Labour stung in Ipswich

THE Conservatives yesterday expressed their confidence in winning back control of Suffolk county council next year, after Thursday's district council results in Suffolk showed a big swing from Labour.

By Graham Dines

THE Conservatives yesterday expressed their confidence in winning back control of Suffolk county council next year, after Thursday's district council results in Suffolk showed a big swing from Labour.

The Tories won six seats from Labour in Ipswich, took a by-election vacancy from Labour in St Edmundsbury's Haverhill East division, held another by-election in Forest Heath's Red Lodge ward, and gained three seats from Labour in Waveney district.

Although their joy was marred by the loss of Waveney council leader in Southwold, the overall surge in Conservative support was "deeply significant" for the outcome of next year's Suffolk county elections, Jeremy Pembroke, the Tory leader on the authority claimed.


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"We have won back a lot of lost ground in Ipswich, where in 2001 our poor showing was one of the significant factors in our failure to capture control of the county council," said Mr Pembroke.

Ipswich borough council's Chief Executive Jim Hehir yesterday held talks with the leaders of the three parties represented on the authority after Labour lost overall control for the first time for 25 years.

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Labour could have survived the loss of six seats to the Tories but were sunk when the Liberal Democrats gained two wards. The biggest scalp for the Tories on the night was that of long-standing councillor Harold Mangar, who went down by 20 votes after a recount in Bridge ward. In Whitehouse, the Lib Dems gained a seat from Labour by the margin of just eight.

The Conservatives had a victory in St John's ward by 46 votes, a Tory-free zone for more than a decade. Ipswich Tory parliamentary candidate – who himself gained a seat in Stoke Park – put the St John's gain down to the party's campaign to save local post offices from closure.

"Opposition leader Michael Howard had visited St John's to speak to local people about the devastating impact on the community of the loss of the post office in Spring Road. Although it is to be relocated to the local Co-op, there is deep resentment at the way Royal Mail has treated residents," said Mr West.

Dale Jackson, who is the Tory council group leader, said no decision on the future administration of the council, including power sharing or formal coalitions, would be made until all three parties had held their annual meetings.

"But the people of Ipswich have voted substantially for a change of administration. It's been a breath of fresh air and I believe the voters want a shift away from 25 years of Labour's disastrous transport and leisure polices."

The political balance on the council after Thursday's vote is: Labour 23 seats, Tories 18, and Liberal Democrats seven.

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