Times Are Tough But Hold The Line - by Ben Gummer
This issue contains my most recent Evening Star column, published on 4th May.
Please note that it was written before the local elections.
If there is anything else you would like to see in these newsletters, or have any comments or questions, please let me know. My contact details are at the bottom of this email.
Times are tough
Yesterday was Election Day for local councils across the country. Times are incredibly hard and the government has had to make some extremely difficult decisions recently. At the time of writing, I don't know what the turnout was like. But I am under no illusions about the scale of people's frustration. Petrol prices are high. Food is expensive. And it is difficult to make ends meet as costs go up but wages stand still.
Some things we can't easily change: the debt crisis engulfing the Eurozone; low consumer confidence; low demand for our exports; or the political instability in the Middle East that is driving up the cost of fuel. But there are other things the government can change - like bringing down immigration, introducing a cap on benefits and reforming our schools. It's just that these things take time to bear fruit. For the time being, people know that life is going to be tough and that government is going to be difficult. Which is all the more reason to make sure that we politicians behave with complete integrity.
While we all wait for the world to sort itself out, the government must carry on with the urgent task of freeing up businesses to create jobs and prosperity. Large and small, these wealth creators are the engines of economic growth. Councils up and down the country need to do their bit to support and encourage them at a local level, as well. They need to welcome the input of local business leaders and to listen to what they have to say. And they need to make it easier for local businesses to get involved in their communities. 100 years ago, Ipswich was good at this. Our magnificent town hall stands as a monument to what has been - and could be - achieved. If our community continues to pull together, I know that the town of which we are all so proud will be a real beacon for others.
As Ipswich went to the polls for council elections yesterday, Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone were fighting for the Mayor's office in London's City Hall. It is vital to set more of our towns and cities free. This is what the coalition wants to do - which is why it is encouraging other cities to hold referenda on whether or not to have elected Mayors. Wouldn't it be a great idea to have one in Ipswich? I reckon a prominent local figure with full responsibility for holding the council, the police and the bus companies to account would galvanise the town, reach out to businesses and raise Ipswich's profile across the country - and indeed the world. Do you think that Ipswich should have an elected Mayor? Let me know.
While we're talking about doing battle, I'm doing all that I can to keep the pressure on the government to rebuild Chantry High School. I hope that we will hear some news soon.