Suffolk: Could UKIP affect the election result for the county council?

Endeavour House Ipswich at night

Endeavour House Ipswich at night

THE shape of the battle for the future of Suffolk County Council has become clearer – and it is clear that UKIP could play a major role.

The anti-EU party is putting up candidates in 52 of the 75 seats, and Conservative strategists are concerned that UKIP’s intervention could cost them vital votes in some marginal divisions.

At present the party has only one seat on the county council – Bill Mountford won a seat in Lowestoft south four years ago – but even if UKIP does not significantly increase its seats, its influence could be substantial.

Conservative council leader Mark Bee said his party was aware that UKIP were putting up more candidates – but he was confident his party would be able to get its message across.

He said: “We have seen this is going to happen – but it is clear that UKIP is not going to win power at the county council.

“If people switch from the Conservatives to UKIP all they will be doing is opening the door to Labour winning more seats .

“We have a good record of working hard to improve the economy of Suffolk and want to carry on doing that – the only way that work can continue is if people vote Conservative on May 2.”

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UKIP regional spokesman Stuart Gulleford insisted his party was seeking victory in all the divisions it was contesting – it was not just trying to embarrass the Conservatives.

He said: “We have strong local policies which are outlined in out local manifesto. We want people to vote for us because they like our policies, not just because they don’t like the Conservatives.

“If people leave the Conservatives to vote for us, it’s clearly because they feel we have better policies!”

Labour group leader Sandy Martin is hoping for a strong performance – his party suffered a bruising reversal in 2009, winning only four seats at Endeavour House.

He said: “We want people to vote Labour. I think UKIP is an unattractive party and I would try to dissuade anyone from voting for them.”

Labour was getting a positive response on the doorstep and Mr Martin was hopeful that it would improve on its performance in 2011 – which was a huge improvement on its 2009 result.

The official opposition on the last council came from the Liberal Democrats.

Their leader in Suffolk, Dave Wood, said he and his colleagues were trying to keep the focus on local issues – which should prove successful for them.

“There is a lot of concern about turning Suffolk into a plc with all the changes – and when we talk about our record on that it goes down well.”

His party had noticed the increase in UKIP activity – although the Lib Dems were concentrating on their own campaigns, not those of other parties.

The Greens won two seats on the county council in 2009 – and are running many more candidates this time.

Party leader Natalie Bennett is visiting Stowmarket today – and Green county councillor Andrew Stringer is hopeful of increasing its numbers.

“People like the way that Green councillors campaign for local people, on issues that concern them – and we are hoping that more people will benefit from that representation.”

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