Suffolk County Council look set to make a historically stupid decision and cancel the Upper Orwell Crossings project; three bridges across the Orwell that would relieve traffic through the town and create a huge boost to the economy.
Twenty percent reductions in journey times at rush hour would result in £200 million in economic benefits from journey reliability and business. A further £400 million in economic benefits from transport related improvements. And a whopping £6.5 billion in economic benefits to the wider town and East Suffolk.
Ipswich has the highest rates of poverty in Suffolk. It has the highest level of intervention spending from the County Council. Every 1% increase in the Ipswich economy has a massive impact on the level that the County Council has to spend on services that come with deprived areas. And every 1% increase in the Ipswich economy also sparks extra council tax income. So economic improvement is a win win for the council.
Yet Suffolk are proposing to slash this capital spending, cancelling the bridges and destroying the economic boost that the scheme will have in the town – consequently forgoing the additional income and the savings that come from improving the economy of the County Town.
For those Suffolk County Councillors with rural seats who think that the problems of Ipswich end at the border, think about this. You are telling Government that you are incapable of delivering major infrastructure investment – guaranteeing when funds are needed, Treasury will be spending elsewhere. So by cutting Ipswich adrift, you are destroying your own hopes of infrastructure spending. Money will not come for any scheme Suffolk County Council is involved in, because you are hanging a sign out saying “we can’t deliver”.
For the Suffolk Tories whose seats surround Ipswich, consider the number of your voters who commute into the town every day, all of whom would have seen a boost from this scheme – an almost 20% cut in travel times.
For the Suffolk Tories in the west and north of the county, who generally don’t care about Ipswich, think about this – the more Ipswich fails, the less money there is to spend on services in your districts.
If Suffolk County Council goes ahead and cancels the bridge project, this will be the biggest mistake the council has made since Labour hiked tax rates by 18.5%. They are guaranteeing NO Ipswich northern bypass, NO Government funding for an Elmswell bypass, NO Government funding for any highways improvements on the A12 at the four villages. Treasury will simply say you cannot deliver and shut up shop.
This decision, if it is made on Monday night, will be an absolute disaster for the town. It is an act of total cowardice.