Photo ©Neil MacDonald: Cllr Neil MacDonald and Cllr John Cook at Broomhill Pool.
Photo ©Neil MacDonald: Cllr Neil MacDonald and Cllr John Cook at Broomhill Pool.

February is Budget time for councils. The Ipswich Borough Council (IBC) budget was published last week and will be debated for the first time on Tuesday 6th February at the council’s Executive Committee. The Council is required to set a balanced budget – money going out must be balanced by money coming in – for the next financial year. The Executive committee will recommend a course of action to Council – a meeting of 48 councillors – and they will decide on the final budget. This must be done by the end of February each year.

Like so many other Councils, IBC is facing tough times. Financial pressures are the highest I’ve ever known. With significant cuts in funding from Government we continue to face tough decisions. However, these decisions are being made to ensure the future economic growth of Ipswich, and to safeguard our services that you value.

The background for this budget is the endless cuts imposed on council funding by the Tory government. The council receives over £12.3 million less per year than it did in 2010.  The total funding cut is a massive £109 million at today’s prices.

The Local Government Association, who represent all councils, has reported that “councils in England face a funding gap of almost £3 billion over the next two years just to keep services standing still”. More councils across the countryare indicating financial distress.

Looking back on the Tory years, we have had: The Coalition, Austerity, pasty tax, the Hostile Environment, Brexit, Austerity 2.0, a kamikaze budget, the year of four chancellors, the VIP lane for friends of Tory MPs, Partygate and Suella. Hardly surprising that we are in financial trouble.  At least Matt Hancock provided light relief on I’m a Celebrity!

The current UK economic situation continues to be exceptionally challenging. This includes the continuing demand and cost impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, ongoing high price levels and inflation, high interest rates and significant economic uncertainty.

You may have seen last minute government funding for councils. This emergency hand-out is an admission of total failure from an incompetent and chaotic Conservative government responsible for pushing local councils to the brink over the last 14 years.

This sticking plaster over the gaping financial wound the Tories have inflicted on our communities won’t fix the fundamentals. There has been a decade of Tory economic mismanagement, compounded by spiralling inflation and a failure to grow our economy. Councils, residents and taxpayers are crying out for security and stability that only a Labour government can deliver with a long-term ambition for multi-year funding settlements underpinned by strong accountability for councils.

Despite all this, we will still be able to protect the council services that I know people in Ipswich love and value: our wonderful parks, the Regent theatre and Corn Exchange, Christchurch Mansion, swimming pools, events programme and Ipswich Music Day.

I am sure you have all been thrilled to hear about the £10 million rejuvenation of Broomhill Pool and the multi-million redevelopment of Ipswich Museum. The IBC budget will fund a third of both these projects.

IBC launched its new Corporate Strategy in 2023, covering investing in our town centre, meeting the housing needs of our community, becoming carbon neutral by 2030, and promoting community well-being and fairness in Ipswich. The budget will fund work in all these areas.

Early action has put the Council’s finances on a more sustainable footing. In terms of being a financially stable council, hard decisions have been taken, and further hard decisions will be needed. I am quietly confident that we can address the financial challenge and make Ipswich a better place.

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