Apathy could rule in elections

TOMORROW Ipswich goes to the polls in the local council elections. While last year's elections were dwarfed by the general election on the same day, politicians are hopeful that the turnout this year will be much healthier. But there are still plenty of people unaware that there is actually an election taking place

By Nick Richards

IN less than 24 hours polling booths will be open across Ipswich for the local council elections.

For the first time in 23 years, all 48 seats are up for grabs in one go because of the new boundaries which have changed the shape of wards all over town.

So, are you going to go out there and vote for your chosen councillor to represent your interests?

An Evening Star survey in Ipswich revealed that just over half the people we asked were planning to vote tomorrow – a figure which most councillors would probably be delighted with.

We asked 24 people if they were planning to vote and 13 indicated they would be. Nine people said they wouldn't vote or weren't interested in voting and this figure includes two people who didn't know the election was actually on.

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Two people replied "don't know" when asked.

Despite the fact that half the people we asked said they would be voting, it seems people are confused about actually what the elections are, and also unsure of how they would be voting.

Vyoltte Rogers, 78, from Ipswich, said: "I always vote as I think it is really important to do so.

"I will decide who to vote for on the day itself by reading the posters and seeing what the different policies are."

Arthur Smith shared her views on the importance of voting.

Mr Smith, 84, from Ipswich said: "I always vote and everybody else should vote as well.

"It's the people aged around 18 that need to get out and vote in order to show a preference."

Beryl Brock, 59, from Ipswich said she would be voting, even though she appeared unaware that this was a council election and not a general election.

She said: "I probably will vote. I try to make an effort even though it doesn't really effect me.

"Whatever the result we still have to pay more money – I think the people we vote for are out of touch. I thought Tony Blair was the man but I just don't know any more."

Mike Scott, 29, from Martlesham Heath said he wouldn't be voting this year.

"I would vote but I'm not registered to vote as I haven't lived here long enough. I will be voting next year for the Liberal Democrats, as I've always been a Lib Dem."

Meanwhile Paul Callaghan, 39, from Ipswich said: "I haven't heard much about it in the paper or on TV".

Others who were unaware of the election shared his view. One woman commented "I didn't know it was even on".

Peter Gardiner, Labour council leader and candidate for Gipping, said he was optimistic that the turnout would be in the region of 23 to 55 per cent.

He said: "This is as important as any other vote. We've tried to get as many postal votes as possible but we were denied all out postal voting by the opposition."

When told of the Evening Star survey, which indicated that some people were unaware of the elections, Mr Gardiner said: "Everybody has had a leaflet explaining about the elections and the change of wards and there has been lots of activity to encourage people to vote.

"If people don't go out and vote on Thursday it won't be through want of trying.

"There is no excuse for people not to know and I think it may be an excuse not to vote."

Liberal Democrat Inga Lockington, defending St Margarets Ward, said she was also hopeful of a high turnout.

"It should be higher than two years ago because of the all-out elections this year. Most people in Ipswich should know it's on, as the first Thursday in May is always election day.

"People who have no interest in voting probably won't vote, but if you take it seriously you will know that the election is on."

Stephen Barker, Conservative group leader said: "Voter apathy is a problem – lots of youngsters don't even seem to want to vote. I think people should show an interest.

"Youngsters don't know what its all about, they need to have some sort of education about how the country is run so when they get to 18 they know.

"I think some people get confused about what these elections are all about – people do vote in local elections as if it was a general election."

nYou can vote at polling stations between 8am and 9pm tomorrow. Most results should be known within a few hours of the polls closing. The Evening Star will have full election results coverage in Friday's paper.