All to play for in elections

WITH the local elections less than a week away, I've never had so much difficulty in working out what is going to happen in Ipswich.But if I was a betting man, I wouldn't be expecting a change in administration at Grafton House.

WITH the local elections less than a week away, I've never had so much difficulty in working out what is going to happen in Ipswich.

But if I was a betting man, I wouldn't be expecting a change in administration at Grafton House.

Going into the election, the Conservatives are the largest group with 21 seats, Labour has 18 and the Liberal Democrats hold the balance of power with nine.

Labour thinks it will win at least two seats off the Tories despite its national woes. It seems reasonable that it will take the Bridge and St Johns wards.

They haven't won either of these wards since 2004, and deputy leader John Carnall was so terrified at the thought of defending his marginal seat that he scurried off to rock-solid Bixley.

But a net gain of two seats would not be enough for Labour. They would end up as the largest single party, by 20-19, but the Liberal Democrats remain much more likely to do a deal with their Tory friends than with the Labour Party.

Most Read

Labour thinks it has a chance to win Rushmere off the Tories and hasn't given up hope of winning Whitehouse back off the LibDems - it won in the ward last year.

To win both of those, Labour would have to do really well and would be bucking the national trend in a spectacular way.

But such a success would only leave it with 22 seats against 18 for the Tories and eight for the LibDems - more than enough for a comfortable administration.

For Labour to win back power, it would have to claim a further three seats - and frankly I can't see where they would be!

Of course Labour will also be looking over its shoulder. LibDem group leader Andrew Cann won the Westgate seat off Labour last year and his party is hoping to repeat the trick this time around.

The worst case scenario for Labour would probably be to lose Westgate and St Johns with its only gain coming in Bridge where former county council leader Bryony Rudkin is hoping to win a seat on the borough for the first time.

That would leave it two seats behind the Tories in the council chamber, with the LibDems in double figures for the number of councillors for the first time.

I'VE never seen so much buck-passing as there has been over the monumental foul-up at Grafton House last week when former councillor Bill Wright was allowed to take part in a planning meeting, even though he had resigned from the authority.

I don't believe this situation was some dark plot by the administration at the borough to subvert democracy - it has cock-up rather than conspiracy written all over it.

And council leader Liz Harsant is right - you won't find a more honourable man that Bill Wright in local government anywhere. He was an exceptional mayor and deserves praise for never having taken a penny in expenses.

But the fact is that he was at the centre of a foul-up which will mar the memory of his 21 years of great service to the borough.

While he was at the centre of the foul-up, many people are agreed that it was not his fault - he genuinely believed that he was entitled to attend meetings until after next month's election.

So who was to blame? Did committee chairman John Cooper spend long enough consulting the council's legal staff?

According to Labour he rapidly moved on after they had raised an objection, according to the administration committee clerks were scurrying around trying to check whether Mr Wright was able to stay on at the meeting.

The fact is, however, that somewhere along the line someone was given the wrong advice.

Luckily the meeting was not contentious and the result was embarrassing rather than expensive.

Who was at fault? Administration councillors are adamant it was not Mr Wright or Mr Cooper - which tends to put the blame on the officers who apparently didn't know what to do when a councillor resigned.

Whoever was to blame, though, it doesn't make the legal structures at the borough look too impressive. And if it is to be the basis of a unitary authority in 18 months time, we will all be hoping that they sort out their bureaucracy first!

IPSWICH might need to get its administration in order before it becomes a unitary council, but this week's Star report on potholes showed exactly why the town should be allowed to run its own affairs.

When it comes to highways, the town has been consistently starved of funds by the rural-obsessed administration at Endeavour House.

While thousands have been lavished on rural roads, in the town they have been allowed to decay while the county diverts funds to the leafy lanes represented by the administration's members.

That is not a party political issue - the Tories in Ipswich are as aware of the contempt shown for the town by the county council as everyone else.

The fact is urban Ipswich is a very different environment to the rural county - and those running things at Endeavour House have no interest in the matters that affect the town.

After all, 4x4 vehicles can manoeuvre potholes with ease, can't they?

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter