The lowdown on Waveney
By Dave LennardHOW people vote in the forthcoming local elections in north Suffolk will shape the council for the next two years.When voters go to the polls in 17 of the 48 wards of Waveney District Council on Thursday, they will decide the make-up of the local authority until 2005 when a further 16 wards will be contested.
By David Lennard
By Dave Lennard
HOW people vote in the forthcoming local elections in north Suffolk will shape the council for the next two years.
When voters go to the polls in 17 of the 48 wards of Waveney District Council on Thursday, they will decide the make-up of the local authority until 2005 when a further 16 wards will be contested.
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In normal circumstances, a third of the council stands for re-election each year but in 2005 it is the turn of county councillors to face the electorate.
This year's contests on the same day as the European Parliament elections – are a contest in an extra ward. There is a vacancy to be filled in Worlingham, near Beccles, following the resignation of Conservative councillor Simon Jones.
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In 2003 the control of the district council passed from Labour to Conservatives and the Tories will be looking to strengthen their grip.
At the moment, although the largest single party on the council, the Tories rely on support from Independent and Liberal Democrat members to get their policies through.
The Conservative successes last year came on the back of a substantial 15% rise in the district council's share of the council tax imposed by the Labour administration.
Conservatives managed to keep the increase this year to 3.9% and believe their budgetary controls will prove a big hit with voters.
The savings, however, have not been made without cost and substantial cuts have had to be made including the amount of money available in grants given to a number of north Suffolk organisations including museums and sports clubs.
Just how people living in the area react to the cuts will have a big impact at the polls.
In several wards there looks to be some closely fought contests including those at Southwold and Halesworth.
In Southwold, the Conservative group leader Peter Austin is in real danger as he is being challenged by the recent mayor of the seaside town Sue Allen, who is standing as an Independent.
Lyn Derges for Labour and John Windell of the Green Party are also contesting the election at Southwold.
There have been a number of contentious issues affecting the district council and Southwold in recent months, including proposed changes regarding beach hunt rents and the sale of the Southwold Harbour Caravan Site, so it will be interesting to see how voters react..
There is a similar situation in nearby Halesworth where current Conservative councillor Paddy Flegg is up against fellow member of Halesworth Town Council Paul Whitlow as well as Labour's Paul Widdowson.
Mr Whitlow is standing for the Green Party which is hoping to make an impact in north Suffolk.
The party is fielding candidates in all the wards being contested and is hoping to get its first member elected to the district council.
The UK Independence Party is also hoping to get its first councillor elected and is standing in two wards with Brian Aylett at Beccles South and Bertie Poole in Carlton Colville.
With national opinion polls showing a surge in popularity for UKIP's policy of withdrawal from the European Union, the results from Beccles and Carlton Colville in the early hours of Friday morning may be pointer to the outcome of the European poll.
The Labour group leader on the council, David Jermy is facing a real battle in his re-election bid in Bungay, while David Young, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, is standing for re-election in the Lowestoft ward of Kirkley.
The chairman of Waveney District Council, Conservative councillor Sandra Keller, is also up for re-election at Oulton Broad.
At the moment the Conservatives are the largest single group on the council with 21 of the 48 seats.
There are 17 Labour councillors, six Independents and three Liberal Democrats, with one seat vacant.
On Thursday, the Conservatives will be defending eight seats, Labour seven, Liberal Democrats one and Independents one.
As with all local elections, turnout will be vital to the fortunes of the various parties. Candidates are hoping that with a dual election being fought, voters will show more interest than usual in the contests.
Polling stations open at 7am and close at 10pm – they are open two hours longer than normal to take account of the European elections.