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History will mention 2019 as the year the UK left the European Union, or just possibly as the year the UK did NOT leave the European Union, writes Ipswich MP, Sandy Martin.

Article 50, which enables us to leave, was triggered in Spring 2017 and on March 30th 2019 the UK will no longer be a member, unless Parliament suspends or cancels Article 50 before that date.  Neither would be easy, and without a proposed way forward – either an agreed deal and a fresh referendum to sanction it, or a General Election and the prospect of a new better deal -  the EU wouldn’t accept a suspension.  In any case, given the referendum vote in 2016 it would be undemocratic to cancel Brexit without another referendum.

But although we don’t know what will happen with Brexit or what the effect will be for Suffolk, our County and in particular Ipswich has prospects which I think can give us hope for the future.

Ipswich is gaining a name for itself as a place to set up business and to shop, and we had one of the very few town centres where the number of visitors actually increased this winter.  Many people still receive pitifully low wages - I will continue to make the case for a much higher minimum wage so that people in work will not have to rely on benefits and hand-outs. And I will continue to speak to any prospective employers about what a good place Ipswich is to do business. When the new trains start coming into service in April, the journey to London – and to the rest of Suffolk – will become gradually more reliable and eventually faster.  That will give businesses an added incentive.

The Waterfront is coming on apace.  The Winerack will be finished this year, the revamp of St Peter’s Wharf will start in January, and there are plans for the other disused buildings and sites around the docks and for the area in front of St Peter’s Church – we are moving towards a situation where, instead of a beautiful island in a sea of dereliction, our Waterfront will be a vibrant part of a thriving town centre.  And when the tidal barrier is finished, the fear of flooding from the sea will be gone and other areas around the Orwell will be ready to develop too.

New houses are being built by the Borough Council for young families who cannot afford to buy, as well as by private developers for sale.  And the new homeless families unit will help keep more children out of unsuitable “Bed and Breakfast” accommodation.

There’s a lot to do. I will be redoubling my efforts to get all the agencies in Ipswich to work together to make sure that there are hostel beds available 24 hours a day 365 days a year, so that nobody ever has to sleep on our streets again.  We need a mental health service that works, and I want to see significant improvements in the Norfolk & Suffolk Trust by the end of January, otherwise I will agree with those who are calling for it to be taken under the control of a national body.

I will badger HMRC and the relevant ministers until they can see that it makes no sense to ship tax jobs from Ipswich to Stratford – in fact, quite the reverse, why don’t they relocate their “regional hub” to Ipswich?  I will continue to lobby the offshore wind industry to try to get them to locate some of their activities to our town.  And I will see what I can do, working with the Borough Council, to find people who have a use for the old County Hall and for the Cliff Quay Brewery.

I hope this year to get the Government to see the need for a North Ipswich road, but long before that can be built we can do our bit for the environment, for the economy of our town, for our own pockets and for our health, by resolving to walk or cycle or take the bus whenever it is convenient to do so.  I will try to persuade the County to make fresh efforts to encourage recycling, but we can all cut down on the amount of waste we create and increase the amount we recycle.

2019 might be an uncertain year, but just worrying about it doesn’t help. Let’s resolve to do the things we can do, and wherever possible let’s do them together.


Sandy's message for the New Year

History will mention 2019 as the year the UK left the European Union, or just possibly as the year the UK did NOT leave the European Union, writes Ipswich MP,...

Christmas is nearly here and for most of us, after the last-minute present buying and dinner preparations, it is a time of rest and enjoyment with family and friends, writes Ipswich Council Leader, David Ellesmere.

But do spare a thought for those who spend their Christmas Day working.

People don’t stop being ill just because it’s Christmas and our wonderful NHS staff will be looking after them tomorrow just as they do every day.

It wouldn’t be a particularly happy Christmas without water, heat, light or, increasingly, internet access. The workers who keep our utilities going over the festive period are unsung heroes.

While most public transport doesn’t run on Christmas Day, taxis do still run and for some people provide their only transport option.

Although most of the council will be taking a well-earned rest over Christmas, there are still service areas where people will be working tomorrow.

A stroll round one of our fantastic parks, either to build up an appetite or to walk off the meal, is a favourite activity of many Ipswich residents. Our parks staff will make sure the gates are open tomorrow just as the always are.

While, for most of us, the day will pass off without incident, domestic emergencies such as burst pipes or fires are no respecter of the festive season. We have a number of tradespeople on standby to fix major problems that may occur in council-owned properties.

Our Emergency Services Centre operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We always have a minimum of two people on duty to take emergency phone calls and monitor the town’s CCTV cameras.

They also monitor our HEARS community alarm scheme and despatch trained responders to anyone who signals they are in trouble by pressing the button on the pendant round their neck.

For some elderly and vulnerable people without nearby relatives, our staff may be the only people they speak to on Christmas Day.

All of these workers have given up their Christmas Day so we can enjoy ours.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Spare a thought for those who work at Christmas

Christmas is nearly here and for most of us, after the last-minute present buying and dinner preparations, it is a time of rest and enjoyment with family and friends, writes...

Throughout human history people have celebrated the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, writes Sandy Martin MP.  

In the Northern Hemisphere this is the time when the days stop becoming shorter and the sun gradually starts to rise earlier and earlier again. For Christians, this is the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus but, whether or not you are a Christian, most of the Christmas message rings just as true for all of us.

It’s worth remembering what the Christian story of Christmas is, because it is actually quite remarkable, and not at all what you would expect from an establishment religion.  Mary was pregnant, Joseph was not the father, but he married her anyway because he loved and respected her and wanted to protect her from criticism. They had to travel to another region, where they were homeless, and ended up living in a stable, where Mary gave birth.  They were visited by shepherds – some of the poorest and most underpaid people in society at the time – and Kings (or Wise Men) who brought expensive gifts, and they treated both sets of visitors with the same level of welcome and respect. They fell foul of the political regime and had to flee as refugees in order to save their lives. Eventually they got back to their homes where Joseph established himself as a craftsman.

You may or may not believe this story, but it doesn’t sound to me like the sort of story that someone wanting to establish a new religion would just make up.  But whether you believe it or not, the message that it has for all of us is powerful and important.

Do not judge people whose lives have been different from your own.  If a young woman becomes a single mother it may well be as a result of circumstances which you have never had to live through – she deserves our support and help, not unthinking condemnation, and so does the baby.

If people are homeless that is at least as much a reflection on the unreasonableness of our society as it is on their own lives.  We must do everything we can to help the homeless, and work towards a situation where nobody needs to be homeless at all.  In the short term, that means supporting organisations like Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG) and the Salvation Army.  I am pleased to have been able to help IHAG at the Great East Run this autumn.  And I am delighted to be able to support FIND – the food bank for people who cannot afford to feed their families.  FIND is currently helping record numbers of families in Ipswich, and needs as much financial support as it can get in order to be able to move into new bigger premises in the New Year. I feel sure that East Anglian and Star readers will help them reach that goal.

In the longer term, it means lending our voices to the calls for more affordable housing, for a higher minimum wage, for a less punitive benefits system and for better advice services so that people don’t get into the situation where they are homeless in the first place.  I will carry on advocating for more housing for the most desperate as well as supporting the Borough in providing more affordable housing for young families.  I urge the County Council to think again about cutting support for the Citizens Advice Bureau – the 6 month reprieve is very welcome, but actually they need to know that they will have a full year’s funding again next year, otherwise they will no longer be able to keep on the expert advisors who have helped so many people stay out of abject poverty.

And we all need to learn to be more tolerant and accepting of people who are different from ourselves.  That doesn’t mean offering “open door” to all and sundry, but it does mean recognising that those who have fled from persecution and civil war are human beings like ourselves, and giving them the welcome and support that we would want to receive if we were put in the same position. And if we support them now, they will probably contribute positively to our town in the future.

I believe that Ipswich is, for the most part, a tolerant and inclusive town.  At this time of goodwill to all, let us show that, by being more helpful, more friendly and more supportive, and sharing the joys of Christmas with all.


A Christmas message from Sandy Martin MP

Throughout human history people have celebrated the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, writes Sandy Martin MP.   In the Northern Hemisphere this is the time...

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