AN organisation representing small businesses in Suffolk has accused local politicians of not supporting the independent sector.

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In a hard-hitting letter to Ipswich Borough Council chief executive Russell Williams, the Federation of Small Businesses:

: : Hits out at strategy planning decisions that have allowed new out-of-town centres to be created;

: : Warns that roadworks are driving visitors away and calls for them to be suspended until February;

: : Demands council-run car parks cut their prices to attract more visitors – including park-and-ride;

: : And does more to promote independent businesses.

In the letter, FSB Suffolk chairman Chris Soule says: “The FSB are looking to the borough council to urgently and immediately bring forward support for small business. Business closures are likely to increase unless the situation is not addressed immediately and the public brought on board in time to support local shops over Christmas and the New Year.”

Many of the issues addressed are not the direct responsibility of the borough – the roadworks are part of the Travel Ipswich programme which is being promoted by the county council with £21million of financial support from the Department for Transport.

Its two largest schemes – converting the Princes Street/Civic Drive roundabout into a traffic-light junction and work at Fonnereau Road – are due to ease substantially after the end of this week.

A spokeswoman for the county council said: “We recognise that traffic can be very heavy in the town centre on the run-up to Christmas and so we are taking extra steps to help people – for example by clearing the works in the peak period to provide some more capacity and monitoring traffic conditions in the off-peak.”

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said he understood some of the concerns of the FSB. He added: “Most of the issues are not directly for the borough – if they feel we need to promote the town more then that is for Ipswich Central to look at.

“We agree that more cheap parking is needed, but the borough doesn’t actually run many car parks now and those it does run are cheaper than they were last year.

“There are actually fewer empty premises now than there were a year ago. The occupancy rate has gone up by one per cent over the last year but I am aware that many businesses are finding things tough.”

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