Waveney test for all the parties

ALL candidates standing in the local elections at Waveney tomorrow will be hoping for a good turn-out as the balance of power at the north Suffolk district council is very much in the balance.

By David Lennard

ALL candidates standing in the local elections at Waveney tomorrow will be hoping for a good turn-out as the balance of power at the north Suffolk district council is very much in the balance.

The Conservatives currently have the slenderest of overall majorities as they hold 25 of the 48 seats but the Tories will be defending seven of the 16 wards being contested and any loss will see them requiring the support of either the Liberal Democrats or Independent councillors to get their policies approved.

With such high stakes it is no wonder that all candidates have been canvassing hard for support in recent weeks and there are bound to be some close encounters with the number of people prepared to go out and vote playing an important role.

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In recent years some wards have seen turn-outs lower than 30% and everyone will be hoping that figure rises considerably on polling day.

Conservative leader of the council Mark Bee is defending his Wainford seat where he will be up against former Labour group leader David Jermy.

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Also standing in the rural ward are Liberal Democrat Philip Evans and Nicola Elliott of the Green Party.

Mr Bee is proud of the Conservatives' record since regaining control of the council and said Tory candidates have a record to be proud of.

“In 2003 the ruling Labour group on the council put through a 15.9% rise in council tax and this year, under a Conservative administration, the rise is 4.9%.

“Under the Conservatives people living in Waveney now have the lowest council tax in Suffolk and we will continue to oppose Labour's plans for council tax revaluation with its inevitable increases,” said Mr Bee.

The Conservatives also want to see more power given to town and parish councils but they will oppose the “costly reorganisation” of local government being proposed by the Labour Government preferring instead closer relationships with neighbouring councils.

Mr Bee said that the Conservatives will also look to change the way local elections are held in Waveney and move away from the present system where one-third of the seats are contested annually.

“We will hold elections involving all 48 seats once every four years to cut costs, lower the tax burden, and provide consistent leadership over the electoral cycle,” he said.

Opposition parties will be looking to make inroads into the Conservative majority and believe that the recent defeat of proposals to transfer local authority homes to a housing association is evidence that the Tories are “out of touch” with local opinion.

The ruling Conservative administration made no secret of its support to transfer local authority homes to the Waveney Valley Housing Association but 67.7% of tenants voted against the proposal.

“The Tories no longer have the support of local residents and are out of touch with local opinion on a number of important issues,” said leading Labour councillor David Thomas.

“The cost to Waveney council tax payers in the promotion of the housing transfer is £400,000 and rising.

“The Labour group opposed the transfer and believes that this money could have been much better spent to the benefit of Waveney residents,” he said.

Labour candidates are standing in all 16 seats being contested and will hope to add to the current 13 seats it currently holds.

The Liberal Democrats have three seats on the council all representing the Kirkley ward in Lowestoft.

This year Andrew Shepherd will be defending his seat where he will be up against Labour's Ian Graham, May Reader for the Tories, and Green Party candidate Liam Carroll.

David Young, the leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, is looking to see his party achieve successes in other parts of the district.

“We have some excellent candidates standing and the response we have been receiving from electors is very positive indeed.

“In order to get away from the two-party system it is vital that we have more Liberal Democrat councillors,” he said.

The Liberal Democrats are campaigning in Waveney on a “greener” and “fairer” system manifesto and this will also encourage Green Party candidates.

The Greens have yet to win an election on the district council but are fielding 15 candidates this time including Graham Elliott who has represented the party at the Waveney parliamentary elections and former Labour district councillor Paul Whitlow.

Waveney currently has seven independent councillors and four will be defending their seats on May 4 including group leader Michael Ladd at Southwold and Reydon.

Mr Ladd will be up against Conservative Simon Tobin, Sylvia Robbins of the Labour Party, and Green Party candidate Julie Carpenter.

People in Southwold will also be voting for a new town council on May 4 where Mr Ladd, the mayor-elect, is also among the candidates.

In Pakefield residents will also have the opportunity of voting twice as there is a Suffolk County Council by-election as well as the district council seat being contested.

At the present time town and parish councils across Waveney are being consulted on their views about changes to the electoral system in north Suffolk.

Waveney and Ipswich are the only districts in Suffolk which hold elections for a third of the seats at a time and this could be one of the last occasions that this happens.

Despite only 16 of Waveney's 48 seats being contested, the results are of vital significance and all party leaders have stressed the importance of local people having their say.

“I believe the issue of encouraging as many people to take an active part in the local elections as possible is one point that we can all agree on,” said Labour's David Thomas.

When the new Waveney District Council is formed following the elections it will be missing at least two familiar faces.

Former leader of the Labour group Brian Hunter, who has been a member of the council since it was formed in 1974 is retiring and not standing at Lowestoft's Lothingland ward.

Another long-standing member of the council, Conservative Morris Rose, is also not standing at The Saints.

Both Mr Hunter and Mr Rose will continue to serve as members of Suffolk County Council.

The current make-up of Waveney District Council is:

Conservatives 25 seats, Labour 13, Independents 7 and Liberal Democrats 3.



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