Former MP: Tories were hit by the ‘Andrea Hill factor’ in Ipswich

IPSWICH: A former MP today claimed that voters punished the borough’s Tory councillors at the ballot box because of issues surrounding county council chief executive Andrea Hill.

Following Thursday’s elections, labour regained control at Ipswich Borough Council after more than six years in opposition.

The party won three seats from the Conservatives and two from the Liberal Democrats to emerge from the election with 28 of the 48 seats.

Chris Mole, Labour MP for Ipswich from 2001 to 2010, said: “I can’t think of an election where an issue has been raised so much by so many people.

“They (the voters) know there is a problem with Andrea Hill and the Conservative leadership at the council.

“People believe councillors haven’t been managing her properly and they understand the Conservative leadership must have accountability for this situation.

“I think they decided to punish them at the ballot box.”

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Mr Mole, who was ousted last year by Tory Ben Gummer, also believes the ongoing bad press about the chief executive affected how people voted.

David Ellesmere, the borough’s Labour group leader, who is expected to be confirmed as new council leader at its annual meeting later this month, agreed with Mr Mole.

“The Conservatives have been running Ipswich Borough Council since taking control in 2004 and they have been gradually losing seats to Labour for the past couple of years.

“I think that voters were affected by what has been going on at Suffolk County Council and that councillors didn’t really respond when they threatened to close a number of public services.”

Ed Balls MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor and East of England Champion, also weighed into the debate, saying: “People in Ipswich have sent a clear message that David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s frontloaded cuts to local council services are going too far, too fast.

“They have elected a Labour Council that will be their voice in tough times – and a first line of defence against Tory-led Government cuts.”

Liz Harsant, councillor for the Holywells ward, added: “I agree that the ongoings at the county council, the issues over the chief executive, the cuts, the situation with school crossing patrols, libraries and school transport have all had an affect on the local elections. It is a great shame.”

But Guy McGregor, county councillor with responsibility for transport, said the rise of the Labour party was “simply because of the collapse in the Liberal Democrats”.

He added: “This is exactly what has happened in Ipswich and is also what has happened in other areas.

“I think that the county council has secured a great deal of funding for Ipswich which has been left by the incompetence of the previous government.

“In time, people will realise the level of investment we have in Ipswich.

“I don’t think that Chris Mole should be commenting on local government elections. He isn’t a candidate and it is not something he should comment on for that very reason.”

Michelle Bevan-Margetts, who lost her seat in Whitton to Stephen Connelly of the Labour party, said she did not believe one factor would be enough to have an impact.

n Ed Balls is visiting the town today to personally congratulate successful councillors. For a round-up of the trip, see tomorrow’s paper.

n Do you think the ‘Andrea factor’ had an impact on the local elections? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail