Tom Hunt MP: Why I opposed the bid for Ipswich city status
For the upcoming Jubilee, marking Her Majesty’s 70th birthday on the throne, it has been announced that cities across the country will be able to bid for city status. We would be competing with cities across the country and only one would get city status.
There has been some debate, particularly in this paper, as to whether city status is something Ipswich should bid on and I have withheld my views until I can further probe what some of my constituents think about it.
There may well be real benefits to making Ipswich a city, and I support those arguments.
However, as I speak with voters, I realize that this is an issue that also relates to issues of local identity and our character as a city. These things are of real importance to people and should not be dismissed.
If an offer is to be successful, it must have the clear and resounding support of the people of Ipswich.
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There are cities across the country where there is already a base of enthusiastic public support – a number of which have campaigned for city status for many years – and these are the places we would stand against.
Last week, to gauge the opinion of voters, I conducted a poll, which I promoted on social media and in which thousands of people participated.
Around the same time, the Ipswich Star also did their own poll which probably had a higher turnout than mine.
In my poll, 66% rejected the candidacy for city status and in the Ipswich Star poll, 70% rejected it.
Of course, these aren’t exactly science polls – but for now, that’s all we need to do.
That in itself is part of the problem. The fact that it was rarely raised at the door or in correspondence with me means that it is very difficult for me to say with any degree of certainty that city status is what my constituents want.
And this is where I take issue with some of the points made by Paul Geater in his recent article which asks readers to “ignore the whining” – that is, the majority of Ipswich residents, however. that we can say now.
First, it qualifies those opposed to the candidacy as a “minority of complainers” but has no evidence of any majority for city status. It would be a very different situation if he did.
Bearing in mind that this is a significant change from the status quo, I believe the onus falls on those who want to change the status quo to provide evidence of significant community support to all. levels.
In my opinion, it also fires people who are actually happy with this status quo.
He claims that there is an argument that ‘Ipswich is a dumping ground’ that does not ‘deserve’ to be a town and that ‘there are far too many people who like to bring Ipswich down to just any land. opportunity “.
I think this is a gross distortion of the views across the city. Frankly, I think it’s insulting even to his own readers who responded in good faith to his poll.
So many people who have written and spoken to me want Ipswich to remain a city precisely because they are so proud of their heritage. Because they are passionate about Ipswich and what we do, and don’t see why this should change at all.
Paul also claims that the candidacy will not be a waste of time and money because Ipswich council has said it will not spend anything on it and “there are council officials filling out forms all the time. government “.
But I think he greatly underestimates the time an officer would spend on an offer like this. Also, if we weren’t really going to go out and campaign for the auction properly, what would be the point of even doing it?
People are also wrong to claim that as a city we have fewer opportunities to attract money and investment. This year Ipswich has hardly been overlooked – the Government’s Towns Fund, for which we secured the maximum offer of £ 25million, was specifically open to cities demonstrating that government is focusing on big cities.
It may have been the case in the past that cities were forgotten, but not anymore.
Ultimately, as an elected official, I have a responsibility to listen to all constituents – not just those who are heard the most in the local media and in the borough council.
For something as big as a change in status from England’s oldest Anglo-Saxon city to a new city, you need to have a strong consensus behind it.
There are plenty of other places across the country where this is the case, but it is not here. There is also a certain form of arrogance in forcing this change regardless of the level of public support just because you think it’s a good idea.
I really think we have to push back on this idea that the people who are happy that Ipswich remains a town are kind of unambitious for where they live.
There are incredible levels of passion for Ipswich and a real sense of place and community here. Ipswich is a great place to live and I am incredibly proud to represent it in Parliament.
We don’t have to be a city to achieve what we want to accomplish, and just because we’re not a city doesn’t mean we’re less of a place than our neighbors.
Of course, I would say that we are a much better place with our own history and our own identity.
Having said that, I want to make it clear that I am in no way fiercely against the idea of us becoming a city. I just want to make sure the clear voice of the majority is heard.
I can see the case for those who want to become a city and I am sympathetic to it. If there was a clear sense that this is what my constituents wanted, I would be more than happy to support it.
If a comprehensive science poll was carried out across the city and he was in favor of the city’s candidacy, then of course I would support him.
But right now the Labor Council is proposing a major change in the status and identity of the area without even bothering to engage in even basic consultation with the residents of Ipswich.
I think the key dividing line here between me and the borough council is not to be pro-city or pro-city.
Rather, it’s between those who believe we should have proper consultation on this and those who want to rush into something as important as this without consulting the people of Ipswich, who own the town.
I strongly believe that the Borough Council should conduct this survey before taking any action on behalf of Ipswich.
I just don’t see the point in rushing to try and change the status and identity of our city without having a strong showing of enthusiasm for the proposal among the people who grew up and live here.
In the future, that could change. We may well see a time when the whole community is united behind the idea that Ipswich should be a city. But it doesn’t seem like that time is now.
For now, I think we need to continue to focus our attention on improving our city – making it safer, tidying up roads and public services, and attracting new investment to boost our local economy and create more ‘jobs.
What goes to the heart of this question is that there seems to be a select group of people who think their voices should be heard above others just because they are screaming the loudest and want to rush in. something so important without any consultation.
If there is a comprehensive scientific survey from the Borough Council that shows broad support for a candidate, then I will gladly listen and support myself to make the wishes of my constituents come true.
It is not for me to be for or against that we become a city, but rather to ensure that my constituents are firmly in the driver’s seat.
Ultimately, it is the people of Ipswich who own the city and they should be the ones who have the final say over its character, status and identity.