A month into the new year, I wanted to write to you to update as to the breadth of work and projects we as your BID, Ipswich Central, are undertaking to support you at this horrendous time whether you trade, work, live or shop in Ipswich town centre.
Firstly, I know how much importance is placed on the role of the Rangers by our levy payers. Throughout this latest lockdown period, our team of Rangers have remained on patrol, paying particular attention to your buildings and ensuring that they are safe and secure.
We continue to promote the town on your behalf, ensuring that, despite the difficulties that all towns and cities are facing, Ipswich remains relevant and ready to do business as soon as we are allowed to get back to as near normal a trading position as possible. In a high profile campaign headlined as ‘We Mean Business’, we have joined with other organisations to lobby for a clear roadmap leading, once and for all, out of the cycle of restrictions; and this to be combined with continuation of the freeze on business rates for our levy payers beyond the current time period and in the case of those in the hospitality sector, a continued reduction of VAT payable on goods and services provided again beyond the current planned end date. We believe this is the very least our businesses should expect in return for the incredible sacrifices you have been forced to endure as a result of the pandemic.
Behind the scenes, as amember of the Town Deal Board, we have been helping to shape the submission that has been sent to Government for consideration and, we very much hope, approval. This would bring up to £26 million of investment into 12 projects that we believe will help us to kick-start the transformation that Ipswich will need post Covid 19 and beyond. The projects all contribute towards the aims of the ‘Ipswich Vision’; however, with the tremendous support of our Town Deal partners, your BID has championed the creation of a ground-breaking digital scheme to ensure that our town is leading the way in embracing the new technologies that are changing the way society interacts with places and the businesses within them. We know that a digital future will help to ensure that all Town Deal projects submitted can maximise their potential. For more detail of the Ipswich Town Deal proposal, click here to read Paul's blog.
Of course, the Vision for Ipswich is the vital overarching strategy that ensures that we and all of our partners - be they local authority bodies, education establishments, politicians and the business sector - work collectively with a common purpose and strategy, rather than the conflicting position Ipswich has found itself in before. In 2015 your BID, offered a Vision that all could work towards and this March, 6 years from its inception, we will help to launch an updated Vision for Ipswich, that reflects the new and significant challenges that the high street and town centres are facing. We know that town centres are changing at an even faster pace than before the events of the last year. Towns like ours have to be innovative and challenging to keep ahead of those challenges. If we can no longer look at centres based primarily on retail and see the future of office work as a more hybrid model (part office based and part home-working), then towns like Ipswich need to evolve dramatically to reflect those changes. The updated Vision will be consistent with all of the principles set out in 2015, but will set out a quickening of the pace and specific interventions to cope with the challenges now faced.
As a result of the pandemic we are seeing an increased interest in the ‘staycation’. In the next couple of years at least, we expect that to continue and we must be ready to welcome those looking to the East of England for their next holiday. You will be aware that only 5 years ago, your BID created the ‘All About Ipswich’ destination marketing organisation with the aim of attracting more visitors to our town. Not only are we looking to bring visitors to see the many delights of Ipswich itself but we are also encouraging those who wish to explore the wider county of Suffolk and North Essex to base themselves in our county town in one of the many outstanding hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments that we have to offer. 6 years on, we have developed a platform used by 500,000 a year and the largest social media following of its type in our region.
We are always keen to share our plans with you and to hear your thoughts on how we can continue to promote your business in the years ahead. With this in mind, in the Spring we will be hosting a virtual conference and your invitation will follow. Despite all of the challenges of lockdown, I am convinced that we will provide you with a stimulating programme that will help you understand how we are ensuring you have the very best opportunity to do business in Ipswich and how Ipswich will continue to adapt to stay ahead.
Finally for now, I’m delighted to announce that Sophie Alexander-Parker has been promoted to the post of Chief Operating Officer of your BID. Sophie has been with Ipswich Central for 13 years, joining as a Street Ranger and throughout her time with us has become one of the most experience individuals in the BID industry. She, like all of us at Ipswich Central are here to support you, not only now but for the many years ahead. As we face the challenges that reflect the fast changing face of our town centres, we are here for you, we are your voice, We Mean Business!