Popular iCards to become permanent as council pledges to protect services despite cuts to income
PUBLISHED: 16:30 29 January 2019
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Ipswich council is to turn the summer iCards scheme for young people in the town into a permanent holiday scheme as part of its budget for the next year.
And despite continuing cuts to government support, the borough is confident it will continue to be able to retain the current level of services in the town – partly thanks to the investment income from its property portfolio including the Anglia Retail Park and Beardmore Park at Martlesham Heath.
The free iCards giving youngsters access to the borough’s leisure services was trialled last summer after fears about anti-social behaviour in the town and led to 24,000 visits to the council’s sports facilities.
Council leader David Ellesmere said: “This was very successful and we always said we would like it to become permanent so I am very pleased we have been able to fund that.”
It plans to put up its element of council tax bills by just under 3% – a smaller rise than the county council or police and crime commissioner.
The borough is also able to continue funding its services across the board – and plans to introduce variable message signing telling visitors how many spaces there are available in the car parks it runs in the town centre.
It hopes to start building 60 new homes for rent on the former Tooks bakery site – and plans to open a new homeless families unit by the middle of the year.
Mr Ellesmere said: “Despite the government’s austerity programme which has meant we now get £8m less than we did in 2010, we are still able to protect services for our residents.”
Opposition Conservative group leader Ian Fisher said there was little new in the budget: “This is very similar to what they said last year – I really wasn’t expecting anything else.
“What I would say is that if they have managed to make things more efficient with cuts year on year, things must have been pretty bad at the start of this process.
“I would like to see the council doing more to maximise its income. While it is good to make things as cheap as possible for residents and visitors, I think it really needs to take a more business-like approach to things like the Wastesaver service that it provides to business.
The budget is due to be discussed by the borough’s executive next week and will debated by the full council on 27 February when the council tax rates for properties in Ipswich will be confirmed.