Ipswich prepares for crucial elections

POLITICIANS across Ipswich are today continuing their attempts to persuade the public they are the right people to run the town, ahead of Thursday's local elections.

POLITICIANS across Ipswich are today continuing their attempts to persuade the public they are the right people to run the town, ahead of Thursday's local elections.

A third (16) of the seats on Ipswich Borough Council are up for grabs at the polls, as well as two vacant seats, meaning the balance of power could potentially shift following the vote.

The Conservatives are currently the largest group with 21 seats, Labour has 18 and the Liberal Democrats hold the balance of power with nine.

The Tories would need to gain four seats to reach the magic majority figure of 25 needed for full control of the council while Labour require an improbable gain of seven.

Current Tory leader Liz Harsant said she is confident her party can gain a few seats rather than lose them to Labour.

She said: “We are very confident indeed.

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“I think we have had a fantastic campaign and the support we have had around the town has been terrific.

“From my perspective, members of the public are quite disillusioned with this present government.

“The 10p tax seems to be hitting Mr Average.”

Labour leader David Ellesmere conceded it was unlikely his group would achieve overall control of the council.

He said: “I think it is mathematically possible given the number of seats that are being contested but I think it is unlikely.

“I wouldn't want to make any predictions as that is down to the voters. What we are finding is that people are concerned about our key messages and campaigning issues. We are calling for more affordable homes, fewer flats, tackling empty shops and cheap bus fares.

“We are also finding a lot of people are angry about the £80,000 pay rise of Suffolk's new chief executive and I think a lot of people are going to vote on that issue on May 1.”

Liberal Democrat leader Andrew Cann said the feedback he has received from the general public is that the Tory/Lib Dem administration is doing a good job.

He said: “Our canvassing is indicating people are happy with the administration.

“The Liberal Democrats are going to get more votes and more seats and Labour are having difficulty in persuading people to vote for them.”

Conservative 21

Labour 18

Liberal Democrat 9

UKIP 0

Green party 0

The last time the seats subject to Thursday's vote were up for selection was in June 2004 when Labour had a poor year in the town, losing power for the first time since 1979.

The Tories will defend two seats they have not won since then - Bridge and St John's - seats that Labour hope to win back.

Labour also hopes to win back the Whitehouse seat after success in that ward last year while further successes in Rushmere, Alexandra, and Whitton would leave the council in a dead-heat.

They have wheeled out some big names to help their cause with Hamil Clarke and Albert Grant, bidding to return to the council in St John's and Whitehouse wards respectively.

Meanwhile former county council leader Bryony Rudkin is hoping to regain Bridge Ward.

The Tories, on the other hand hope to win an extra seat in Sprites and, possibly, Priory Heath as well.

They have put forward the only Conservative from Ipswich on the county council, Russell Harsant, in a bid to retain the traditional Tory ward of Bixley.

Mr Harsant was one of just three Suffolk Tories who voted against the controversial appointment of Suffolk's new chief executive Andrea Hill on a salary of £220,000.

The Liberal Democrats will be hoping to add a second seat in Westgate to accompany their leader Andrew Cann at Grafton House.

Sally Wainman, who has been campaigning for the reopening of Broom Hill lido, is standing as an independent in Priory Heath and the UK Independence Party is fielding candidates in St John's and Whitehouse wards.

The Greens are hoping to make a breakthrough onto the council and have put up candidates in Alexandra, Bixley, Bridge, Castle Hill, Gipping, St John's St Margaret's, and Westgate.

Liberal Democrats Andrew Cann:

We summarise our aims in Ipswich as promoting a Cleaner, Greener and Safer Ipswich.

Under our stewardship Ipswich has been named Britain's cleanest Town and recent figures reveal that our work in pioneering Safer Neighbourhood Teams with Suffolk Constabulary has led to falls in crime in Ipswich. There is still much more to do to make our town cleaner and safer but we have made a good start.

The main priorities over the next year are environmental and economic.

We hope to be announcing Ipswich's first Wind Turbines with our partners soon. Our measures to make Ipswich plastic-bag free will be stepped-up dramatically from May 1. Recycling rates will continue to rise. Our two new Climate Change officers will continue to promote greener choices for individuals and businesses in the Town. We are promoting new cycle paths and the town centre cycle facilities are all getting an upgrade.

Ipswich Market is soon to receive new awnings and or work to promote new 'anchor' stores to the Civic Centre and Mint Quarter sites continues.

Labour David Ellesmere:

Many people believe that Ipswich has too many flats now, yet the Tories and Liberal Democrats running the council want to build even more! Labour believes that we need less flats and more affordable, family houses for Ipswich.

The Evening Star recently highlighted that there are over 100 empty shops in Ipswich. The council is not helping. It seems to have an obsession with big developments that don't happen. Labour believes that the council should take more of an initiative to fill Ipswich's empty shops.

Large numbers of roads in Ipswich have pot holes or dangerous, broken pavements, yet the Tory County Council has slashed the amount spent on roads and pavements by half. Labour believes the council should make more money available to repair roads and pavements.

Bus fares have increased dramatically in the past few years leaving public transport in Ipswich too expensive for many. The Tories and Liberal Democrats are only interested in taking cash from Ipswich Buses - this year they will take over £200,000 out of the company in profits and rents.

Conservative Liz Harsant:

Our pledge is to keep council tax as we have done - inflation or below. We acknowledge this is a very difficult time for people.

We will continue to bring all our housing stock up to the Ipswich Standard.

We have looked at what's been done and compared it with registered social landlords and you can see what an awful lot of money this administration has put into the Ipswich decent homes standard.

I, personally, would like to expand waste collection to include glass. It's my personal belief this is very important for the people of Ipswich and I shall be fighting for it.

We must also work more and more with police to tackle anti-social behaviour. It really is something we want to try and stamp out. We will be more proactive about people who live in our housing stock and continually breach their tenancy by committing anti-social behaviour.

Alexandra: Brenda Cavanagh (Green), Louise Gooch (LD, Martin Goonan (Lab), Jan Rawlings (Con)

Bixley (2 seats): John Carnall (Con), Russell Harsant (Con), Adrian Hedge (Green), Lindsey Rawlingson (Lab), Emma Stock (Lab), Alison Williams (LD), Clive Witter (LD)

Bridge: Rick Deeks (Green), Chris Newbury (LD), Bryony Rudkin (Lab), James Spencer (Con)

Castle Hill: Nigel Cheeseman (LD), John Harris (Lab), Jenny Overett (Green), Robin Vickery (Con)

Gainsborough (2 seats): Martin Cook (Lab), Kathy Kenna (Con), John Mowles (Lab), Jamie Scott (LD), Sally Scott (LD), Janet Sibley (Con)

Gipping: David Ellesmere (Lab), Tony Slade (Green), Maureen Springle (Con)

Holywells: Robert Chambers (LD), Kenneth Douglas (Lab), David Hale (Con)

Priory Heath: Nick Jacob (LD), Eddy Phillips (Con), Bill Quinton (Lab), Sally Wainman (Ind)

Rushmere: Paul Carter (Con), Leslie Nicholls (LD), Alasdair Ross (Lab)

Sprites: Richard Kirby (Lab), Medlin Spencer (Con), Heidi Williams (LD)

St John's: Jill Atkins (LD), Hamil Clarke (Lab), Tanya de Hoedt (Con), Steven Pritchard (Green), Bill Vinyard (UKIP)

St Margaret's: Richard Atkins (LD), Liz Cooper (Lab), Amelia Drayson (Green), Mary Young (Con)

Stoke Park: Tim Lockington (LD), Barry Studd (Lab), Paul West (Con)

Westgate: Ian Fisher (Con), Carole Jones (Lab), Russell Metcalfe (Ind), Colin Rodgers (Green), Robin Whitmore (LD)

Whitehouse: Albert Grant (Lab), Tony James (LD), Ben Matthews (Con), John West (UKIP)

Whitton: Susan Crocker (Lab), Jonathan Lockington (LD), Don Ward (Con).