Devolution (East Anglia) – open letter from Orwell Ahead CAMPAIGN

Dr Andy Wood, Chief Executive, Adnams plc, 

27th May 2016 

Dear Dr Wood, 

Devolution (East Anglia) – open letter from Orwell Ahead

We are writing to you, as lead negotiator for the Eastern region with the Government on devolution, on behalf of our committee and supporters of Orwell Ahead.  We understand that the deal that will go to councils across the region in late June is to be agreed very shortly, and here we present the views of our membership.

Our non-partisan group has been formed with the aim of highlighting the interdependence and economic importance of the Greater Ipswich area. This is the largest and most important economic area in Suffolk and Norfolk, creating £8bn GVA per annum. It provides employment for 260,000, supporting 20,000 businesses, and it is home to a third of a million people, producing nearly two thirds of Suffolk’s output.

An area of such importance deserves to be permanently backed with proportionate political and economic representation; to have influence and direction, a single voice and focus, plus a clear list of infrastructure and growth objectives with the means to achieve them.

Devolution for East Anglia should represent a great opportunity for our area, but there is also a risk that it will only marginalise Greater Ipswich unless certain criteria are identified that enable it to achieve its full potential. The most important of these criteria is for a guarantee of political and decision-making parity for (a) Ipswich with Norwich and (b) Suffolk with Norfolk under any devolution deal. If the eventual deal includes Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough then that parity needs to be extended to also include their two cities.

We have ten key objectives for the Greater Ipswich economic zone, falling into two categories:

Economic and infrastructure representation: To ensure that Greater Ipswich and the Orwell Corridor economic zone has permanent, proportionate and high quality representation on the New Anglia LEP board and its eventual successor following devolution.

Our group was the first to identify and highlight that Greater Ipswich (Orwell Peninsula) had just 1 board member (from 15) located in our economic zone. There were 7 board members located around, or associated to Norwich. At the last election, Greater Norwich secured a £400m investment with a Northern bypass, A11 and A47 upgrades. Ipswich and Felixstowe (with the UK’s premier container port) received £0 for the A14 & A12 in South East Suffolk, and there was not even a feasibility study for a desperately needed Ipswich Orbital (a full Northern Bypass).

We are seeking:

  1. After our lobbying, our economic area now has 4 LEP New Anglia Board members. We believe that that our LEP Board representation should never again fall below 30%, or below our zone’s percentage of GVA for Norfolk & Suffolk.

  2. There should be a permanent New Anglia LEP board position for the Felixstowe Port Users Association or the Port of Felixstowe. It is essential that the Felixstowe Port community is always represented when infrastructure is at stake.

  3. We are urgently calling for a business and academic led member group dedicated to the successful growth of Greater Ipswich & Orwell. Chris Starkie of “Shaping Norfolk’s Future” was able to brilliantly deliver a clear list of objectives upon becoming New Anglia LEP’s Managing Director. Jeremy Newsum and Jane Paterson-Todd have galvanised Cambridge Ahead, providing direction and a single powerful voice for Greater Cambridge. Why should Greater Ipswich have anything less? This should be an absolute priority for the New Anglia LEP.

  4. We seek a full and fair feasibility study and New Anglia LEP support for the Greater Ipswich Orbital (Northern Bypass).

Local and Regional Government Representation: To ensure that Greater Ipswich and the Orwell corridor is receiving fair, proportionate and accountable representation at all levels of local & regional government. We are seeking:

  1. As part of any Devolution settlement, Ipswich must have permanent and proportionate representation at SCC cabinet (or Committee) level. This should never fall below 33% for Greater Ipswich, recognising Ipswich’s unique county-borough contribution to SCC and the population scope dependent upon Suffolk’s regional centre.

  2. Ipswich also needs a fairer deal at District level. If SCDC and Waveney are to merge to form a super-district then any arrangement must include a full review of district boundaries and a fair settlement with Ipswich Borough. Ipswich’s 1835 borough boundary mean that Suffolk’s regional centre is populated with a high proportion of older and lower yielding A&B community charge properties. The town’s success and growth has produced lucrative suburbs, retail and business zones BUT across its outdated boundaries. It is grossly unfair that SCDC & Waveney will simply walk off with the fruits and benefits of Ipswich growth. Adastral Park and the Port of Felixstowe are dependent on Greater Ipswich’s labour force and infrastructure, so they must remain with Ipswich to ensure joined ambition, direction and focus. The three interdependent economic hubs must have joined up thinking and be able to use their joint leverage. This will simply not happen if governance is 40 miles away in Lowestoft.

  3. Ipswich Borough Council is already failing to meet its housing targets, compounded by the limitations of its 1835 settlement boundary. Between the years of 2011-2021, the Borough’s ‘Housing Supply Position Statement’, submitted as evidence for its local plan, estimates this shortfall will reach over 3,000 new homes. The Borough has made and continues to make the best use of its limited land, achieving a significant number of homes on brownfield sites. However, it is in desperate need of further strategic sites. This can only be achieved by a radical re-think of district boundaries. Meanwhile, Suffolk Coastal District Council is proposing to put 51% of its housing numbers required in its Local Plan within their ‘Eastern Ipswich Plan Area’, Felixstowe, Walton and the Trimley Villages. This is an area which directly, and heavily, impacts on the Greater Ipswich and Orwell district without contributing properly towards the services and infrastructure it needs. Indeed, this housing will serve the interdependent economic area from Felixstowe through to Ipswich and it is right that should be managed under a single district. Orwell Ahead is pro-growth and believes that with a re-think of district boundaries, this area could deliver ambitious economic growth along with a significant increase in housing numbers, but with the ability to do this in a truly sustainable and comprehensive way, able to plan and deliver the infrastructure improvements that are required to facilitate this growth. The House Builders Federation is the well-respected and leading voice of residential development in the UK, and recently commented on the relationship between IBC, SCDC, Babergh and MSDC, ‘…are not convinced that relying on future cooperation…will prove effective’ and ‘no convincing evidence…that the duty to cooperate has been effective’. Suffolk and the Orwell District need the district boundaries reviewing immediately in order to be able to deliver an ambitious house building programme.

  4. We believe that the location of the new Devolved Authority for Suffolk & Norfolk should Be at Ipswich. We have seen how the location of the New Anglia LEP initially skewed incoming investment, and that the administrational jobs benefitted the Greater Norwich area. We believe that it is our turn, and only fair that Suffolk’s regional centre receives this mantle.

  5. Regardless of Anglian Devolution we demand that Ipswich has political and decision making parity with Norwich, Cambridge and Peterborough. You simply cannot have a strong East Anglia without a strong Ipswich.

  6. Finally, we call for a full reform of local government. Devolution Anglia will mean a convergence of 3 County Councils and 21 District/City/Borough Leaders; 2 LEP boards, 3 Police Crime Commissioners; 12 CCG Health Areas; and around 240 County and 1100 district councillors. With or without an elected Mayor it is simply unworkable, and will only serve to magnify the democratic deficit. We strongly suggest to do it efficiently, fairly and proportionately and promoting democracy for all within East Anglia, as ten equally balanced and represented unitary councils (vis-à-vis Greater Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge & Peterborough), plus Suffolk East & West, Cambridge North & South, and Norfolk North & South. This would ensure greater accountability, focus and direction for our areas. We also believe that a proposal for East Suffolk (with Lowestoft as administrational HQ), West Suffolk (with Bury St Edmunds as administrational HQ) and Greater Ipswich (with Ipswich as administrational HQ) would spread both political control and accountability more fairly for all in Suffolk, Norfolk & Cambs.

We hope that you will receive this letter in the spirit in which it is sent, and clear desire to ensure that Greater Ipswich receives a fair deal not only from Devolution, but at all levels of local and regional government, and from the New Anglia LEP. Our aims are not radical or revolutionary, but common sense and in the best interest of our area and county.


Yours sincerely

Ipswich Vision actually needs to be a Greater Ipswich Vision

Ben Gummer MP and Dr Dave Muller of Ipswich Chamber of Commerce have called upon Ipswich business leaders to "act as ‘ambassadors’ for Suffolk’s county town" (Ipswich Star 26 May).

Tunnel Vision ?

Orwell Ahead supports the aims of the Ipswich Vision group and we wish it every success. But why the tunnel vision and narrow remit ? 

You simply cannot have an Ipswich Vision that ignores the natural growth of the town. Ipswich is more than its 1835 boundaries, you simply cannot have a joined up policy on planning, housing, retail, town centre development, infrastructure, economic development when your remit stops halfway along Woodbridge Road, Foxhall Road, Felixstowe Road, London Road and Norwich Road. 

Suffolk Coastal District Council represents the biggest single threat to the County Town's retail plan.

Ipswich's retail is both in town and out of town, so you need coordination and joined up thinking. Suffolk Coastal District Council is managing much of Ipswich's retail and is the biggest threat to the town centre, so where are they ?

SCDC, MSDC & Babergh also govern much of the town's lucrative suburbs and business parks, so where are they ? 

BT Martlesham & Port of Felixstowe are some of Ipswich's biggest employers and need to be working closely on any infrastructure bids, so where are they ? 

In the Ipswich Star report Ipswich Chamber of Commerce refers to itself as "Greater Ipswich Chamber", but this is wishful thinking and pointless if they do not have over-arching control for the Orwell peninsula and merge with Felixstowe Chamber to have joined up thinking, and a single direction & ambition. 

Where is Dan Poulter who is responsible for some of Ipswich's most challenged and most blessed areas ? 

Where is Therese Coffey whose constituents at Felixstowe share our workforce, bridge and infrastructure ?

The top priority for New Anglia LEP must be a business and academic led group for Greater Ipswich.

Lastly, Greater Norwich has Shaping Norfolk's Future, Greater Cambridge has Cambridge ahead with joined up thinking and ambition for the 15 miles around their centre, so why should Greater Ipswich have anything less ? This should be an absolute priority for the New Anglia LEP. 

Why Greater Ipswich matters

Suffolk Coastal & Waveney District Council Merger?

Rumours persist that SCDC & Waveney District Council are seeking to merge. Should this happen, Ipswich will have no say in the decision, or over the future of the vital economic zone it underpins.

We believe SCDC voters in the Ipswich & Felixstowe peninsula should be allowed to decide if their future is to be “Orwell” or “Deben “focused. Do they wish to remain part of a “Deben”; Woodbridge led and Lowestoft controlled super district, with more rural outlook and needs; with priorities for upgrading the A12 to Sizewell where few in Felixstowe will benefit? Or, would they prefer to be powerful contributors and beneficiaries in a Greater Ipswich council; an A12/A14 easternpower-house, maintaining and growing industrial and historic ties along the Orwell. Whatever the outcome, people in the Felixstowe peninsula should have a real say, and not just blindly accept what SCDC & Waveney impose upon them.

Devolution Suffolk & Norfolk

Devolution for Suffolk & Norfolk can be a great opportunity for our area; but there are alarming risks for Greater Ipswich.  Ipswich entered Suffolk County Council as an equal partner in a three way stake-holding in 1974. But, from a powerful regional centre with complete control over the higher county aspects of local government, Ipswich has endured lengthy spells of having no voice or control at all on the all-powerful cabinet. 

Devolution East Anglia based on existing structures (12 districts, 2 boroughs and 2 county councils) will magnify the impact; risking future economic development and infrastructure for Greater Ipswich; perpetuating a lack of accountability and ambition for our town and the economic zone it sustains.

We believe that there must be a balance of power and representation; balance between the two counties, balance between the rural counties and the two major urban areas of Greater Ipswich & Greater Norwich; and balance between Greater Ipswich & Greater Norwich themselves.  

Our top decision makers for Greater Ipswich and Felixstowe: The Suffolk County Council Cabinet. Not one is located here or is directly accountable to the £7.8b economic zone (two-thirds of Suffolk’s economic output) or its people.

Who governs Ipswich ?

REVEALED:  the  political vacuum at the heart of our county town

We often hear criticism that “Ipswich’s Council” lacks direction, ambition and objectives. But just WHO is “Ipswich’s Council” and who specifically is responsible for strategic governance over this historic, growing town - for the 250,000 people and £8bn pa economic zone reliant upon it ? We reveal below the current, disjointed and largely unaccountable structure running Ipswich area; to expose why Ipswich has moved from Suffolk’s powerhouse to its poor relation in just 41 years !

In 1974, Ipswich entered Suffolk County Council as a strong, equal partner in a three way stake-holding. Forty years later, Suffolk’s greatest town has gone from total control over county aspects of local government; to lengthy spells with no influence or control at all. In any context this is undemocratic, damaging and unfair to Ipswich, its citizens & businesses. Devolution East Anglia - based on existing structures - will magnify the impact; risking future economic development and infrastructure for Greater Ipswich & SE Suffolk; and perpetuating the lack of control and accountability over our town. Only unitary government for our growing urban centre will deliver a fair, permanent and proportionate voice for Greater Ipswich.

Key: ICBC is County Borough of Ipswich (to 1974). SCC isSuffolk County Council; IBC is Ipswich Borough Council; SCDC is Suffolk Coastal District Council; MSDC is Mid Suffolk District Council; LEP is New Anglia LEP. PCC is Suffolk Police Crime Commissioner  


40+ Top Business & Community Leaders show support for our aims & Concerns.

Over 40 [and growing] local business or community leaders have already expressed support or firm interest for our key concerns and aims. Time for you to have a greater say !

Many of you have already expressed comments and support for a single voice and greater political power for our £8bn economic zone.

We want to share your views with interested parties, local and national political leaders, our MPs, and New Anglia LEP.

We invite you to send us your thoughts, opinions, comments, ideas - short or long - via our website.


A greater difference !

Since our campaign launch there have been several encouraging developments; suggesting that a greater voice for/interest in Greater Ipswich does achieve results !

November 9: Dr Tim Whitley, MD for Adastral Park joins New Anglia LEP Board.

November 10. Ipswich Chamber demands better roads and technology for Ipswich, and calls for authorities to look again at Ipswich Orbital/ Northern bypass.

November 2. EADT’s Paul Geater asks “should Ipswich expand boundaries ? Huge responses in favour posted on EADT online site.

October 19. Ipswich Vision Conference. David Ellesmere states Ipswich has to expand administrative boundaries.

However, disappointing that on November 4, county and districts met Lord Heseltine to discuss Devolution for Norfolk and Suffolk, without listening to calls for direct political empowerment for the Greater Ipswich economic zone !

Orwell Ahead says:

"We need to put petty rivalries aside. We have to recognise the historic interdependence and importance of Central Ipswich, Adastral Park, and the Port of Felixstowe. It is within all our interests that the £8bn pa Greater Ipswich and South East Suffolk economic zone is strong, has a single voice and ambition, and that our economic zone has greater say and sway.

And if Devolution Suffolk proceeds then we must have permanent and proportionate representation on the New Anglia LEP and our own direct regional government empowerment too; to protect our economic prosperity and as Suffolk’s counter-balance to Norwich & Cambridge”.



A Tale of Three Cities

"A Tale of Three Cities" – an analysis by Mark Ling

Ipswich versus its two main regional competitors Norwich and Cambridge

Even as champions of Ipswich, we perhaps find it bewildering that a town with so many assets just doesn't enjoy the same feel-good factor as other regional centres. The ingredients are all here, but somehow the recipe for success has been lost. The study of fifty-plus key performance indicators (overleaf) aims to identify disparities, whilst this summary page makes conclusions and what we can do about them.

As a conurbation and centre, Ipswich’s size is equal to Cambridge or Norwich.  All three centres are vital to the prosperity of around 250,000 people who are reliant on these centres to compete at regional and national level to win regional government jobs, public and private sector jobs, investment and infrastructure.

Ipswich has no national prominence, no royal patronage and no city status. Its regional clout is being eroded within Suffolk and constantly attacked by regional competitors that have priceless, status advantages.

Cambridge and Norwich’s historic key industries have survived less effected or intact; they also have prestigious universities, aspects of regional government and regional headquarters jobs as well as burgeoning new industries. Central Ipswich’s industries have been hit hard, but Ipswich’s post war engineering and logistics expertise have been the foundation for new industries coming to Suffolk: technological engineering expertise at BT in Martlesham, whilst our capability in port and transport infrastructure have sustained the Port of Felixstowe.

Ipswich’s significance, skills and workforce attracted and grew these two new dynamic economic hubs. However, Ipswich’s investment now mainly benefits Suffolk County Council and rural Suffolk Coastal District Council. Ipswich loses out on the tax revenues, regional status and presence. Ipswich’s growth fuelled prosperous suburbs with newer, larger C,D&E band properties, producing local tax surplus revenues. Yet, outside our twentieth century boundaries the precious tax surpluses benefit SCDC and Babergh, leaving Ipswich’s coffers ring-fenced and our revenues limited by smaller, older, lower contributing A&B band tax properties.

Loss of its 750-year unitary status in 1974 has cost Ipswich dearly. The current two tier local government means that Ipswich (as a politically diverse urban area) is at odds with generally rural conservative Suffolk. Different needs, different outlook, but with Ipswich firmly a junior partner and “Suffolkated”.  Ipswich has just 13 of 75 Suffolk County Councillors, its voice and power is completely diminished: not a single SCC cabinet member currently resides in Ipswich: happy to rule and collect Ipswich taxes, but no vested interest. There is little distinct focus, direction or ambition for Suffolk’s capital town and powerhouse, rural districts and SCC are happy to benefit from a Greater Ipswich, just not to acknowledge or empower it.

Media for Ipswich is largely controlled from Norwich, which also retains a disproportionate representation level on the all-powerful New Anglia LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership driving Norfolk and Suffolk).  This no doubt provides our principal competitor with direct influence over economic and business strategy, third party investment; along with vital central government spending on roads, rail and infrastructure across our region.

We, the citizens, politicians & business folk of Ipswich have allowed the prize asset – our town – to become a junior and subordinate partner in our region, in local government, in media and in our business forums. I believe that we need to collectively strive to achieve the following goals if we are to turn around the fortunes of our town:

We must demand equal representation for Ipswich (and Suffolk) on the New Anglia LEP.

  1. Our business community must promote a “Greater Ipswich” GVA (Gross Value Added or size of our economy) as our key selling point. Were “Greater Ipswich” to be an entity, our GVA would eclipse Greater Norwich (Norwich plus Broadland) and Cambridge and Peterborough. We would have the greatest “city” economy in East Anglia! The Greater Ipswich area would (in any other circumstance) be deemed a major economic area, a beacon and a success. Furthermore, it should be heralded and aggressively promoted as such. This is the supreme selling point to attract new business and government investment, to promote Ipswich and benefit Suffolk.
  2. Our politicians and businesses must lobby for improved and fairer media coverage, and take greater care over how our town is projected.
  3. We must all lobby for local government reform to consummate and promote “Greater Ipswich” - ideally as a unitary authority. Local business and New Anglia LEP should recommend that Ipswich should be backed fully in future bids for city status, and that our town should eventually return to having two dedicated MPs with a sole focused on urban Greater Ipswich.
  4. Bringing Greater Ipswich together as an economic and political entity would allow us to out-muscle our competitors, creating a heavyweight champion to be proud of. It will be a turning point, a renaissance for the town, to gain even more investment for Ipswich and for the county beyond.

A Tale of Three Cities.