Now that the dust has settled on the setting of councils’ budgets it is instructive to look at the differences in approach of Ipswich’s two councils – Labour-run Ipswich Borough Council and Conservative-run Suffolk County Council.
Both councils are facing millions of pounds worth of cuts in funding from the Government. So it is no surprise that both councils have had to increase council tax by 2% this year, writes Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere.
However, because the County Council’s share of the bill is much bigger, the average Band B property-owner will only be paying 9p a week extra to Ipswich whereas they will be paying 33p a week more to Suffolk.
In Ipswich our priority is to protect the vital frontline services that residents rely on.
So we have looked at innovative ways of cutting costs and increasing income. Renegotiating contracts, buying the council’s headquarters, renting out vacant space and targeted reductions in staffing levels are saving the council over a million pounds a year without any reduction in services.
Where other Conservative-run councils in Suffolk are introducing charges of up £50 to empty brown bins, in Ipswich we will be keeping this service free of charge.
We are maintaining, and in some cases increasing, our support for community and cultural groups.
At the same time we are continuing to play our part in improving Ipswich.
We are building a new multi-storey car park at Crown Street to support the town centre.
We have set aside funding to allow Broomhill Pool to reopen.
We are building a replacement sports pavilion at Ransomes and undertaking a major refurbishment of Christchurch Mansion to keep this precious asset safe for future generations.
We have purchased the former Sugar Beet site at Sproughton and achieved Enterprise Zone status for it which will bring hundreds of new jobs to Ipswich.
We are continuing to build the first new council houses in Ipswich for decades.
And we have not had to join the race to the bottom on employment conditions to achieve this. We are an official Living Wage employer and we do not engage staff on zero hours contracts.
By contrast, the decisions the County Council have taken have not been good for Ipswich.
They have been at the forefront of trying to get councils to charge for brown bins.
They are proposing to cut Ipswich’s fire service in half so that there will be only three fire engines to cover the whole of the town.
They are threatening to close Ipswich’s Park and Ride service which would be a huge blow to the town centre economy.
The existence of long standing community and voluntary groups is being threatened with big cuts to their funding.
We continue to languish near the bottom of the educational league tables.
And the £21million Travel Ipswich project – over budget and over time – has failed to make travelling in Ipswich better. On the contrary, in some areas it has made it worse.
I’ve met lots of people on the doorstep who say it doesn’t matter who you vote for: whoever’s in charge doesn’t make any difference.
But when you compare the record of Labour-run Ipswich versus Conservative-run Suffolk it’s clear that it makes a big difference which party is running the council.