Tories set to shake-up Ipswich

CONSERVATIVES are preparing to blow a wind of change through a Suffolk borough after Labour's 25-year reign came to an abrupt end.The 17-strong Tory group is promising major changes in Ipswich after this month's local elections saw the 48-seat council fall to no overall control.

By Jonathan Barnes

CONSERVATIVES are preparing to blow a wind of change through a Suffolk borough after Labour's 25-year reign came to an abrupt end.

The 17-strong Tory group is promising major changes in Ipswich after this month's local elections saw the 48-seat council fall to no overall control.

Labour is still the biggest group with 23 councillors, but they could be out-voted if the Conservatives join forces with the seven Liberal Democrats on the council.


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That means the Conservatives are busy making plans to revolutionise politics in the town - starting at tonight's annual council meeting.

Tory leader Dale Jackson said: "We've been looking forward to this for a long time, but it's not about us, it's for the benefit of the people of Ipswich. They have spoken through the ballot box."

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He said the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats agreed on a number of key issues in the borough and that he hoped to forge "a loose friendship" between the two.

"We don't want a coalition or a partnership but we have mutual respect and we will need their help to push things through," said Mr Jackson.

The issues high on the group's hit-list include removing any threat against the town's Corn Exchange - selling off the theatre is an option being explored in a Labour entertainments strategy - and putting the running of the Regent Theatre into a trust.

"We definitely want to save the Corn Exchange and, under the council's control, the Regent Theatre is costing the taxpayer £750,000 a year. It would be much better served under a trust."

Mr Jackson said the council would now consider putting money into the Broomhill open air swimming pool, which has stood derelict since closing in 2002.

He added that bus lanes and traffic lights were also in his group's sights. "We would like to free up bus lanes out of peak times. Everywhere else seems to do this, so why doesn't Ipswich?

"The Labour group are trying to get people to get out of their cars, but that's not going to happen in the real world. We want to be sensible about it - we believe in all forms of transport."

He continued: "The number of traffic lights in Ipswich is ridiculous - I have nightmares about traffic lights. We would look at that."

Mr Jackson said the group intended to "get tough" on financial matters, setting an inflationary budget, and lobby police chiefs about rising levels of crime and anti-social behaviour in the town.

The Conservative and Labour groups are also set to clash on major issues such as the Northern Fringe major housing development in the town, which the Tories oppose, and the East Bank link road serving the docks, which they support.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Richard Atkins said: "We have spoken to the Tories and there are areas we agree on in respect of Ipswich.

"Things like looking again at the operation of the Norwich Road bus lanes - and whether they need to be in operation 24 hours a day.

"We are also pledged to hold on to the Corn Exchange - not to sell it off. And we cannot afford to continue pouring a million pounds a year into the Regent."

Deputy Labour leader David Ellesmere said he had been told by his group not to make any comment on the party's stance in advance of tonight's meeting. "We are aware the Liberals will be supporting the Tories," he said.

The first meeting since the elections takes place tonight, when deliberations will take place over the new mayor and executive committee.

TORY HITLIST

Save the Corn Exchange.

Hand over the running of the Regent Theatre to a trust.

Look into re-opening Broomhill open-air swimming pool.

Free up bus lanes out of peak hours.

Cut the number of traffic lights in the town.

Lobby the police on crime and anti-social behaviour.

Fight the Northern Fringe housing development plan.

Set inflationary budget.

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