Ipswich Borough Council has a strong track record of gaining funding from the Government to help improve our town.
Only last week we won £422,000 from the Home Office to improve safety and security for residents around the Maple Park area.
Last month we were awarded £638,000 by the Government for the Council’s work reducing rough sleeping in Ipswich.
Earlier this year the Council’s bid for Town Deal funding was successful, winning £25m for Ipswich – one of the highest awards in the country.
We’ve been awarded £9.8m funding from Homes England to provide a new country park, a bridge for vehicles, and a new pedestrian bridge as part of the Ipswich Garden Suburb development.
None of these grants were guaranteed. They required an application process where we could have been turned down. For example, a smaller bid to the Safer Streets Fund led by Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner was not granted funding last year.
A key part of any application is providing confidence that our bid can be delivered so gaining funding is a government “seal of approval” that Ipswich Borough Council is a local authority that delivers on its promises.
That probably counts double as Conservative governments rarely go out of their way to help Labour councils!
But, successful as we have been in winning funding, I have strong doubts about whether this is the best way of funding local services.
£422,000 to tackle crime is great – but would we need it if police numbers hadn’t been cut so much?
We can make a big dent in rough sleeping with £638,000 but if there was more affordable housing, better protection for tenants, and properly funded mental health, drug rehabilitation, and supported housing would there be such a big homelessness problem in the first place?
There will be real improvements in Ipswich from the £25m Town Deal but, in a normal year, Ipswich Borough Council is now receiving around £10m a year less from the Government than we were a decade ago.
It would be far more effective if the NHS, police, and councils were just provided with secure, long-term funding, but that wouldn’t provide Ministers with the razzmatazz of announcing new grants, so I can’t see this changing any time soon.