Annual poll in Ipswich means little chance of a major change at borough

Politicians will be back at Ipswich Corn Exchange for the election count next month.
Picture : RICHA

Politicians will be back at Ipswich Corn Exchange for the election count next month. Picture : RICHARD MARSHAM RMG PHOTOGRAPHY

Ipswich is the only council area in Suffolk where there are widespread local elections this year, with 16 seats – one in each ward up for grabs.

David Ellesmere. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCIL

David Ellesmere. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

However it is almost mathematically impossible for Labour, which currently holds 33 of the 48 seats up for grabs, to lose power this time – that would require Tory victories in wards they have never come close to winning.

Realistically there are six seats that are “in play” this time around – seats which could potentially see a change in councillor on May 3.

In the mid-90s when the Tories were extremely unpopular nationally, Labour was able to win seats such as Castle Hill. I don’t see that happening again.

And a decade later when Labour was in the doldrums the Liberal Democrats took seats such as Whitehouse, Westgate and Alexandra. That is not going to be repeated in 2018.

Ipswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCIL

Ipswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher. Picture: IPSWICH COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

The battleground wards are Stoke Park and Holywells where the Tories are defending seats in wards where Labour has a councillor.

Labour will be seeking to unseat former Tory leader Nadia Cenci in Stoke Park and to take the seat being vacated by local butcher George Debman in Holywells.

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It’s difficult to see Labour looking for any further gains.

The Tories will be seeking to win further seats in Rushmere and Whitton where they already have councillors – and will also be hoping to snatch a seat in Sprites where they have won in the past.

Inga Lockington;

Inga Lockington; - Credit: Archant

They are also fighting hard to win the St Margaret’s seat currently held by Liberal Democrat Inga Lockington. However given her strong personal support in the ward that is a seat where they may struggle this year.

All parties insist this is a local election being fought on local issues – but it is inevitable that national politics will influence voters to some extent.

Issues like council housing, the state of the roads (which is a county, not borough, issue) and the free compost waste collection have proved significant.

But will the government’s problems with the Windrush Generation controversy that have blown up in the last few weeks strike a chord in a town with a significant number of people with a strong West Indian heritage?

Polling Day is May 3 – and if you want a postal vote this is the time to apply for one from the borough council.

Labour says voters eyes are firmly on local issues

Labour council leader David Ellesmere said his party was finding considerable support for its policies for running Ipswich – and voters remained concentrated on local issues.

He said: “The same issues are coming up time and again – the state of the roads which is a county council issue of course, the fact that we aren’t charging more for composting brown bins, the new council houses we’re building and the fact that people see that our element of bills isn’t going up as fast as the other authorities.

“They do feel that we are giving them more while charging less.”

Labour feels that Ipswich residents are so used to annual elections that voters are able to focus on local issues.

Party agent John Cook said: “Because we have elections every year, people understand the difference between local and national issues. We get some national things come up on the doorstep – but mostly it is the local issues.”

Ipswich Tories find voters’ minds set on town’s development

Tory opposition leader Ian Fisher has been heartened by the fact that local issues have remained at the forefront of the election campaign in Ipswich.

He said: “We have found that the issues can vary from ward to ward – but most people do seem to be concentrating on local things that the councils can directly influence.

“In Whitton the issue is very much focussed on the Northern Fringe development where building is due to start quite soon and in Holywells the Upper Orwell Crossing is dominating the campaign.”

Mr Fisher said his party was concentrating its efforts on the battleground seats, and those where it already has councillors like Bixley and Castle Hill.

And he was hopeful this year’s turnout would be greater than it sometimes has been in the past: “We are finding people really want to talk about things – but they aren’t talking about Brexit which is rather refreshing during a local election campaign!”

LibDems hoping to hold seat in St Margaret’s stronghold

Long-serving Liberal Democrat Inga Lockington, a former mayor of the town, is hoping to retain the St Margaret’s seat she has held since 1999 – she has built up a significant personal vote in the ward.

She said she was getting a good reception in a ward where there is traditionally a high turnout: “I think it is important that we have more than just Labour and Tory voices on the council, and people seem to agree.”

There were growing concerns about the plans for the northern fringe and the impact this would have on traffic in the area: “There are already problems on the roads and with parking – and nothing is being done to ease the situation,” she said.

There are nine Green Party candidates fighting seats in this year’s election in Ipswich and three UKIP candidates – neither party has so far held a seat on the authority.

There is also one independent candidate standing in St Margaret’s.