Don't expect a general election in 2009

AS we head into 2009, authorities across Suffolk are holding their breath to see what ministers decide should happen to them.Since I wrote my piece a couple of weeks ago suggesting that the whole reform was probably going to be scrapped as a result of Whitehall inertia, I've had a surprising response from people on the street.

AS we head into 2009, authorities across Suffolk are holding their breath to see what ministers decide should happen to them.

Since I wrote my piece a couple of weeks ago suggesting that the whole reform was probably going to be scrapped as a result of Whitehall inertia, I've had a surprising response from people on the street.

My views have provoked strong opinions from people in all the authorities concerned - and what is interesting is that they seem split down the middle about what will happen.

Several people that I know who are keen to see a reform of the system have told me they reluctantly agree with my analysis.

“I hope you're wrong, but every time there is a delay I worry a bit more,” one Grafton House bigwig told me.

But a Labour councillor from the other side of the road, at the county's Endeavour House headquarters, was confident I'd be proved wrong. He said: “I know these delays are not ideal, but I'm more sure than ever that Suffolk will see major changes - with single-tier councils coming in across the county.”

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All of this really does beg the question of what is going to happen in June this year when we are due to go to the polls to elect a new county council.

If communities secretary Hazel Blears decides we are going to have our local authorities turned upside down on March 27, does she really think all their structures can be re-drawn in time for elections at the start of June?

If not what is going to happen to the county council? Are we going to go to the polls to vote for an organisation living under a death sentence?

Or is she going to say that having voted in councillors for a four-year term, that will be unilaterally extended to five years by the government whether we like it or not?

Frankly that seems like a complete mess and I remain convinced it will not arise because I'm sure Mrs Blears will decide to leave things as they are.

So we will have the elections that were always planned for June - for the county council and the European Parliament.

One thing we will not have elections for is the Westminster parliament - I really cannot see Gordon Brown calling a general election before 2010.

I know the polls for him have been picking up over recent months, but the Tories do still have a lead - and in that situation it seems pointless to go to the country before you have to.

The only possible reason could be that things will look worse in a few months' time - and that is hardly the kind of platform from which to launch a successful election campaign!

The economy will look bad in 2009. No one seems to expect the good times to return before the end of this year. The earliest we are expecting to see the first green shoots of recovery is in early 2010 - coincidentally the latest time that the current government can go to the polls.

It is far too early to predict who will win that election. If the economy does show signs of recovery, Labour will be well placed to say to the electorate: “We told you Gordon Brown was the best person to manage the recession,” and they could well win a fourth term.

However, if the gloomier pundits are right and the economy remains stagnant for several more years, the Tories would be well-placed to win back power after 13 years in opposition . . . although they really do need to keep their act together.

The Tories have only just started to develop a coherent response to the economic crisis - Labour's success in boosting its standing was helped by the fact that its opponents spent the first few weeks following the banking crisis flapping around looking for a policy!

So June 2009 will be Euro-elections definitely, county council elections probably, and a general election almost certainly not.

Unless, of course, Mr Brown thinks differently!

I KNOW I've never been popular with Broomhill campaigners - over the years I have tried to balance reports about the pool and the fact is there have always been people questioning the figures of those trying to reopen the pool.

I don't believe anyone wanted to see the pool close for its own sake, or wanted to see the efforts to gain finance to reopen it fail.

What I have been concerned about is that some campaigners have seen the issue through rose-tinted spectacles and imagined that everyone in the town was as committed as them to reopening the pool.

It's one thing to sign a petition on the Cornhill - it's another thing for people to be happy about paying a lot of money in council tax to maintain a facility most of them are unlikely to use.

And that is something the authorities know and the campaigners need to constantly persuade them that the pool could be viable.

The pool failed to get National Lottery funding because the campaigners were not able to persuade those making the grant that they had the necessary financial and practical backing.

It does them no good to be constantly told what a wonderful thing Broomhill is, they need to be challenged to build a case robust enough to win the argument.

That is something they have failed to do so far as the National Lottery is concerned. And I can't believe I'm the only person who now feels that in the current climate there is nowhere left for them to go.

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