New twist in council leader row

DALE Jackson looks set to be dumped by his own party today after he reneged on a pledge to resign as leader of Ipswich Borough Council.And the row over his position worsened after Mr Jackson used his powers as leader to remove the Conservative party whip from former group leader Stephen Barker.

DALE Jackson looks set to be dumped by his own party today after he reneged on a pledge to resign as leader of Ipswich Borough Council.

And the row over his position worsened after Mr Jackson used his powers as leader to remove the Conservative party whip from former group leader Stephen Barker.

The embattled leader was standing firm today and warned his colleagues that if the split led to his sacking it would be damaging for the party.

He said: "It's a case of united we stand, divided we fall.


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"I've been in politics since 1981 and I'm going to lead."

But it emerged today that infuriated Conservatives could take the extraordinary step of removing Mr Jackson from the leadership at full council tonight after he refused to sign an official resignation as council leader.

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In the deepening scandal over the complaint to the Standards Board for England, Mr Jackson unexpectedly chaired a meeting of the executive yesterday , three days after he told his colleagues he would resign.

The furore surrounds a "spoof" letter he admits writing to Natalie Barker, the teenage daughter of former Tory group leader Stephen Barker, more than two years ago.

On Saturday Mr Jackson bowed to a request from Conservative members and said he would step down as both council leader and leader of the council's Tories.

Today though, Mr Jackson insisted he will not sign a resignation because he feels it may be seen by the standards board as an admission of improper conduct.

Mr Jackson said: "I won't be signing anything.

"That signature would be an admission of guilt. I wouldn't get a fair hearing.

"It's very important to clear my name."

That decision prompted his deputy, Cllr Elizabeth Harsant, to criticise his change of heart.

She said: "He has given the impression he is going to resign and he should go and do it.

"It always was the best thing for him to do. It's not an admission of guilt at all."

The standards board has not launched an investigation into the complaint against Mr Jackson but it can take up a fortnight before a decision is made on whether a complaint is looked into.

James Hehir, the council's chief executive, made the complaint to the board after Mr Barker made him aware of the existence of the letter.

Mr Jackson insists the contents of the letter clearly show it was meant as a joke.

He said: "It was in jest. It was written to Nathalie for her to show her father.

"I've got nothing to hide because I know it's a spoof letter."

The Castle Hill councillor says he made the pledge to resign at a time when he was feeling "down".

The row comes at a bad time for the Tories, just weeks before a general election.

When the council meets tonight the Conservatives could move to end the dispute by voting Mr Jackson out.

Mrs Harsant said: "If he doesn't put it in writing I think he can be removed at full council.

"No one is as big as the party."

There are also indications opposition councillors could take the unusual step of backing a Tory bid to remove Mr Jackson as leader.

The Evening Star was unable to contact Mr Barker for comment.

n. Do you think Mr Jackson should resign? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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