Tories ready to take over borough

CONSERVATIVES in Ipswich are today preparing to take power at Civic Centre – helped into office by the votes of Liberal Democrats.And they've offered an ultimatum to Labour councillors in the town – if you oppose us we'll hit you time after time.

CONSERVATIVES in Ipswich are today preparing to take power at Civic Centre - helped into office by the votes of Liberal Democrats.

And they've offered an ultimatum to Labour councillors in the town - if you oppose us we'll hit you time after time.

Labour thought it was home and dry in the race to elect the next mayor and executive because new Liberal Democrat councillor Louise Gooch is unable to attend tomorrow night's annual council meeting.

Labour is confident all its 23 councillors will be at the meeting - with 17 Tory and six of the seven Lib Dems it will leave the crucial votes for the new mayor and executive tied at 23 all.

The outgoing mayor - Labour councillor Penny Breakwell - was expected to vote for Labour nominee Roger Fern to become new mayor who would then have the casting vote in favour of a new Labour executive.

"If they do that, Labour have been told we will vote the mayor and the executive out of office at the next council meeting when all the Liberals are there," said Tory leader Dale Jackson.

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"We will form a Conservative minority administration with five Tory portfolio holders on the executive, three Liberals - who will not be portfolio-holders - and two Labour members.

"As chairman of the executive, I will have the casting vote if needed."

Mr Jackson said Labour councillors could either accept this now - or be prepared for a change in administration in six weeks' time.

"There are a lot of areas in Ipswich where we see eye to eye with the Liberals, and we won't be able to get anything through full council meetings without their support," he said.

"But Labour needs to realise that the people of Ipswich don't want them running this town any more."

Deputy Labour leader David Ellesmere said he had been instructed by his group not to make any comment on the party's stance in advance of the meeting.

"We are aware that the Liberals will be supporting the Tories, but I cannot comment on what our position will be in advance of the meeting, or whether we will nominate a mayor," he said.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Richard Atkins said his party had said during the campaign that it would support anyone putting in the interests of Ipswich at its heart.

"We have spoken to the Tories and there are areas we agree on in respect of Ipswich," he said.

"Things like looking again at the operation of the Norwich Road bus lanes - and whether they need to be in operation 24 hours a day.

"We are also pledged to hold on to the Corn Exchange - not to sell it off. And we cannot afford to continue pouring a million pounds a year into the Regent.

"More needs to be done to look at putting that into a trust or selling it off. I would hate to see Ipswich become a cultural desert but we have to ask whether a town of this size can support a regional theatre on its own," he said.

nAre the Liberal Democrats right to support the Conservatives in Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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