Politician's election woes

TOWN chiefs are wrong to try to put off elections for a unitary Ipswich until 2009, a dissenting politician claimed today.

TOWN chiefs are wrong to try to put off elections for a unitary Ipswich until 2009, a dissenting politician claimed today.

The Tory-led administration is controversially seeking to have elections for the new unitary authority in 2009, rather than the originally mooted date of May next year.

Opponents argue a delay will hand a huge advantage to the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition currently running the council and will mean 16 councillors serve a year of unelected office.

Following a vote on the issue, Ipswich Borough Council has now formally told the government it would prefer to have elections in 2009.

However despite winning the vote the administration has faced rebellion from one of its own members - Liberal Democrat councillor for Whitehouse, Tony James, who voted with the Labour opposition on the issue.

Mr James said he felt he could not vote with his fellow members of the administration on the issue and felt “rather disappointed” others did not follow his lead.

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He said: “I don't think it is our right to extend our term in office.

“I think that is very wrong.

“When I was elected to office in 2004 it was for four years, not for five.

“I believe in democratic process - it is the right of the electorate.”

He added that he felt an election in 2008 would be more suitable for setting up the new unitary authority prior to it coming into being.

The Tory-led administration argues that elections for the new authority need to be held off for a year to enable a smooth transition.

John Carnall, deputy leader of Ipswich Borough Council, has said that creating a unitary authority is such an enormous task that holding elections before it is in place could prove a distracting sideshow.

A decision on the election date for selecting a new unitary authority for Ipswich is likely to be announced by the Department of Communities and Local Government by the end of the year.

Under the shake-up, Ipswich will be responsible for a number of key services currently provided by Suffolk County Council from 2009.

n Do you think Mr James is right to take a stand? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

n see page 10 for reporter Paul Geater's view on Mr James' views.