Sunday, 4 December 2016

A Northern Road for Ipswich

Last week we had another intolerable day of traffic logjam in Ipswich, off the back of several days of disruption across the town centre as road works collided with ever-increasing numbers of cars.

First things first: the reason why there is more day-to-day traffic in Ipswich is because our local economy is growing fast.  People who say that it has got a lot worse in the last few years are right: it has, and the reason is because there are more jobs here than ever before, more people moving around, more shopping and more leisure.  The reason all these cars get stuck is because Ipswich is built around a town centre that is Anglo Saxon and, in places, older still.  It is worth remembering next time you walk down Westgate Street, over the top of the Cornhill and through Tavern Street that you are treading an Iron Age drovers’ track that is over two thousand years old.

In the 50s and 60s, their answer to the clash of modernity with the ancient England was to engage the bulldozer.  The result is Star Lane which, when you see what was demolished to make way for it, will make you want to weep.  For once we can thank that mid-century Ipswich disease of never finishing anything properly for the fact that we still have Fore Street and St Nicholas’s Street, for both would have been demolished had the traffic madmen had their way.

These are more sensitive times – but until recently, they were also less ambitious.  Until a few years ago we were content just to manage the problem, and had backed away from serious schemes as we because increasingly afraid of our own possibilities as a serious town.

That has now changed.  We are thriving and growing.  There is much more to do but on whatever index you choose to look – house prices, vacant shops, jobs – we are doing well and doing better at an accelerating rate.  That is because we have decided to make a change; but it is also a pattern of growth that cannot be sustained if we do not continue to be ambitious about our future.

That is why I was determined to address the traffic issues of our town head-on.  The key was to find alternative routes across the town and to do so in short order.  That is why we began by assessing the relative merits of the two schemes that had been around for some time – the Northern Bypass and a Wet Dock Crossing.

What became clear pretty soon is that each scheme answered different problems.   Modelling shows that the bypass made very little impact on traffic volumes within the town itself on the 364 days when the Orwell Bridge is not shut, whereas the bridge has a significant impact every day of the year – reducing journey times across Ipswich by an average of 18% in the morning peak and 27% in the evening peak hours.  Moreover, and unexpectedly, the bridge relieved significant pressure from the Orwell Bridge in peak times, as it provides a better route for people who currently leave town on one side in order to come back in on the other.

A northern route, or bypass, or relief road – whatever it may be – solves a different problem, however.  It certainly provides resilience when the Orwell Bridge is shut – but that happens so rarely that it would be impossible to get the business case for several hundred million pounds to stack up on that alone.  What it does more usefully for the rest of the year is support growth to the north of the town, so that Ipswich can continue to grow without creating yet more traffic chaos.

So both of these solutions are ultimately necessary.  The last question is in what order you do them.  Frankly, that question answers itself.  The Upper Orwell Crossings, being over water, have very limited impact on people and property – and it is considerably cheaper than a northern route will be.  Moreover, it is easy to see where the route will be and can be delivered quickly.

By contrast, because of the complexity of a northern relief road, we do not yet even have general route options, let alone a chosen path, which means that we also have very little idea of what the costs will be.  Even when we have all that – and we are a couple of years still from that point – it will be many more years securing  money, planning permissions and land purchases before spades actually hit the ground.

This is our task, therefore: to move ahead with both projects as fast as we can, and in so doing we will deliver real improvements in traffic within the next five years, whilst ensuring we can cope with growth in the decades beyond that.  That is the plan – and now, unlike before, it is actually happening.
Welcome to Ben's regular newsletter.
If you have any comments or concerns, please get in touch with my team.

Email: Ben can be contacted directly at

Ben's office address is:
9 Fore Street
01473 232 883

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Ipswich Buses planned strike: emergency timetable

Ipswich Buses planned strike: emergency timetable, updates for parents and car park and travel advice

Ipswich Buses has published an emergency timetable for Monday 10th October for use if a one-day strike called by Unite the Union goes ahead.

The company is still committed to continuing talks in a bid to resolve the dispute but plans to get as many services as it can on the road, using double-decker buses where practical in order to help as many passengers as possible.

There will be a standard fare of £1 for all journeys – passes will be valid as usual. There will be no departures from Tower Ramparts after 7pm and most routes will not start until 7am. Full timetables are available from the Tower Ramparts Travel Shop and on the Ipswich Buses
Ipswich Buses plans to operate a reduced Park & Ride service at both Copdock and Martlesham. This service is managed by Suffolk County Council.

The emergency timetable is attached below but additional changes affecting schools and colleges are listed here:

·      Suffolk County Council has announced that all dedicated school bus services (i.e. contracted services specifically for schools) are being covered by other bus operators and will clearly display the relevant service number. 

·      Parents of children who use public bus services (irrespective of whether the County Council pays for their travel or not) are advised to check the Suffolk On Board website for details of whether the service will be running at a reduced frequency or not at all. 

·      Two County Council subsidised public services are also affected: Service 111 from Bildeston and 173 between Woodbridge and Felixstowe are to be replaced by another operator and Service 202 from Shotley will have two journeys operating to get students to and from college only.

·      Ipswich Buses will be operating the One sixth-form college routes from Felixstowe and Stowmarket.

·      Carter’s Coaches routes will not be affected by the strike action.

Car parks offer

Overall, it is expected there will be more congestion if the industrial action goes ahead. More people will be using cars to get into work, on school runs or entering or passing through the town.

As the town’s principal car park operator, Ipswich Borough Council plans to help reduce that congestion by cutting the cost of a day’s parking in its long-stay car parks to a maximum of £3 (from £5).
The Council will have staff at each of its main car parks to assist motorists find the best car parking.

Its own staff are being encouraged to adopt a more flexible working pattern to avoid the usual rush hour, and is encouraging car sharing and other ways of getting to work.

To find out the latest information on bus services on Monday, along with available car parking spaces updates, use @ipswichbuses on Twitter and the company’s Facebook page.


South-west Ipswich
Route 13 will run every 30 minutes and 15/15A will both be running every 60 minutes. Routes 12, 14 and 16 will not run. Ipswich Buses hopes some customers on these less busy routes will be able to walk to the routes that are running. Carters’ route 93 also serves London Road and Carters will run services as normal. There will be double-deckers on Park & Ride providing extra seats for One sixth-form college but this route will also only run every 30 minutes.

North-west Ipswich
Route 8 will run every 30 minutes and routes 9/10 will both be running every 60 minutes. First route 88 also serves Norwich Road and 89 serves Bramford Road and will run normally. Unfortunately, routes 17 and 19 will not be running. Some of the customers on these less busy routes might be able to walk to Norwich Road or Henley Road. Galloways' 115 and 116 services will be running normally on Henley Road.

North-east Ipswich
Route X5 to Ipswich Hospital will run every 30 minutes and 6/6A will both be running every 60 minutes. Passengers might also wish to use the Park & Ride between the town centre and the hospital stop on the Colchester Road/Woodbridge Road roundabout. First routes 64, 65 and 66 run frequently along Woodbridge Road and these will operate as normal. First Buses’ route 75 will be running normally along Spring Road and serves the Hospital. First’s service 59 to the Northgate area (off-peak only) will also be running as normal.

South-east Ipswich
Route X3 will run every 30 minutes with journeys to Ransomes Euro Park at peak times. Routes X1 and 4 will not run. First Buses provides alternative services to Nacton Road and Gainsborough on Routes 60/61 and to Felixstowe Road on services 76 and 77.

Wherstead Road and Shotley
A reduced timetable will apply on route 98/98A. Carters’ routes will run as normal. First X7 also serves Wherstead Road.

Country buses
Suffolk County Council is making arrangements for another company to run routes 111 and 173. Carters’ routes (92-96 etc) will run normally.

School and college buses
Ipswich Buses will run routes 11A, 18A, 501, 502, 914 and 988 as normal. Route 11B will not run. Other school contract buses will be provided by other operators for Suffolk County Council.

Town centre shuttle
The free town centre shuttle, route 38, will not be running.

Friday, 23 September 2016

What worth a councillor?

Ipswich Borough Councillors from all parties work hard for their communities. There are a very few exceptions but in the main we put in hours on casework, reading, attending meetings and training sessions, community events, committee meetings evening and daytime and we are on the end of a phone 24/7.

People have literally laughed when we've told them how much backbenchers receive when they find out it is less than £3800. Most are astonished.

We have refused the recommendations from the independent panel for over a decade and have not had an increase for 10 years.

Had we have taken their recommendations, the remuneration would now be a thousand pounds more a year than we currently receive. This would not have felt right in a time of austerity but I don't know of one single person who has not had a rise in over a decade, if they are still in the same place. Time to stop being embarrassed about this and do what's right, reward where it is due and value what we do.

Furthermore most of us do not claim for travel expenses to and from our meetings, as is our right. My only claims have been for unique travel to the Bournemouth LGA conference a couple of times in 10 years.

Some of us are out of pocket because of the time commitment we have to give (average of 15 hours per week but many do more) and all of us sacrifice family time and leisure on a regular basis. I'd like to think a reasonable person would recognise this and not begrudge us a penny.

I was determined to do something about this and so I contacted the leader of the council who agreed with me that we should have a consensus amongst the leaders of each party, on behalf of our groups.

Even though we can disagree vehemently on how to go about achieving our aims it is not as often as people might suspect. Our influence on national problems is limited but the one thing we must do together is ensure we attract good people to become councillors and that we encourage them from a wide, diverse background. My personal wish is for more young parents. Councillor Jones said at the council meeting that they don't have any special talents. I disagree. All ages have their own special unique talents and wisdom. I think an old wise head with experience of life is equally valuable - just in a different way but I don't want to mix with just wise old heads in my political world.

The point is our low remuneration (one of the lowest for backbenchers but one of the highest for special responsibility) needed addressing and I felt we should value ourselves a bit more than to just take the easy route and ignore the whole thing once again.

Ignoring would've meant in 4 years time at the next review, we would've fallen even more behind and this would be a huge decentivisation, requiring an even bigger increase.

An alternative proposal to the one put forward by the panel, was agreed together which corrected my concerns - increase backbenchers basic allowance and re-calculate the special responsibility allowance to address the inbalance and shrink the gap between the 2.

I was upset with the Ipswich Star yesterday and I said so at the meeting. Cllr Ellesmere and the Mayor both concurred. Their headline did not reflect what was actually going on and all the facts.

I'm looking forward to seeing the follow up and apology in todays paper

Friday, 9 September 2016

How We won Better Rail by Ben Gummer MP

How We Won Better Rail

Well, what a way to return from ten days’ holiday!  The announcement of the new franchise a few weeks ago felt like a very, very early Christmas present.  It is hard to overstate the importance of this decision: quite simply, it will change Ipswich and our region for the better.  Here’s how it happened.

Back in what now feels like the dim and distant past, when I was a candidate contesting this seat, I recognized albeit in an unfocused way that the trains were no good, that the franchise was part of the problem, and that bringing prosperity to Ipswich was connected to how good the train service was.  So I promised, very vaguely, to do something about it; what that ‘something’ was, I have to admit I was not yet clear about.

Within the first few days of arriving at Westminster in 2010, I found out that Chloë Smith, the energetic new MP for Norwich North, was having precisely the same thoughts.  She too knew something had to be done but was not yet clear about what that needed to be.  So came about our first discussion with a very important man whom few of you will have ever heard about: Jonathan Denby.  For many years, Jonathan has been the man who has kept we politicians in the loop – but he is not just a PR guy: he knows a lot about trains and has been around the political circus long enough to judge how to get things done.  It was Jonathan who helped Chloë and me, together with Priti Patel representing Essex, to craft the demands that you will soon see delivered as beautiful new rolling stock.

Knowing what to do was the easy bit; making it happen has been the real work of the last five years.  Once we had established that we needed new trains and lots of them, it was the grunt-work of making the Department for Transport understand why East Anglia was a priority, then doing the same with the Treasury, then with the Prime Minister, and then making sure that once we had commitments and promises, that they were translated into the right tender process and the right incentives to train operators.  At every stage, Chloë and I have had to make friends with key civil servants in Whitehall, with special advisers, and with a series of ministers.  It is not all a battle: 80% of the time it is selling the vision again and again – and once you have done that the advantages of what we proposed were so self-evident that people were willing to help.

But now and again we did have to go into battle.  It is remarkable how much damage and delay one wrong person in the right place can do.  There are a few people who actively tried to de-rail our rail dream and we had – quite simply – to take them out.

And so, after all this work – celebrating each victory as it came – the policy announcements, the invitation to tender, the launch of the tender bidding process, and the eventual award a few weeks ago – we now have the confirmed prospect of new trains.  It has been painstaking and laborious but my Lord it will be worth it when it all comes.

As you would expect me to say – we are not finished yet.  We must now secure the track upgrades we need from Network Rail and get going on East West Rail – a scheme that will ultimately bring even greater benefits than the thousands of jobs and billions in investment that the improvements to the Great Eastern Main Line will achieve.  But all that is for next week, when I shall outline what is actually going to happen and what more we want to win.
Welcome to Ben's regular newsletter.
If you have any comments or concerns, please get in touch with my team.

Email: Ben can be contacted directly at

Ben's office address is:
9 Fore Street
01473 232 883

Monday, 5 September 2016

Suffolk BME Business Awards

Nominations are requested for the Suffolk BME Business Awards to celebrate the diversity and achievements originating from the BME community

The award categories are:

Business of the Year
Business person of the Year
Start Up of teh Year
Community Business of the Year

Nomination forms can be downloaded at or

Closing date 30th September 2016

And an evening of celebration will take place on Wednesday 28th October at 7 pm at the University of Suffolk

You can also find out more from the Bangladeshi Support Centre 01473 400081

Good luck to all our fab BME businesses!

Friday, 2 September 2016

The Doctors Strike and what you should know

The BMA must be the first union in history to call for strike action against a deal they themselves negotiated and said was a good one!

In fact the current chair of the JDC, Ellen McCourt, who called these strikes, co-led negotiations for the BMA when agreement was reached in May – and recommended the revised contract to members as ‘beneficial to our patients and to our junior doctors’.

The Government has been speaking to the BMA for three years and have made 107 different concessions. The Government is prepared to talk with the BMA about how we can call off the strike.

As doctors’ representatives, the BMA should be putting patients first, not playing politics in a way that will be immensely damaging for vulnerable patients.

Whilst there are many pressures on the frontline, funding is at record levels, with the highest number of doctors employed in the history of the NHS. Co-operation not confrontation is the way forward to make sure patients get the best treatment and the NHS is there for people whenever they need it.

The new contract is:

* Better for patients – who will have access to a great and improving service 7 days a week. These changes are the most significant change to the contract in seventeen years. The changes ensure the NHS is shaped around the needs of patients who can’t choose what day of the week they fall unwell.

* Better for junior doctors – guaranteeing better training, safety and working conditions. Junior doctors working legal hours will receive a basic pay rise of around 10 to 11 %, subject to modelling. New limits on hours worked, consecutive nights and long days will also be introduced. A new family support plan will help balance home and work and offer catch-up programmes.

* Better for the NHS – linking pay progression to attainment, tackles locum costs and scraps unsafe incentives for long hours. There will be a fundamental shift in the way doctors are paid for weekend work so it is a third less expensive for hospitals to roster doctors over the weekend. By introducing Saturday and Sundays plain time rates and a sliding scale replacing unsocial hour payments high standards of care will be enabled at an affordable rate.

We are absolutely certain this is the right way forward but I fear the BMA are on a one way street with an agenda to bring down the govt written on the side of their Bandwagon.

Community Grant applications

Voluntary groups are an important part of services provided within our town. without them, these services would cost the taxpayer so much more. 

I am glad to see that the pot of money has been maintained - we all know that it is essential to support the good work of kind people.

This press release came out today:

Voluntary and community groups in Ipswich can apply for cash support as the Borough Council announces it has maintained the size of its grant pot.

Groups can apply for amounts up to £20,000 for the year through either a Community Investment Grant (this grant provides core funding for running costs or pump priming funding for an organisation to build its capacity); 

or a Community Project Grant (this grant is suitable for trying something new or for one-off activity that delivers one or more of the Council’s grants priorities).

Successful applicants need to have a legal governance structure and be able to demonstrate how they will measure progress in at least one of the following areas: promoting community safety, improving health and wellbeing, promoting learning and skills development, making Ipswich cleaner, more attractive and sustainable, enhancing culture and leisure activities, working with individuals and groups who are disadvantaged and promoting equality of opportunity and fostering good community relations.

The closing date for applications is noon on Monday 10th October 2016.

The application form and guidance for applicants can be found at

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Upcoming Events In Ipswich

Upcoming Events:

Tea Dance

Wednesday 24 August, 2-4pm
Walled garden & conservatory, Holywells Park
Come and relive the good old days and enjoy an afternoon of music and social dancing in the beautiful surroundings of Holywells Park.
More information >>

Outdoor Cinema: The Good Dinosaur

Wednesday 24 August, 12.15 & 14:00
Myrtle Meadow, Holywells Park
Join us in Holywells Park tomorrow (24th) for an outdoor cinema screening of The Good Dinosaur! Showings are at 12.15pm and 2pm in Myrtle Meadow. It's free to watch the film, but some activities (rides & face-painting) have a small cost.
More information >>

Chopin in Holywells Park

Saturday 27 August, 18:30
Walled Garden, Holywells Park
Join us in Holywells Park on 27th August for a summer evening of classical music in Holywells Park. Award winning pianist, Paulo Lopes will be playing a broad repertoire of the finest piano classics in the serene backdrop of the beautiful Walled Garden.
Buy tickets >>

The Royal Ballet's

Gary Avis & Friends
10 & 11 September 2016
The Suffolk Community Foundation, in partnership with DanceEast, presents The Royal Ballet’s Gary Avis & Friends. For only the second time in half a century, dancers from The Royal Ballet Company return to Suffolk for two spectacular gala performances at the Ipswich Regent. 
All proceeds from this gala go to Suffolk Community Foundation and their Arts and Culture Fund for Suffolk.
More Information >>

Ipswich Has Got Talent

Champion of Champions
Saturday 24 September, 19:30
Ipswich Regent Theatre
The line-up acts for this year’s special Ipswich Has Got Talent (IHGT) final are busy preparing for the big night.
The event features one big champion of champions night at the Ipswich Regent, with previous winners returning to the theatre to belt out their best hits.
Buy tickets >>


Saturday 22 October, 19:30
Grand Hall, Corn Exchange
Brush the dust off those dirndl dresses as we welcomeIpswich’s very own Oktoberfest to the Town Hall for an evening of Bavariancelebration. Enjoy authentic Bavarian food and beer accompanied by footstomping, thigh slapping music with The Oompah Band (as featured on Channel 4’s‘So Graham Norton’).
Buy tickets >>

Monday, 22 August 2016

Bank holiday weekend health advice

With the bank holiday weekend approaching, GPs in east and west Suffolk are reminding people that the right help is available to deal with injury and illness.

Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “By choosing the right health care option you will get treated more quickly and lessen the pressure on health staff over this busy weekend.

“Being prepared is the best option and could save a stressful dash to a pharmacy or an unnecessary trip to your hospital's emergency department (A&E).  One of the best ways to be prepared is to have a well-stocked medicine cabinet. It’s not expensive to stock up on basic items such as sticking plasters, paracetamol, anti-diarrhoea medicine and indigestion remedy. Ask your pharmacist for advice on what you medicines you should keep at home."

Dr Mark Shenton, a GP in Stowmarket and chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “There are a number of pharmacies open over the holiday weekend where you can access help and advice as well as  over-the-counter medication for many minor injuries and illnesses.

"If you have forgotten to order your regular medicine from your GP and run out over the holiday period  your pharmacist may be able to help by providing an emergency supply. Please remember to take your repeat slip or empty pack(s) with you to show the pharmacist what you usually take.

"The Suffolk GP+ service is based in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds and will be open over the weekend and on the bank holiday Monday. You can book an appointment with a GP or nurse practitioner in advance and you need to do this through your own GP practice.

“If you need help fast and it’s not life-threatening then you should call NHS 111.  The 111 number is available 24/7 and a trained advisor will help you. Perhaps you have a question about medication or a medical concern about yourself or someone else; maybe you want to find your nearest pharmacy that’s open on bank holiday Monday or perhaps you have a health question that can’t wait until your GP surgery is open or you think you need to access the out-of-hours service."

Click on link below to read list of pharmacies open on Monday 29 August HERE

Friday, 5 August 2016

Highly recommended Parenting seminar Ipswich

FREE Pop-Up Triple
 P Positive Parenting Seminar
Triple P helps you understand the way your family works, and uses
the things you already think, feel, say and do in new ways that
nurture relationships, parenting skills and confidence, as well as
 supporting your wellbeing.
Triple P helps you:

*        Create a stable, supportive, harmonious family environment.
*       Teach your children the skills they need to get along with others.
*       Deal positively, consistently and decisively with problem behaviour should it arise.
*       Encourage behaviour you like.
*       Develop realistic expectations of your children and yourself.
*       Take care of yourself as a parent.

Venue:  Ipswich Museum
Date:     6th August 2016
              High Street
              Ipswich, Suffolk,
              IP1 3QH
Time:    10.00 – 12.30