Historic poll in Bury St Edmunds

THE close of the polls this May will signal a historic landmark in the politics of one Suffolk community, as the first ever town council is elected to serve the public at grassroots level.

THE close of the polls this May will signal a historic landmark in the politics of one Suffolk community, as the first ever town council is elected to serve the public at grassroots level.

And the fight for votes in Bury St Edmunds will be limited to just three wards, after 11 candidates standing for election to the remaining seats were returned unopposed.

The new town council will boast 17 members following the all-postal ballot on May 1, after which a chairman must be elected and a base for the council found.

But the uncertainty surrounding post-election arrangements for the authority has not dampened the enthusiasm of the candidates, who came out fighting as the battle for votes began.

So far, four Labour representatives, one Independent and two Liberal Democrat town councillors have been returned, with the remaining four seats claimed by candidates who did not disclose a political allegiance on their nomination forms.

This number includes husband-and-wife team Frank and Pat Warby, who have both won seats alongside Terry Buckle, serving the town's growing Moreton Hall estate.

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Of the remaining seats, no nominations were received for the Eastgate ward, leaving nine candidates to fight for the five seats in the Abbeygate, Northgate and Risbygate wards.

Among those hoping for election include Mike Ames, a familiar face around Bury St Edmunds where he has served as an Independent borough councillor since 1991.

Mr Ames, a retired teacher and former borough mayor, has long supported the introduction of a town council. He will fight Paul Farmer and fellow borough councillor Brian Lockwood, of the Independent group, for the two available seats in the Abbeygate ward.

"This town council will give people an opportunity to express their concerns and have their say over local issues. These views can then be presented in a more affirmative way to the borough council."

But in Risbygate, David Nettleton, the only member of the Stop Wasting Our Taxes group, believes the new council is already spendthrift.

Mr Nettleton says too great a portion of the town council's budget for the first year has been earmarked for staff wages, rather than the provision of services. "We certainly do not need another mayor to attend ceremonial functions," he said. "Even New York City has only one mayor – we do not need two on the podium."

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