Poll: Call this democracy? Councillors in seven Suffolk wards go uncontested in local elections

pics Sarah Lucy Brown 6/5/10
Suffolk Coastal Count at the Martlesham Police HQ on Elec

EADT/STAR pics Sarah Lucy Brown 6/5/10 Suffolk Coastal Count at the Martlesham Police HQ on Election night 2010. myphotos24 ref - slb 010 sfk coastal count 2

The state of democracy in parts of Suffolk has been branded “shameful” after it emerged seven councillors will run completely uncontested on May 7.

Five rural seats in St Edmundsbury, including council leader John Griffiths’ Ixworth ward, have remained in Conservative hands and no ballot will be held.

Yesterday’s revelation “saddened” councillors, with many blaming voter apathy and disillusion with politicians.

John Griffiths, who will now serve another four-year term, has vowed to campaign as usual, saying he was surprised at not having to fight for his seat on May 7 – the same day as the General Election.

“It doesn’t mean I won’t represent all of the residents in my ward. Even if I was contested, councillors serve everyone, not just those that voted for them,” he said.

Alongside Mr Griffiths, the uncontested Carol Bull is set to take over from Dave Ray in Barningham, with Susan Glossop taking over from Helen Levack in Risby and incumbents Jim Thorndyke in Stanton and Angela Rushen in Chedburgh hold their wards.

In Mid Suffolk, Rachel Eburne for the Greens is unopposed in the Haughley and Wetherden ward, while Matthew Hicks will become the Conservative councillor for Worlingworth.

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Independent councillor Paul Hopfensperger said the revelation was a sign of the times. “It is a huge shame for those residents,” he said. “It is not there fault that no one else stood. I actually helped an independent candidate looking to stand in Ixworth, I have no idea why they have not gone through with it.

“It is not good for democracy at all. I think a lot of it is down to education – people don’t realise how big a part politics plays in their lives.”

Fellow independent David Nettleton was not so forgiving, criticising residents for not bothering to stand.

“If they want to vote for someone else, they should have stood,” he said. “You can’t blame the Conservatives – they have all put their names down.”

He said that it was “bad for democracy”, claiming the issue is even more prevalent at parish council level, where at least 60 councillors across the borough will be uncontested.

The chairman of the Conservative party on St Edmundsbury council, Sara Mildmay-White, agreed that the lack of candidates was a shame, but added: “I think it shows that the residents are happy with what we are doing as a council.”

Green Party councillor Julia Wakelam and independent Trevor Beckwith both pointed to poor behaviour at the higher reaches of politics creating “voter apathy” and anger. Ms Wakelam said: “We get tarred with the same brush as the MPs. I get it on the door, ‘you’re a politician, you are all bad’.

“It is shameful, to have no choice at all, they don’t even get to go down the polling booth and make their mark.”

She explained that the Green Party lacked the resources to field candidates everywhere and decided to focus on Bury St Edmunds.

Diane Hind, who represents the Labour party, said she was “extremely proud” that the Bury branch has fielded a candidate in every ward they represent.

“It is incredibly sad to see that some people have no choice,” she said. “I hope to encourage neighbouring branches to try to get a Labour candidate in every ward in the future.”

She stressed that even in seats where candidates feel they have “no chance” against a Conservative, the democratic process of holding councillors to account was being “failed” where seats went uncontested. For more details on candidates, see our guide here or visit our dedicated election page