Row over unitary elections

A POLITICAL row is brewing over when crunch elections should be held to select members of Ipswich's new unitary authority.Ipswich was one of several authorities to be given the green light for home rule back in July.

A POLITICAL row is brewing over when crunch elections should be held to select members of Ipswich's new unitary authority.

Ipswich was one of several authorities to be given the green light for home rule back in July.

The decision means that in less than two years time it will be responsible for a number of key services currently catered for by Suffolk County Council.

It was expected that residents of Ipswich would be asked to vote next May on which councillors they want to run the new authority.

However that date has been thrown into doubt after government announced it is considering allowing councils to choose a May 2009 election date - a month after the new authority comes into being.

The later date has the support of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration although Labour is demanding an early election.

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David Ellesmere, Labour group leader at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “I think everyone would expect that if you get a new council up and running you have elections at the outset rather than at the end of the process.

“I haven't seen any justification why they think elections should be in 2009.

“It looks to me they are running scared of the electorate.”

The Labour group claim elections in 2008 would reinforce the message that a new council has been formed but allowing the current council to carry on as the transitional authority would prolong the perception that it is a “takeover”.

John Carnall, deputy leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said the administration favouring a May 2009 election date has nothing to do with party politics.

He said: “We would favour an election in 2009 because setting up a unitary authority is a hell of a big job.

“We think it is better for us to concentrate on setting up the new unitary authority rather than an election next year which is likely to be a distraction.”

If elections are put on hold until May 2009 it is likely to mean 16 councillors due for re-election next month will have their terms extended for a further year.

A decision on what date the election should be held is likely to be made by the end of November.

n.Would you like the right to elect the new unitary authority next May? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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