Bryony takes charge in Suffolk

SUFFOLK'S new political leader has pledged to ensure the county is not overlooked by central government when it hands out vital cash support next year.

By Graham Dines

SUFFOLK'S new political leader has pledged to ensure the county is not overlooked by central government when it hands out vital cash support next year.

Bryony Rudkin takes over later this month from Jane Hore as the political head of an authority reeling from public hostility to its 18.5% council tax rise imposed this year.

The Labour-Liberal Democrat council imposed the seven times the rate of inflation increase, widely believed to have been the cause of a resurgent Conservative Party in last week's district council elections.

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Voters turned on Labour and Liberal Democrats at the ballot box, handing power to the Tories in St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath and giving the party gains in unlikely areas of Ipswich.

But Miss Hore denied she was going because of the reaction to the tax rise.

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"I know you would love me to say that I am quitting because of all the hostility the council has received because of the council tax increase, but that simply is not the case.

"It is not a knee jerk reaction to media pressure. I have been considering my position for at least the past six months and talked it through in the autumn with our then chief executive Lin Homer.

"But after 13 years as deputy leader of the Labour group and then leader, it is time to move on. Suffolk now has a new chief executive, it is moving to a new headquarters in Ipswich, and a new leader of the council will be able to give Suffolk a radical new look."

Miss Hore was elected in 1990 as deputy to Chris Mole. The pair became leader and deputy leader when Labour, with the help of the Liberal Democrats, won power in 1993, were re-elected in 1997, and again in 2001.

She became leader in November 2001 following Mr Mole's victory in the Ipswich parliamentary by-election.

She hands over the leadership on May 22 and one of her last official duties was to open the Carlton Colville by-pass yesterday an integral part of the A12 relief road in southern Lowestoft.

"Ipswich is no longer seen as the dominant force in Suffolk and I believe that as a Lowestoft councillor, I have helped create a new vision, showing that the county does exist outside the county town."

Ipswich councillor Bryony Rudkin will take over as leader of the authority on May 22 and while acknowledging the Government had difficult choices, she said it was time for ministers and civil servants to understand the problems of a county like Suffolk.

More than 6% of Suffolk's rise has been blamed by the county council on Whitehall's decision to divert council tax relief away from the south and east and give it to authorities in the inner cities and north.

"The Government has a difficult balancing act. There are parts of this country, especially northern England, that face severe pressures because of social deprivation and those councils do need proper resource support," said mother-of-three Mrs Rudkin.

"However, my job is to get the best possible deal for Suffolk. We have to work with central government to ensure this county is not overlooked when it comes to receiving a fair share of the cake."

Before moving to Suffolk, Bryony Rudkin was personal assistant to Margaret Hodge, then leader of Islington borough council and now a Government minister.

As a member of the county council, she has taken a keen interest social care and economic regeneration - she is on the board of the East of England Development Association.

She takes most pride in the pivotal role she played in the rescue of the Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, which closed in 1998 because of financial difficulties, later to reopen as one of the leading provincial playhouses.

Paying tribute to Miss Hore, Ipswich MP Chris Mole said: "I have every respect for the contribution Jane has made to the work of the county council and her contribution to the life of Suffolk."

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