Row over new Ipswich mayor
LABOUR members of Ipswich council were today licking their wounds after being censured at a full meeting of the borough.Councillors expressed their "deep concern" that insufficient respect was shown to the position of mayor of Ipswich by the Labour group at the annual meeting last month.
LABOUR members of Ipswich council were today licking their wounds after being censured at a full meeting of the borough.
Councillors expressed their "deep concern" that insufficient respect was shown to the position of mayor of Ipswich by the Labour group at the annual meeting last month.
Liberal Democrat councillor Richard Atkins accused Labour councillors of taking advantage of the absence of one of his colleagues to overturn the democratic will of the town's voters.
Liberal Democrat Louise Gooch missed the meeting, and Labour councillor Roger Fern was elected mayor on the casting vote of outgoing mayor Penny Breakwell.
"In the elections in June 70 per cent of the voters in Ipswich voted for a change, but the Labour party were unable to accept this.
"So they used the absence of one councillor to overturn the wishes of 70 pc of the town's electorate. How sad," he said.
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Labour council leader Peter Gardiner defended his party's actions on the night.
"We didn't know what was going to happen before the meeting, we didn't know if it was right someone was missing on the other side – we might have lost someone ourselves," he said.
Mr Gardiner said it was quite common for councils with a tight result – like Ipswich – to rely on the casting vote of the mayor or council chairman to push decisions through.
Tory group leader Dale Jackson accused Labour of going back on a statement made by deputy leader David Ellesmere in February.
"He said then that if Labour didn't have a majority on the council it would not nominate anyone for mayor.
"Labour has 23 seats, other parties have 24. According to my maths, Labour doesn't have a majority – but yet they still pushed through their mayor," he said.
Mr Ellesmere told the council that on the night Labour did have the necessary majority to see Mr Fern elected as mayor. Labour had a programme it wanted to pursue and it took its chance.
"This is not a cosy debating society. This is the forum where important decisions about the future of the town are made – and politics here is a serious business," he said.
After the meeting, Tories and Liberal Democrats were jubilant.
"That's the first time we've bloodied their nose for 25 years – and they'd better get used to it," said former Tory borough councillor Russell Harsant, who is now a member of Suffolk County Council.