Election 2021: Everything you need to know for Ipswich Borough Council polls
- Credit: PA file picture
With so many of the senior Ipswich Borough councillors up for election this year, the polls on Thursday next week could make for an interesting contest - not least as the Covid-19 pandemic means this is no regular election.
Ordinarily a global health crisis doesn't come into the campaign trail of parties contesting the Ipswich Borough Council election.
But with that being such an all-consuming issue for more than a year now, it will be the chief thought for many voters. Indeed the very elections themselves were meant to take place last year before the coronavirus pandemic delayed that.
And so much has happened in the last year which has required the council's response and that in turn could sway which way voters go.
Dishing out Government grants to businesses, managing Covid-secure waste collections, rules around park openings and some difficult decisions on cutbacks are just some of the mines the authority has had to negotiate in the last 12 months as a result of the health restrictions and bitter financial blow the pandemic has landed.
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Will polling stations be different?
Around a third of voters have registered for postal votes this year, but those voting in person have been advised they will be required to wear a face mask and may have to queue in a socially distanced manner.
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Voters are advised to bring their own pencil this time around, and should check the polling station on their polling card as some may have changed as a result of the pandemic.
What issues am I voting on?
While the Covid pandemic and what people feel about its response will be at the forefront of considerations by voters, the day-to-day running of services still continues. Below are the services Ipswich Borough Council is responsible for:
- Waste collection
- Park maintenance and upkeep
- Licensing (eg taxis, bars and nightclubs)
- Council housing
- Council tax collection
- Parking enforcement
- Leisure and sports facilities
- Council-owned car parks
Other issues such as roads, education, adult care which may be key considerations for voters are not the responsibility of Ipswich Borough Council.
How many councillors are being elected?
Ipswich Borough Council votes in a third of its cohort each year over three years, with the fourth year in an election cycle effectively a 'rest' year.
Before Covid hit, 2021 was meant to be the rest year, but as polls couldn't be held in 2020 it will instead host that cohort who should have been elected last year.
That means one council seat is up for grabs at each of the 16 wards.
In addition, the resignation of two councillors since the last polls means there are two more up for grabs - one in Castle Hill and one in Holywells.
Voters in those two areas therefore should note that they can put a cross in the box for two candidates.
What is the political balance?
The current political make-up is 35 Labour members, eight Conservatives and three Liberal Democrats, meaning Labour has an outright majority.
There are 48 council seats in total, with the other two being vacancies from resignations in the past year (one held by a Conservative and one by Labour).
Can the power balance change?
Of the seats being contested this year, Labour are defending 13, the Conservatives two and the Lib Dems one, while two are available from vacancies.
It means that while the Conservatives cannot win outright, they could prevent the Labour party winning outright. However that is very unlikely as it would require the Conservatives to win all 18 seats available this time around.
The Conservatives though will no doubt be targeting gains in specific seats from which it can use as a springboard in future polls to challenge for an overall change of power.
Other parties fielding candidates are the Liberal Democrats in all but three of the 18 seats, the Greens in 14 of the 18 seats and new group the Burning Pink Party with two candidates.
Are senior decision makers up for election?
Interestingly, this year many of the senior members of the Labour administration are up for election. Indeed, seven of Labour's nine portfolio holders - those with responsibilities on specific areas such as leisure or housing - are seeking re-election. That includes leader David Ellesmere and deputy leader Bryony Rudkin.
Meanwhile the Conservative group leader Ian Fisher - who holds a place on the council's executive with the nine Labour portfolio holders - is also seeking re-election for his seat.