Days Gone By: 40,000 civil servants faced job cuts and migrants were offered homes in Felixstowe as we went to press back in December 1979

Front page of the EADT, December 7, 1979

Front page of the EADT, December 7, 1979

Government job cuts and spending reviews – about which we hear so much today – are clearly nothing new.

The main news story in the EADT of December 7, 1979, reported how 40,000 Civil Service jobs were facing the axe. This was on top of 20,000 already gone. And even more cuts were expected to follow.

Locally, there were several big talking points. A Government leak was suggesting that Sizewell was about to be named as the site for Britain’s first water-based nuclear reactor, which was said to be similar to the one involved in the dramatic accident at Three Mile Island in America earlier in the year.

Another story with a familiar ring for present-day readers was the news that there was increasing pressure among retailers and developers to do something to arrest the decline of Ipswich town centre – and to restore it as a major shopping centre.

At Felixstowe, a group of Vietnam refugees – known as the Boat People – were about to be housed in a block of maisonettes.

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On the entertainment scene in late 1979 cinemagoers were being tempted to be titillated by a spate of “Confession” movies. More conventionally, the pantomime season was getting under way with Mother Goose and Cinderella being staged in the area.

The Felixstowe-based North Sea ferry operators were advertising in a bid to persuade passengers to join them for a festive trip across the water. A New Year’s Eve party on board was one option while a separate day trip to Belgium had the additional enticement of a free litre of whisky or gin. No mention of sea-sickness pills, however.

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National and international news

Government axing 40,000 more Civil Service jobs - That was the headline on the main front-page news story on December 7, 1979. It told how the Government had decided that 40,000 Civil Service jobs were to go – on top of the 20,000 already axed. In East Anglia the figure was estimated at 1,200.

The report went on to say that the giant transport workers’ union, representing the majority of industrial civil servants, immediately promised “strong opposition” and “if necessary, industrial action.”

In Spain a runaway, driverless train crashed into a stationary passenger train at high speed near Barcelona, killing at least 18 people and injuring 60.

Local news

‘USA-style reactor is tipped for Sizewell’ was the main headline – surprisingly perhaps on an inside page rather than at the front of the paper. The story was following-up a report in The Guardian, which was based on a leak from a confidential Cabinet meeting. This claimed that it was likely that Sizewell was about to be chosen as the site for Britain’s first water-based nuclear reactor – and of a similar type to the one involved in the dramatic accident at Three Mile Island in the US earlier that year.

Refugees were in the news in a front-page item, reporting how Boat People from Vietnam were to be housed at Felixstowe. A block of six maisonettes in Langley Close was to be made available, according to the report.

Another story that will ring familiar bells for today’s readers appeared under the headline ‘Make Ipswich a major shopping centre.” It said: “Pressure from retailers and developers has started the ball rolling on council plans to help re-establish Ipswich as a major shopping centre.” It focused on a report highlighting how Ipswich had been falling behind as a shopping centre. The redevelopment of the Cox Lane area was seen as one way the council could address the problem but the chairman of the council’s environmental services and property committee warned: “ It won’t happen tomorrow, or even next year but the decision we are being asked to make in accepting this report is very far reaching.” How prophetic!

Meanwhile, the price of a pint was about to rise in Greene King pubs – a 3p increase, taking a pint of bitter to 36p. Mild was to cost 32p and Abbot 36p. Bottled beers to go up by 2p.


Cinemagoers were spoilt for choice with a feast of films on offer -- Zulu Dawn (Burt Lancaster, Peter O’Toole and Simon Ward), Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Blazing Saddles (Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder) were showing in the area. Or, if you fancied something a bit more risqué, there were several X-rated titles to titillate: “Confession” films appeared to be all the rage – Confessions of an au-pair girl, Confessions of the Sex Slaves or Mary Millington in Confessions from the David Galaxy Affair. Then there was something called Sexy School Teacher. It seems that some liked their films hot in the Seventies.

If you preferred your entertainment live on stage, the Gaumont could offer Motorhead, Showaddywaddy, Wishbone Ash and Uriah Heep. Mother Goose was the traditional family panto at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre while the Wolsey was staging Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. At the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe, Dennis Lowe was presenting Cinderella – his 14th annual pantomime.

On TV, there was the weekly date with Telly Savalas as New York detective Theo Kojak on BBC1 while, over on ITV, The Muppet Show featured US singer Linda Lavin as Kermit’s guest. BBC 2 was running a Better Badminton series, possibly the only time this sport has graced the TV screens?

Radio Orwell (remember that?) had a gardening hour with Rummy Weston and Walter Woodcock with guest David Tostavin from Thompson and Morgan.

Want a house?

Orford - three-bedroomed house in pleasant position, overlooking recreation ground, and close to castle and river. £27,000 ono.

Or a job?

Some of the employment opportunities on December 7, 1979:

?Opportunity for husband and wife teams to manage a branch of a group of retail newsagents’ shops which are being set up in East Anglia.

?Shorthand typist required at Cliff Quay power station, Ipswich. Applicants male/female should have good standard of education and certificate in typing and shorthand speed of 100 wpm. Salary £3,080 to £4,060 per annum.

?Poultry pluckers required from December 10.

Welcome to the world ...

LEVETT – to Wendy (nee Steward) and Kevin on December 4, 1979, at West Suffolk Hospital, the gift of a daughter, Eleanor. A sister for Daniel.

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