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New opposition leader at Ipswich Borough Council 'prepares for political long haul'

PUBLISHED: 16:58 08 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:22 08 August 2017

Grafton House, the base of Ipswich Borough Council, in Russell Road with Endeavour House, Suffolk County Council's building, on the right.

 Picture: CLIFFORD HICKS

Grafton House, the base of Ipswich Borough Council, in Russell Road with Endeavour House, Suffolk County Council's building, on the right. Picture: CLIFFORD HICKS

Conservative Ian Fisher has taken over as leader of the opposition on Ipswich Borough Council only 18 months after being elected - but knows he'll have to wait much longer than that before he can think of taking over the authority.

Ipswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCILIpswich Conservative group leader Ian Fisher. Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

The electoral arithmetic means he knows he won’t be taking power from Labour next May – and he concedes his party is unlikely to be victorious in 2019 either, meaning 2020 is the earliest he can think about shifting the current administration.

But he says he’s in politics for the long-haul and is prepared to work with anyone to make things better in the town: “We shall be trying to gain more seats next year and then build on that in the next two elections.

“The important thing is that we listen to the people of the town and do what they tell us they want to see happen in Ipswich. I think having such a large Labour majority means they are able to do what they think is best without listening to what people want.”

He said the fact that in some parts of the town turnout was as low as 25-30% was an indication that voters felt disenfranchised and remote from the political process.

He’s not convinced that a large majority on the borough – or the county where the Tories have a stranglehold on power – makes for responsive local government, he is worried that councillors can get out of touch.

Mr Fisher does want to see closer work with the county council – and has concerns about some of the borough’s plans for the town centre.

He said: “We know there is increasing traffic coming into the town centre. The new Orwell Crossing should ease that a bit but it will be worse for some people who live near it.

“But the borough is going ahead and building more car parks in the town centre. Surely we should look at different ways to get people into the town.”

His shadow portfolio holders are currently drawing up a list of policies for the Tories to fight next May’s local elections – and should be put together as a manifesto by October this year.

But he said it was important not to be too tribal on an authority like the borough council: “We have to think what is best for the people of Ipswich? What do they want? Party politics shouldn’t really come into most of the decisions we make on the way the council itself is actually run.”

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