Ben Gummer's war of words with Ipswich Council

Ben Gummer Ben Gummer has sparked a war of words over his local council in Ipswich

Ben Gummer has decided to attack his own local council while attending the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

It has sparked a war of words in Ipswich that could be the beginning of a bitter campaign in this marginal seat.

The MP for Ipswich says many local councils are "self governing oligarchies of mediocre people".

He went on to describe his own local authority, Ipswich Borough Council, as all too often "getting in people's way" and "frustrating ambition".

Start Quote

The calibre of many councillors often leaves something to be desired”

End Quote Ben Gummer MP (Con) Ipswich

"The calibre of many councillors often leaves something to be desired," he said.

"Most of them can't read a balance sheet. Business councillors could release aspiration," he added.

That won't go down well with his Conservative colleagues on the council, according to Labour Council leader, and parliamentary candidate, David Ellesmere.

"There's plenty of Conservative councillors. Will they be inclined to support him in the future?"

Mr Gummer also told the fringe meeting of the 2020 group that local government needed shaking up so that councillors solely representing local businesses could be elected to town halls.

He acknowledged the idea "had no hope of getting into a manifesto" but pointed to the City of London as a model for how his idea works in practice.

The City is governed by the Corporation of London, which is the oldest local authority in England, having been founded in medieval times, and elections there give votes to both firms and residents.

'Shocking attack'

Start Quote

It's a shocking attack - I don't think he's thought it through. I think he's rattled - half way through this parliament”

End Quote Councillor David Ellesmere (Lab) Leader, Ipswich Council

Councillor Ellesmere hit back at the criticism: "He's saying councillors are holding back business. It's Ben Gummer's government that is responsible for the state of the economy.

"We are helping. We are building new council homes, the first for years.

"A business bid has just been made for flood defences that were cancelled by this government.

"Our £1.5 million jobs and skills fund will help new apprenticeships in firms and we're holding new events to attract people to business.

"This council is doing a lot to help business," he maintained.

"It's a shocking attack. I don't think he's thought it through. I think he's rattled - half way through this parliament.

"I suspect his own party will have plenty to say to him."

I suspect they already have.

Mr Gummer tells me now that the context of his comments was a comparison between the great civic leaders of the Victorian era and those of today and that he hadn't meant to point the finger at his local council.

As a historian of some reknown there's probably not much you can teach Mr Gummer about the past; as for the present, opinion in Ipswich may still be divided.

Deborah McGurran, Political editor, East of England Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    muadib2 needs to remember that it is the voters of Ipswich who appointed Mr Gummer not his father who happened to be an exemplary MP. And Mr Gummer Jnr is right. Ipswich Council is an overstaffed talking shop which revels in the processes and not the outcomes or results. And I say this as someone who had to work there....

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    And I thought it was just my district council.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Mediocre people in councils? How about mediocre MPs who only got the job because Daddy was one....

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Well said, Sir - Your comments are a true reflection of all local councils !! Staffed by incompetent individuals that are intent on creating their own little empires, wasting millions of pound of taxpayers money on their own grandiose schemes, whilst taking no notice whatsoever of the people that are forced to pay their unearned grossly inflated wages & expenses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Apparently 71% of the Ipswich electorate consider local elections a waste of time and their money, if the last 29% turnout is any guide. There's a major democratic deficit in UKplc , promoting more rotten boroughs run by profit-pursuing vested interests doesn't appear to address this void. Next step? Sell off the public's property to profit-mongers, and then exploit the monopoly for gain, good ?



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