Council leader finally resigns

A WILL he or won't he saga has finally come to an end as council leader Dale Jackson has resigned. Mr Jackson, Conservative councillor for Castle Hill was also ousted from the borough council's executive at a meeting of the full council last night after failing to win any votes from the Liberal Democrat section of the coalition.

A WILL he or won't he saga has finally come to an end as council leader Dale Jackson has resigned.

Mr Jackson, Conservative councillor for Castle Hill was also ousted from the borough council's executive at a meeting of the full council last night after failing to win any votes from the Liberal Democrat section of the coalition.

The saga of his possible resignation following an allegation of improper conduct has been widely reported after he yesterday sensationally reneged on his resignation and said he would carry on as leader.

However he finally officially resigned at last night's meeting.

The complaint centred on a "spoof" letter sent by Mr Jackson to the daughter of Tory councillor and former group leader, Stephen Barker, on December 5, 2002.

The letter's existence emerged after Mr Barker was reinstated to the council following his own suspension for bringing the council into disrepute.

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As exclusively revealed in the Evening Star Mr Jackson announced his decision to stand down as council leader on Saturday but yesterday did a U-turn claiming a resignation would be an admission of guilt.

However, at a tense meeting last night, Mr Jackson had another change of heart.

He told councillors it had been "an honour" to become leader.

He said: "I have become something of a celebrity after my referral to the standards board.

"But I have worked very hard for the people of Ipswich and I have been honoured to take the role of leader in the administration.

"Being leader of your home town is indeed a great honour."

Councillor Liz Harsant will now take the reigns, at least until May when the Tory group hold their annual general meeting which could potentially see councillor Paul West elected as leader if his bid to become Ipswich's MP fails.

After the meeting, Mrs Harsant spoke of her relief at the outcome.

She said: "I think Dale has made the right decision.

"We have been on and off the phone, meeting and talking and I think he realised today it was the correct thing to do for the party."

The standards board has not launched an investigation into the complaint against Mr Jackson yet and it is thought it could take up to a fortnight before a decision is made on whether or not to investigate.

The scandal has come at a bad time for the Tory party, just weeks before an election is expected, but Mr Jackson said his reasons for going were for the interests of the party.

He said: "It took a lot of thought but I'm a loyal Conservative. I don't feel I'm guilty but it's best to be loyal to your party.

"I hope to come back in the future, but I'm still a councillor for Castle Hill and it's been an honour."

On his relationship with Stephen Barker, Mr Jackson added: "It's not the best. "I have no animosity to him.

"We were the best of mates so it's very sad."

n. What do you think of the whole affair? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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