Inga prepares for top job

ONE person who is faced the borough elections with more nerves than most is leading Liberal Democrat Inga Lockington . . . and she's not even up for re-election this year!Mrs Lockington is the longest-serving Lib-Dem on the council, having broken the Labour/Tory duopoly by winning St Margaret's in 1999.

ONE person who is faced the borough elections with more nerves than most is leading Liberal Democrat Inga Lockington . . . and she's not even up for re-election this year!

Mrs Lockington is the longest-serving Lib-Dem on the council, having broken the Labour/Tory duopoly by winning St Margaret's in 1999.

Widely respected around the council, she knows that if the election goes as expected she will end up as the first Liberal mayor in Ipswich in living memory.

She will follow two Conservative mayors - when the Liberal Democrats entered a coalition with the Tories in 2004 it was agreed that the parties would share the mayoralty.


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She is looking forward to taking over the robes as first citizen: “I was asked if I would consider it and I thought as I am not standing for the council this year it would be good.

“It is quite an honour, although I will always have to remember that it is not myself that is important, it is the chain of office.”

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In recent years mayors have not been decided until after the election in case there is an unexpected result - but it is considered unlikely this year that there will be any result to change the overall balance of the council.

Mrs Lockington said: “I've been speaking to both Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors and they have wished me good luck for next year.

“I hope there will not be any problem after the election - I am due to be seconded by (Conservative councillor) David Hale who was elected to the council at the same time as me.”

Taking over as mayor means Mrs Lockington will no longer be able to sit on the council's executive - although she is hoping to continue to play an active role in politics in the town.

And there is also a chance, albeit very slim, that she could be the first mayor to have her consort as a member of the council.

Dr Tim Lockington is standing as Liberal Democrat candidate in Stoke Park - although it would be a major shock if he won in what is a Labour/Tory marginal.

TODAY'S elections should be all about who are the best people to run local services. Which party will be best at emptying the bins, making planning decisions, running parks and swimming pools.

They are the issues whose fate will be decided by the councillors who are elected today.

So why are the parties nationally trying to widen the issues under discussion to matters which no councillors will have any say in?

It's because frankly they don't seem to have any interest in running councils. They are only interested in winning the national popularity poll.

The politicians in Westminster couldn't care less which party runs Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal, or Mid Suffolk.

That's not to say that their local members don't think the councils are important.

But national politicians have nothing to say about issues that really affect voters in a council election.

Opposition parties nationally will make noises about giving councils more power and making them more relevant to the people they serve.

But the minute they are elected into power they tighten the reins and tell us that councils cannot be allowed to behave irresponsibly.

During the 1980s and early 1990s Labour was telling us how dreadful it was for the Tories to shackle local government. Yet once they were elected in 1997 they took even more powers from council chambers.

Now the Tories are saying local councils should have more power. Why should we believe them now when they were the ultimate control freaks between 1979 and 1997?

This week's party election broadcast by the Conservatives focussed on health policy. Local government has no say in determining health issues.

Labour has spent much of its time defending its record on the NHS and telling everyone how well it has run the economy over the last 10 years.

Again national economic policy is not determined by councillors at Grafton House or Melton Hill!

If national parties were really interested in local government, their election campaign would focus on how they delivered housing policies, how they would collect rubbish, where they would allow new development to go ahead.

They might not sound as sexy as some of the issues national politicians have been talking about - but it would be relevant to the actual vote.

THIS year's count will seem strange for old election hacks like me.

There's no overnight count at the Corn Exchange - we're all trooping along for a civilised daytime count tomorrow morning at 10am.

The boring (for the media) verification process will be done in Ipswich tonight but the actual count should be a fairly straightforward affair and all councils should know what their new shape is by lunchtime tomorrow.

It should mean that I have a good night's sleep on election night for the first time since I was far too young to be interested in politics - and that was a very young age.

But I suspect that in fact I'll be glued to the box at home until the early hours watching the results coming in from Scotland and Wales. Once you've been bitten by the politics bug, you're hooked for life!

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