difficult, it will make trade with Canada and South Korea and Turkey and many others more difficult too. The prospect is so horrendous that I feel duty bound, as the MP for Ipswich, to do whatever I can to prevent it from happening.

So what happens next?  I believe a deal along the lines put forward by Labour in January could command overwhelming support – a Brexit deal agreed by Parliament, with the option of a second referendum to give the British people the chance to vote on whether they accepted that deal or would prefer to remain. But every time she is given the opportunity, May rejects that proposal. Will there be any alternative proposal put forward which can save us from a no-deal Brexit? I don’t know, I’m not the Government.

But I do know that the Conservatives are now sliding very close to the cliff edge – if we go over it without a deal on March 29, the consequences will be entirely the fault of this Tory Government.

Latest Brexit news from Sandy Martin

Written before the latest Brexit votes on Thursday evening, Sandy Martin MP sets out the UK's position, six weeks prior to 29th March. There are now just 42 days left...

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