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Little to contest in local elections

PUBLISHED: 12:18 25 April 2003 | UPDATED: 13:46 03 March 2010

THIS time next week it will be election day in the most important poll since the 2001 General Election.

But you'd be forgiven if you missed that fact – it also seems to have by-passed many of the amateur politicians in Suffolk.

THIS time next week it will be election day in the most important poll since the 2001 General Election.

But you'd be forgiven if you missed that fact – it also seems to have by-passed many of the amateur politicians in Suffolk.

I always find it disappointing when people don't want to take part in elections, but this time the apathy seems to have permeated through all levels.

Not only are we heading for record low turnouts – there also seems to be a distinct lack of people wanting to stand for councils in the first place.

A total of 23 councillors in three authorities in Suffolk are guaranteed places after May 1, they've been returned unopposed.

It always used to be said that this was something that only happened in very rural areas – but this apathy seems to have spread to the suburbs.

In Kesgrave East there are three candidates for three seats. In Rushmere there are three candidates for three seats, and in Nacton there are two candidates for three seats. Only one person wants to stand for the single seat at Witnesham.

All these are Conservatives – which gives them something of an advantage in the election for the 55-seat Suffolk Coastal Council.

That might be great if you're a Tory – but frankly to know that not enough people in the community give a damn about local politics to even have an election is a pretty serious indictment on the area.

And where are the Liberal Democrats? They won the county council seat covering Kesgrave East and Rushmere two years ago.

Don't they think it's worth bothering with the district council – after all that's only in charge of planning and refuse collection!

It's not just to the east of Ipswich that apathy rules ok. In the elections for Mid Suffolk Council the two-seat Blakenham and Bramford ward has attracted only two candidates so voters there won't have a vote.

But what makes this interesting is that one is Labour the other is Conservative.

Now I've heard of political carve-ups, but this is ridiculous. And it's another ward where the county council seat is held by the Liberal Democrats who aren't even standing.

They are, however, being given a clear run in the neighbouring Somersham and Barking ward. Isn't that cosy!

There are nine uncontested seats in Suffolk Coastal, eight in Babergh and six in Mid Suffolk.

Only in Ipswich are there contests in every seat up for grabs – and that is despite the knowledge that nothing will change in the election because only a third of the council is up for grabs.

But all these uncontested seats are very bad for democracy – and can come back and bite the victors.

I was once told by a councillor elected unopposed: "I wish I had an election. If you don't have to fight, you get complacent and you can lose next time – that often happens."

We are constantly being told we get the councils we deserve and if we don't like what we do we can vote them out of power.

Is it any wonder that local people feel powerless if there is no contest? Then again if they really cared they could always put themselves up for election.

WHAT will be the main factor in this year's local election?

Will it be council tax bills (which were put up by the county council which is not up for election anyway).

Or will it be the war in Iraq (which has even less to do with local councils).

Maybe that's why no one wants to take part in these elections!


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