Last week we held the meeting to decide Ipswich Borough Council’s budget, writes Ipswich Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere.
As I’ve mentioned before, we have been able to protect frontline services when other councils are cutting them. The main reason for this is the commercial property investment the council has undertaken.
Over the next four years this will bring in around £7million additional income which will help to offset the £12million the Government is cutting.
To put this in context, if we didn’t have this income we would have to increase Council Tax by around 14% to make up the gap.
More likely, we would have to undertake major cuts in services. The level of cuts would be equivalent to closing the Regent, the Corn Exchange, all sports centres and turning off our CCTV system.
A lot of hard work has gone on behind the scenes to bring in this income. That’s not obvious from the outside. It’s tempting to think that the outcome would have been the same whoever was running the council.
However, if you look at the reaction of Conservative councillors in Ipswich it’s clear that we could have been faced with a very different outcome.
We have debated our commercial investment strategy on many occasions and at every stage Conservative councillors have made the wrong call.
Their first reaction was that we shouldn’t make these investments at all. They didn’t believe this was something the public sector should be doing, full stop.
They then changed their mind and said it was OK to invest but that the council didn’t know what it was doing.
They have been unable to find problems with any of the investments we’ve made but, after each one, have said we shouldn’t make any more.
Their new line is that we should only buy in property outside Ipswich despite our investments bringing hundreds of jobs to Ipswich.
Nothing in life is inevitable and that’s certainly the case in politics.
We may be enjoying the same level of – and in some cases better – services from Ipswich Borough Council since Labour took control of the council in 2011.
But we would be facing a very different future if our current Conservative councillors had been in charge.