Could devolution help Ipswich?

22nd January 2016
Geoff Collings

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich council certainly believes so and is quoted as saying it “…will drive forward our local economy and bring great benefits to Ipswich”.

Indeed his thoughts echo those put forward on a national scale by the Local Government Associate which makes the following two claims in its Local solutions for a successful nation publication.

  • Deliver £11billion in savings for the public purse through radical reform.
  • Generate at least £80billion in growth and 700,000 new jobs.

Other benefits of devolution such as an increase in house building may not be as welcomed considering the flooding that hit parts of Suffolk in early January. But, from a recruitment point of view, anything that can help to bring jobs and prosperity to the region is something that we would welcome.

On the Mid Suffolk District Council’s website, Suffolk and Norfolk are compared on a financial footing to Greater Sheffield and the North East, both of which gained some devolved powers in 2015. It is claimed that the economy of both these regions has benefited thanks in part due to the devolved powers.

As Ipswich is one of the major towns in the Suffolk and Norwich area, and with its great links to London, it would be safe to assume that it would benefit from any economic gain created by devolution. However not everyone is convinced, as this blogger on Ipswichspy.com suggests that up to 1,000 public sector jobs could be lost from Ipswich should the plans go ahead.

Business owners on the other hand are in favour as indicated by research presented by the Centre of Cities based on a YouGov survey – we know Ipswich technically is not a city but in virtually all other regards it is. This found that overall the majority of business leaders believe that greater devolution of powers to local Governments would bring benefits to their business.

Transport and strategic planning were the areas that gained the biggest support – 57% and 51% respectively who answered that greater devolved powers would help their business. Drilling the transportation question down further, those that operate in the manufacturing and construction industries were understandably most in favour, but surprisingly 53% of leaders in the finance and accounting sector also believed it would help their business.

With over 17,000 people being employed in the Financial and Other Business Services sector in Ipswich, anything that allows business leaders of those companies to expand and grow their operations would be a warmly welcomed by us. As a sector that underpins a large proportion of the employment market in Ipswich careful consideration would need to be taken by those wielding the power as to what, if any, devolved powers are handed over to the Suffolk/Norfolk region.

However, bringing it back to a more local level, the granting of more powers and decision making responsibility to locally elected representatives will certainly make leaders such as Mr Ellesmere more accountable.  If they do become so then hopefully we should see the views of residents and business owners more closely followed. And that can be no bad thing.