Austin loses but Waveney is true blue

THE Tories have strengthened their grip on Waveney District Council following Thursday's local elections although group leader Peter Austin lost his seat at Southwold.

THE Tories have strengthened their grip on Waveney District Council following Thursday's local elections although group leader Peter Austin lost his seat at Southwold.

The real casualties in the north Suffolk local elections were Labour who lost three seats including that of group leader David Jermy at Bungay.

When the council next meets later this month there will be 24 Conservative members, 14 Labour, seven Independents, and three Liberal Democrats.

It was always going to be a difficult task for Mr Austin to hold on to his Southwold and Reydon seat following months of wrangling between the district council and local residents over a number of high profile issues including the proposed sale of Southwold Harbour Caravan Park.

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Recent mayor Sue Allen stood as an Independent against Mr Austin and the high turnout of 53.2% revealed the huge interest the election had in the seaside town and its neighbouring village.

Mrs Allen topped the poll with 718 votes with Mr Austin a close second with 644. John Windell representing the Green Party received 198 votes and Labour's Lynn Derges 158.

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The result means that Southwold and Reydon have two Independent councillors on Waveney with Sue Allen joining fellow member of Southwold Town Council Michael Ladd.

Mr Austin was disappointed to lose his seat at Southwold but was pleased with the overall performance of the Tory candidates.

"It is very disappointing for the Tory group as a whole to lose Southwold and Reydon.

"As leader of the council I did bear the brunt of attacks on the proposed changes to the town's caravan park and I am sure this had an influence on the result," he said.

Mr Austin said that he would have to "wait and see" before deciding his future plans but would not rule out seeking re-election in the future.

Senior Conservative councillor Stephen Chilvers said the council had lost an "excellent leader" who had served the community well.

"Overall it was an excellent result for the Conservatives in north Suffolk as we made inroads into wards that just a few years ago would have thought to have been beyond us.

"It shows that communities across Waveney believe they can trust the Conservative administration," he said.

Besides losing Bungay to the Conservatives, other Labour seats at Kessingland and Pakefield were also lost to the Tories.

Over the weekend there will once again be meetings between the Conservative leaders and those representing the Independents and Liberal Democrats so that a new administration can be set up.

It will be two years before local elections are held for the district council as in 2005 there will be elections for Suffolk County Council.

The Conservatives could gain the extra seat they need to take overall control in the meantime if they were to win a by-election in a ward currently held by an opposition councillor.

Both the Conservative and Labour councillors will have to elect a new leader before the council meets later this month.

Liberal Democrat leader David Young retained his seat in the Lowestoft ward of Kirkley.

The Green Party fielded a candidate in all 17 wards being contested but have still to win a local election in north Suffolk.

The two UK Independence Party candidates were not successful but managed to poll more than 800 votes with Bertie Poole receiving 465 at Carlton Colville and Brian Aylett 355 in Beccles South.

The one vacant seat caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Simon Jones at Worlingham was retained by the Tories with Alan Duce the victorious candidate.

At Halesworth Conservative councillor Paddy Flegg saw off the challenge of Labour's Paul Widdowson and Paul Whitlow of the Green Party to retain her seat on the district council.

The overall turnout in Waveney was 37% and varied from 53.2% at Southwold and Reydon to 29.6% in Carlton Colville.


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