PRESS RELEASE: Mayor of Felixstowe - Cllr Mark Jepson

Mayor of Felixstowe pays tribute to Felixstowe community and fellow Councillors in New Year’s plea for renewed vigilance.

At last night’s Felixstowe Town Council meeting the Mayor of Felixstowe, Cllr Mark Jepson conveyed the following message to his fellow Town Councillors and residents of Felixstowe. 

“I am very conscious that during the past ten months Councillors have not been able to engage with the community in the ways in we would have wished. However, I am delighted by how we have all adapted to make ourselves available via email, Zoom and the conventional phone call. Like everyone else working in new ways, it has been an adjustment.

Members of the public contact us regularly to share ideas and discuss concerns so I am pleased that every one of you has continued to serve our residents with the same commitment and professionalism as you did prior to the pandemic. What has been particularly good to see is how our relatively new Councillors have become so involved in the community during this difficult time.

There is also plenty of great evidence of Town Councillors going the extra mile. I would like to thank Councillor Aitchison for establishing Felixstowe Helping Hands, inspiring large numbers of volunteers to support the community response to the pandemic. Thanks also to Cllr Aitchison and Cllr Morris for working with me to administer funding to residents in need via the Felixstowe Relief Charity, and to all those Councillors who have overseen grant awards to help local groups keep going through these tough times. 

I would also like to thank the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Sharon Harkin, for her support to the Salvation Army over the Christmas period, in particular on Christmas Day when she helped distribute 97 meals to local families. The Mayoress and I found it a very rewarding experience too.

We all know that the past ten months have been incredibly difficult for all local businesses, especially the town centre, our restaurants, and pubs. Sadly, we know that the next weeks and months will continue in the same vein, with the uncertainty of when normal service can resume. 

Our schools, responding rapidly to changing national guidance, have done brilliantly well to ensure our children have access education, whether on site or at home. 

Our surgeries, community hospital and the community health team have been under incredible pressure and we know this pressure will continue as testing and the vaccination rollout accelerates. Like many of you, I have relatives who work on the NHS frontline and it is clear how hard the task is. On behalf of the Town Council, we thank you.

Thank you to the Port who has continued to operate whilst under significant demand both operationally and in managing the wellbeing of the staff who have no option to work from home. 

Importantly, we must all thank the vast majority of our community for continuing to comply with the national guidelines. Whether we have loved ones we are trying to protect, actively caring for, or in some cases, caring for us, we all recognise how difficult it has been. Just this week someone called to say they had the virus and were genuinely scared for their future because they had underlying health concerns.

We know that Felixstowe has seen rising infection rates in recent weeks, so I am therefore perplexed by the crowds of people I see walk along our wonderful coastline with what appears to be limited regard to social distancing and, because they are outside, rejecting the use of face masks. I recognise the importance of getting out in the fresh air and exercise, I understand the health benefits and believe me I have benefitted too, but we still need to keep each other safe.

Last week Cllr Steve Gallant as Leader of East Suffolk Council asked people to refrain from visiting the East Suffolk coast during lockdown and reminded us to exercise locally. I fully support this plea. Particularly as around the same time, on visiting the Manning’s area with the intention of walking to Landguard, I had seen for myself how busy the roads were with people arriving to Felixstowe. I ended up taking my walk elsewhere to avoid the congested prom. 

At any other time, we would be welcoming visitors to our town – we love to share our fabulous coastline and facilities, our shops, and businesses - but not during lockdown. 

Each one of us has personal responsibility to prevent the spread of this virus. We know the new variant is highly contagious, it does not discriminate. So, whether you are a resident or a visitor, please keep your distance and consider a face mask in busy areas outdoors to help keep each other safe.

To my fellow Councillors once more, I am aware some you too have been isolating and this new year brings new hope. Being a Councillor is rewarding but not without challenge, you cannot always meet the expectations placed on us and you sometimes face unfair criticism. In the current climate it is not as easy to share concerns or challenges over a coffee (or something stronger) with a friend or fellow Councillor, so I thank you again for your service to the residents and the office you hold.

In finishing I would also like to thank all the Town Council staff for the way they have adapted to keep services running, administer our online meetings, and maintain our open spaces. On behalf of all the Councillors - thank you for your dedication and hard work.

As the roll out of the vaccine gathers pace, let us all continue to stick with the guidelines and give ourselves the best chance of a safe and healthy reopening of our resort and businesses.

Best wishes for a safe and happy new year to you all,

Cllr Mark Jepson

Mayor of Felixstowe