Vote bungle hurdle for new hospice

A MEETING that gave the green light to a new children's hospice in Ipswich may have to be held again after a mix-up allowed a former Tory chief to sit on the panel.

Neil Puffett

CONTROVERSY has been sparked after a mix-up allowed a former Tory chief to sit on the panel that decided the fate of a proposed new children's hospice in Ipswich.

Former Ipswich mayor Bill Wright announced last month he was stepping down as Tory councillor for Bixley to rest after a bypass operation.

However he took a seat on Wednesday's planning and development control committee despite concerns being raised by Labour councillors that he was no longer a member of the council.

Among the items voted on by councillors were plans for a vital new £5million children's hospice in the Racecourse area which was unanimously given the green light.

Labour councillor John Cook criticised the situation saying he was “staggered” Mr Wright was allowed to sit on the committee.

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He said: “I think it's a total shambles and I should imagine it is unprecedented, certainly in Ipswich.

“He spoke on every item when he wasn't entitled to speak.

“I don't believe that the meeting can stand.”

Liz Harsant, Tory leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said the situation was a genuine mistake.

She said: “When Bill resigned we all believed he had resigned as of May 1 but that apparently wasn't the case so he shouldn't have sat.

“All of the councillors were unanimous on all of the decisions except the last item which Bill had an interest in because he knew one of the applicants so he wasn't in the room at the time.”

She added that Mr Wright, 68, had been a councillor for 21 years, was well-respected and has “never taken a penny” from the council, saving the authority a lot of money during his time there.

Mr Wright, 68, was mayor during 2005/2006 and supported several charities and organisations during that time.

He had a bypass operation last August and has decided to slow down and relinquish his position at the council.

He was elected to Ipswich Borough Council in 1987, serving on most of the council's committees.

A spokesman for Ipswich Borough Council said the authority has taken legal advice over the attendance of Mr Wright at the meeting.

He said: “It is confirmed that Mr Wright had resigned as a councillor prior to that meeting.

“However, the advice given is that the planning decisions made at that meeting may stand.”

Mr Wright was unavailable for comment.

Do you think the meeting should be held again? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail