As is traditional I’m using my first column of the New Year to look back at some of the issues I covered last year.
What a year it was. In the first six months I made plenty of references to Prime Minister Theresa May. That seems a lifetime away.
However, the issues I was talking about – rising crime caused by police cuts, underfunding of councils, the failure of Government housing policy – have not gone away. The person at the top may be different but not a lot else has changed.
Housing was a major focus for Ipswich Borough Council. We completed 17 new council houses at Cauldwell Hall Road, started 60 homes at Old Norwich Road and submitted planning applications for 40 more around Ipswich.
We opened the new East Villa scheme which provides temporary housing for up to 40 homeless families to keep them out of bed and breakfast accommodation.
We significantly reduced the number of people sleeping rough on Ipswich’s streets and helped the FIND foodbank locate to a permanent new base.
The new Crown multi-storey car park opened and is proving very popular, due not least to its extremely competitive charges.
We were able to protect key services such as free brown bin collections and make the free summer iCard for young people permanent.
We continued to provide our normal extensive programme of events such as Music Day and Maritime Ipswich but significantly expanded it – either through directly provided council events or by working with other organisations – with events such as Windrush Day, Pride and Elmer’s Big Parade.
Of course, the major event of the summer was the four Ed Sheeran gigs which were a huge success for the town, complemented by the superb “Made In Suffolk” exhibition at the Mansion.
Climate change rose rapidly up the agenda. We stepped up our carbon reduction programme and purchased a new fleet of electric vehicles.
In less positive news, SCC wasted £8m on the Upper Orwell Crossing project before cancelling it. Their business case for a Northern Bypass missed multiple publication deadlines and still hasn’t seen the light of day. Let’s hope we see some progress on this in the coming year.