Coalition retains the reins of power

SO now it is official. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration which has run Ipswich for the last two and a half years will continue for another 12 months at least.

SO now it is official. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration which has run Ipswich for the last two and a half years will continue for another 12 months at least.

But just how straightforward was the decision to maintain the alliance - and was there any real thought of an alternative outcome?

The LibDems did contact Labour to see if there was any common ground that could be met between those two groups to run the council.However the LibDems were determined to get an assurance that action would be taken against any Labour members who were involved in the “dirty war” in Westgate Ward.

LibDem victor Andrew Cann told me he is determined to put the battle behind him now, but he still feels angry about the personal attacks launched on him during the campaign.

Labour, for its part, were underwhelmed by any approach from the LibDems - and group leader David Ellesmere said he was preparing for a further period of “constructive opposition.”

Mr Ellesmere said: “I don't think we were in any doubt which way the Liberals would jump. It was already said that the Tories would propose Inga Lockington as mayor and they have worked together for some time now.

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“But I think we all know who really won the election in Ipswich - and we are ready to get our vote out next time there is an election in the town.”

Some Liberal Democrats think their alliance with the Conservatives harmed their electoral prospects in the town.

Their vote fell substantially in much of the town and there has been some soul-searching about whether the close alliance with the Conservatives had contributed to this.

The Tories meanwhile have been trying to work out why this election saw them treading water when they thought they would be powering ahead in the borough.

They are beginning to fear they have reached the high point of their victories - and that in the next elections they will have difficulty in holding on to the Bridge, St John's and Sprites seats they won in better years.

If that is the case then the political shape of Ipswich is starting to look a bit like stalemate. Both Labour and the Conservatives have seven seats which they would expect to win, and the LibDems have two.

Of course as the national political picture changes this balance could change.

Labour showed it could mount a comeback in Rushmere and Whitton while the Tories won't give up on St John's, Sprites or Priory Heath without a fight.

And this year put both Whitehouse and Westgate Wards back into the electoral cauldron for future years.

Last night's annual meeting of the council might have been all sweetness and light, but there are certainly tensions ahead over the next few years.

AS Gordon Brown makes his pitch for the Labour leadership - and the keys to Number 10 - he's made a lot of the need to make life easier for people to buy their own homes.

We've even had talk of building new ecotowns on the site of old airbases.

However what no politicians seem to have grasped is the fact that the structure of the construction industry at present means that the housing market is becoming increasingly difficult for people to get on to the housing ladder.

Increasingly companies building new homes, whether they are flats or houses, expect to sell them before they are finished - and in many cases before they even start to be built.

More than half the flats on The Mill development in Ipswich have been sold and no construction work has even started there yet.

So who is buying them?

Are they being bought by people desperate to live on the Waterfront, who are prepared to doss down on someone's floor for two years while their dream home is built?

Or are they being built by investors who have no real interest in living there - but want to sit around collecting rent or sell on at a huge profit once the flat has been built?

Of course it's the latter. The Waterfront is not a haven for owner-occupiers, it is becoming a magnet for tenants who rent flats there because they can't afford to buy their own home anywhere else.

There are some flats and houses in the area that have been bought by owner-occupiers, but they are very much in the minority.

And this emphasis on buy-to-let means that the housing market is becoming skewed. Anyone who does want to buy a home to live in is competing with investors who may have much deeper pockets.

In one way this is creating what this country has lacked since the Thatcherite right-to-buy legislation was implemented in the mid-1980s, a growing rented sector.

The problem is that the new landlords are not social organisations whose main aim is to provide decent housing for their tenants.

Their aim is to maximise profit and get a good return for their investment.

If prime minister Gordon Brown really wants to make it easier for people to get on the housing market in the future, then he has to take action to ease the pressures placed on the economy by those seeking to buy to let.

Without that change, all talk about making it easier for people to buy their own home will be pretty meaningless.

Do you agree with Paul? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Ip4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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