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Council leader accused of running scared

PUBLISHED: 14:06 28 January 2002 | UPDATED: 15:24 03 March 2010

IPSWICH council leader Peter Gardiner was today accused of running scared after switching seats in this year's crucial elections in May.

And a high-profile Labour councillor has been deselected from his seat after showing too much "independent thought" at council meetings.

IPSWICH council leader Peter Gardiner was today accused of running scared after switching seats in this year's crucial elections in May.

And a high-profile Labour councillor has been deselected from his seat after showing too much "independent thought" at council meetings.

With just over three months to go before the borough's most crucial election in 23 years, the Labour group has been accused of showing signs of panic by its political opponents.

Mr Gardiner is to abandon the Whitton seat he has represented since 1979 for the apparently safer seat of Gipping – a new name for the seat which comprises of most of the current Chantry ward.

There are all-out elections in May because the Boundary Commission has made changes to the 16 wards that make up the council.

There will still be three borough councillors in each of 16 wards, and after this year there will still be elections every year in the town – but on May 2 all 48 seats will be up for grabs.

All wards have been changed to some extent by the boundary changes, but in most the changes are not major and their names are not changing.

However the current Chantry ward is having a significant change, absorbing a large part of what is now Town ward, and its name is changing.

Town ward is taking up streets to the east of central Ipswich and will be renamed Alexandra ward.

Whitton ward is not changing its name, but it will be absorbing several roads from the Crofts estate and Henley Road area which are currently in the Tory-dominated Castle Hill ward.

Experts think this will make Whitton – where the Tories came just 90 votes short of creating an upset in May 2000 – too close to call.

But Mr Gardiner denied that fear of losing his seat had persuaded him to jump to Gipping.

"After 23 years of representing the same ward, I thought it was time for a change. There was a vacancy in Gipping ward caused by Tim Watson's decision not to seek re-election, so I put my name forward for it and was fortunate to be selected," he said.

Conservative election organiser Mary Young wasn't convinced by his explanation. "If you'll believe that, you'll believe anything! Of course he's running scared!

"The Socialists have gerrymandered other seats, like Broomhill which is becoming Westgate Ward – but they could catch a cold in Whitton," she said.

Another leading Labour councillor moving wards is John le Grys. He currently represents Rushmere, which is not changing much but were the Conservatives currently hold two out of the three seats.

He is switching to Sprites ward – and Sprites councillor Chris Newbury has been deselected by his party after three years at Civic Centre.

Mr Newbury said he had lost out because the party leadership did not like his outspoken style.

"I don't fit in with them because I say what I think – and they don't like that," he said. "I've had a letter from the group chief whip, Bill Quinton, saying that I show too much independent thought – they don't appear to want people who are prepared to think for themselves," he said.

Mr Newbury said he would remain a member of the party, and would not stand against an official Labour candidate because he hoped to return to the council eventually. "Things will change, and I plan to work for that within the party – I don't want to give the current leadership in Ipswich the excuse to throw me out," he said.

Mr Gardiner said Mr Newbury had lost in a straight fight and hoped he would seek selection for another ward in the town.

Mr le Grys said he was planning to stand for Sprites because it was much nearer where he lived – although he would continue to represent Rushmere on the county council.

"We were told that no one had prior claims on a seat, we could all try to stand for whichever seat we wanted," he said.

"I'm certainly not running scared from Rushmere, it simply makes more sense for me to represent a seat nearer my own home."

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