Loose ends before the red card

A DISTINCT end-of-term feeling is in the air at Suffolk County Council at the moment. You get the impression that the current administration is desperate to tie up all the loose ends as soon as possible, because it doesn't think it will still be in power this time next year.

A DISTINCT end-of-term feeling is in the air at Suffolk County Council at the moment.

You get the impression that the current administration is desperate to tie up all the loose ends as soon as possible, because it doesn't think it will still be in power this time next year.

Councillors are keen to fit the final pieces into the jigsaw which began with the move into Endeavour House last April.

They want to announce the sale of St Helen Court for redevelopment. They want to say which other buildings they are planning to move into in Ipswich.

In short, they want to give the impression that their mission has been accomplished before they expect the voters to give them the red card.

However, this anxiety to finish the job - and to let everyone know they've finished the job - has led to a certain level of over-enthusiasm.

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And this has led to more than a little panic among some officers, especially in the legal department, as councillors are desperate to tell us about deals they've done and officers are insistent that not all the 't's have been crossed and 'i's dotted!

What is interesting is that councillors on all sides at Endeavour House seem to be at ease with the situation. The opposition Tories seem happy to allow the Labour-Liberal Democrat administration to enjoy their last few months of “fun” before they move in and start running the place.

There certainly isn't the bitterness in the county that has built up at Ipswich Borough Council over the last few weeks.

I can't help feeling that is a much more civilised and constructive way of doing things than the stalemate we've seen up the road recently.

But what is puzzling is quite how people like Inga Lockington, Sandy Martin, John le Grys and Bill Quinton can get on so well with each other in one building and be at each other's throats in the other.

Maybe the senior officers at the borough were hoping a little bit of this 'Endeavour House magic' would rub off if they held their borough meeting at the county council chamber.

NOW that most of us are back from our summer holidays and the children are about to go back to school, I can confess that I rather like September.

There doesn't seem to have been the usual silly season this year - although all the stories about David Blunkett's love life did seem pretty daft.

At least August gave John Prescott something useful to do, rescuing an East Anglian canoeist.

But once the Notting Hill carnival is over, we can get back to real politics - and the run up to the next general election.

This week we had transport minister Kim Howells - one of the better-known second division, or should that be Championship, ministers - visiting Ipswich tunnel.

Over the next few months I'm pretty confident we'll be seeing several cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers in this area as the parties prepare to square up for an election in 2005.

I still have a sneaking suspicion that the government will try to put off the county council elections - due on May 5 - by a month to allow the general election to be held on the same day.

However, I'm sure that unless something drastic happens over the next few months that we will have a general election in spring 2005.

At the moment it looks as if Labour won't end up with a majority as big as it has at present - but many people would be surprised if its overall lead in the House of Commons fell much below 100.

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