Election 2021: All you need to know for Suffolk County Council polls

Ipswich, Framlingham and Lakenheath are among areas of Suffolk due for local elections in 2021. Pict

Voters will take to the polls for the Suffolk County Council elections on May 6 2021 - Credit: Gregg Brown

Voters across Suffolk will take to the polls on May 6 to vote for their Suffolk County Council representatives for the next four years, in a highly-unique Covid-influenced election.

With the pandemic having been at the forefront of people's lives for more than a year, the election is set to provide a fascinating snapshot of how people feel their elected representatives have handled the crisis.

It may also be a reflection of how people feel those parties' senior members in Westminster have fared too.

The county council - with its responsibilities for public health, education and adult social care, among other others - has been a key player in the Covid response locally.

One individual has receieved a lifetime ban from Endeavour House. Picture: ARCHANT

All 75 seats at Suffolk County Council are up for grabs in the 2021 local election - Credit: ARCHANT

Those measures have included procuring much-needed PPE at the start of the pandemic, supporting home schooling efforts, forming the Home But Not Alone helpline and ensuring vulnerable people were still receiving their vital day-to-day care.

And going forward, the coronavirus recovery will be the number one priority for the authority.

Will polling stations be different?

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Many 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.

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.

Potholes in Mickfield. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk County Council is responsible for tackling potholes - Credit: Archant

What am I voting on?

Alongside the Covid-19 response, the day-to-day activities of the council remain. Outlined below are some of its main responsibilities:

  • Adult social care
  • Education
  • Highways maintenance
  • Waste disposal and recycling centres (waste collection is the responsibility of district and borough councils)
  • Public health
  • Trading Standards
  • Fire services
  • Environment
  • Transport
Suffolk County Council leader Matthew Hicks said having one councillor per division made public acco

Conservative leader at Suffolk County Council Matthew Hicks is leading his party in its first election under his helm

How many councillors are being elected?

The whole of the council is being elected for a four-year term, meaning 75 councillors in total. Most divisions have one councillor representing them, although some have two.

What is the political balance?

Of the 75 seats, the Conservatives currently hold 49, while Labour holds 11.

The Liberal Democrats are defending five seats, the Greens three, while the remainder comprises five Independents and one West Suffolk Independent.

One vacant seat as a result of a councillor vacancy last year had previously been held by the Conservatives.

Councillor Sarah Adams said volunteering during the Covid-19 pandemic brought out the best of people in Suffolk. Picture...

Labour group leader at Suffolk County Council, Sarah Adams, will be targeting gains in the 2021 election - Credit: Archant

What to look out for

While Conservative leader Matthew Hicks has been an experienced frontbencher for some time, the 2021 election is his first as leader of the authority after usurping Colin Noble in 2018.

Eyes will therefore be on the election result to see if he can increase the Conservatives' majority secured by Mr Noble in 2017 or whether it is reduced.

In addition, with two cabinet members not seeking re-election - education portfolio holder and deputy leader Mary Evans, and finance cabinet member Gordon Jones.

If the Conservatives win an overall majority again, there will be at least two changes to the frontbench cabinet positions.

For the opposition parties, this year will be about making gains in key seats and attempting to prevent an overall blue majority.

Labour's former group leader and ex-MP for Ipswich, Sandy Martin, is making a return to politics in this campaign.

Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens have all had frontbenchers step down for this year, so will face fights to hold those seats.

Suffolk has announced its school transport plans. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

School transport changes proved a big talking point at Suffolk County Council during the last term - Credit: RACHEL EDGE

What have been the main issues over the last four years?

The last local elections in 2019 for districts and boroughs were elections effectively dominated by Brexit.

This year, the Covid pandemic is likely to be that overarching theme, but there have been some controversial topics and talking points in the last four years which may also be considerations:

  • Road infrastructure projects - the Lowestoft Gull Wing is going ahead but the Ipswich Upper Orwell Crossings and Sudbury bypass schemes had to be canned amid rising costs. The Four Villages Bypass didn't secure government backing. The Ipswich Northern Route was also put to bed once again, at least for now.
  • Education - changes to children's centres and school transport attracted much ire from parent campaigners, while the huge demand on special educational needs places resulted in a £45million scheme to create more than 800 new places being formed. Home schooling numbers, off-rolling and oversubscribed schools all continue to be major concerns.
  • Roads - a blitz of pothole repairs had to be carried out following the Beast for the East a few years ago as the problem had escalated so much, while street lighting and increasing road flooding have also emerged as prominent issues.
  • Adult social care - Suffolk's aging population has resulted in increasing demand for adult social care services, all amid a shortage of care workers.
  • Climate emergency - the authority has declared a climate emergency and pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030, but the next four-year term will be the litmus test instigating the necessary groundwork to ensure that happens.
  • Council tax - historic underfunding and the continued wait for a fair funding review for local authorities from the government has meant Suffolk's taxpayers have had to foot the bill of increasing costs with council tax increases.
    Leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group at Suffolk County Council Elfrede Brambl

    Penny Otton (left) and Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw from the Liberal Democrat and Green parties at Suffolk County Council, will be hoping to increase their parties' presence - Credit: LIBERAL DEMOCRAT, GREEN & INDEPE

The polls are open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday, May 6. To see the full list of candidates, see our webpage here.

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