Eight years of rule come to an end

By John HowardTHE Conservatives seized control of Mid Suffolk District Council this morning – ending eight years of Liberal Democrat-Labour rule in what is seen as a protest at council tax rises.

By John Howard

THE Conservatives seized control of Mid Suffolk District Council this morning – ending eight years of Liberal Democrat-Labour rule in what is seen as a protest at council tax rises.

Conservative group leader Roger Saunders needed just one more seat at midnight to take control of the council with the help of sympathetic Independent councillors – and learned he was the new leader of the authority at about 12.10am.

Mr Saunders said: "We are very pleased. Listening to Labour, their people have taken a real hammering. We have beaten some of their people in Stowmarket with high personal profiles and even if they are not my politics, they were good councillors.


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"I am surprised we have won so many seats in Stowmarket. A lot of people were angry about council tax and I think that's what did for them."

Wendy Marchant, a Liberal Democrat councillor who held her seat at Needham Market, said she had expected the Conservatives would take control of the council from the current Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition.

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She added: "People were concerned about the big increase from the county council in council tax. We did do the best we could to keep our part of the increase low."

Labour agent for the district Tim Lodge said: "It's disastrous. The county council increase in the council tax and a big protest against the war were the two key issues.

"Knocking on doors for every one person who said that Tony Blair was brilliant with the war, another five or six voted against us."

Conservatives have believed the council tax would indeed be a key issue with voters, with the Mid Suffolk District Council element of the bill jumping from just over £40 on a band D property, the level when Conservatives-Independents lost power in 1995/6, to more than £100 under Liberal Democrat-Labour coalitions.

But the Liberal Democrats argued they had been constantly looking to improve the service to residents, putting issues such as the environment and recycling at the top of the agenda.

Labour accepted there would be criticisms over council tax rises, but maintained that rather than making cutbacks, they wanted to provide appropriate services to electors – and that costs money.

At midnight last night, about 15 results were still due to be declared, but the Conservatives had 14 seats, Liberal Democrats eight, Labour two, Independent two and the Green Party had taken no seats.

There are 40 seats at Mid Suffolk, all up for grabs, and the previous breakdown was Liberal Democrat 14, Conservative 13, Labour six, Independent four, Independent Labour four and Independent Liberal Democrat one.

john.howard@eadt.co.uk

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