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LOCAL ELECTIONS: Find out what the main parties are offering in Mid Suffolk

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Back in 2015 when the last local elections took place for Mid Suffolk, voters and councillors could reasonably have expected the 2019 polls to be for a merged council with Babergh.

That’s not the case though, as, despite work over four years the councils are still not yet in a position to take that next step.

But there has been a shake-up of the ward boundaries since then, with Mid Suffolk District Council now having 34 seats up for contest, instead of the 40 last time around.

Ballot boxes at the ready (8506275)
Ballot boxes at the ready (8506275)

The Conservatives currently hold a majority at the authority, with 28 councillors compared to the six Greens in the opposition group.

The third largest group is the Liberal Democrats with four councillors, and a single Independent councillor completing the council’s make-up.

All three of those parties are fielding the largest share of candidates this time around, with the Tories running 32 candidates, the Greens 21 and 19 for the Lib Dems.

The Conservatives have held political control of the council since 2007, but historically the authority has also had lengthy periods of no overall control, most notably between 1976 and 2003. They’ll be hoping that doesn’t happen this time around.

While there are currently no Labour councillors, the party is fielding eight candidates for 2019, while the UK Independence Party has one candidate.

Since the last elections, the council moved its base to Endeavour House in Ipswich as part of cost-cutting measures alongside Babergh.

The controversial move raised questions about staff turnover and access to meetings for members of the public in the furthest areas of the district, and could be a talking point on voters’ doorsteps this time around.

Elsewhere, multi-million pound investments in out-of-county retail and commercial property through joint-company CIFCO Capital Ltd raised eyebrows, and with plans to pump another £25m going forward it remains a hot topic.

Voters may well have to balance arguments that a wider portfolio reduces risk with questions over the confidence in investing in the Mid Suffolk district.

Finally, the state of housing in the district has been a key talking point. A planning appeal earlier this year ruled that the district did not have a five year land supply, leading to fears that speculative developers would pounce on the council’s weakened bargaining position, although since then it did confirm it had regained that five year supply shortly before the elections were announced.

Drawing up a joint local plan with Babergh is a must for whoever is elected as the new administration, particularly given areas such as Bramford and Thurston are facing a huge influx in applications. If a dramatic change at either council results in no overall majority, that work could take longer than hoped.

What the Conservatives say:

“Over the last four years, we have delivered on our promises to create more affordable homes – we’ve built new homes in Laxfield, Great Blakenham, Thurston, Bramford and Barking – and we’ve taken full advantage of funding opportunities to improve the environment for our residents.

“We’ve invested heavily in our towns and have seen sustainable growth in the district.

“This has meant more jobs, better skills and successful business expansion.

“A small-business rates relief policy has been introduced, and we’ve introduced a Shop Front Grant scheme that supports small businesses with grants for repairs, maintenance and redecoration of shop frontages across the district.

“We’re funding two PCSOs to cover the whole of the district’s area.

“Young people leaving care, who are amongst the most vulnerable people in our communities, will now receive 100% council tax reduction.

“Mid Suffolk Conservatives are proud that all this has been achieved without cutting front line services.”

What the Greens say:

“The ruling Conservatives have borrowed £50million – that’s £625 per adult resident across the district – to invest it in potentially risky commercial property, mostly outside Suffolk.

“We do not see acting as a speculative property landlord as a suitable role for the district council – this money could be better used by investing in housing and business within our district.

“The Greens will ensure where possible that district council meetings are once again held within the communities directly affected by them and will campaign to bring the council HQ back to Mid Suffolk following its unpopular and costly move to Ipswich last year.

“We will support the development of local plans so that houses can be built how and where communities want them.

“If the Greens become lead group on the district council we will prioritise maintenance of a five-year land supply and regain control of the planning system.

“As the official opposition, the Greens will continue to challenge poor decision-making by the district and to bring this to the public’s attention.”

What the Liberal Democrats say:

“We have constantly opposed the move to Endeavour house in Ipswich.

“This has taken the council away from the community and we know it has made it much harder for residents to be able to have a more direct contact with officers.

“It has meant councillors driving into Ipswich, increasing the traffic congestion and additional costs to the council.

“We want to introduce a youth council, take meetings out into the area and introduce area committees.

“The time the council had without the five year land supply has been a disaster, resulting in numerous speculative planning applications, with a huge impact on the villages resulting in the need for significant infrastructure improvements.

“Whilst we recognise the need for more housing, particularly for first time buyers and for social housing, we have always said the money invested into the risky purchasing of commercial properties outside the district, should have been used to set up a housing company.”

The Candidates

Bacton Ward: Jill Wilshaw (C)*, Andy Mellen (G).

Battisford & Ringshall Ward: Kay Oakes (C), Daniel Pratt (G).

Blakenham Ward: Robert Grimsey (C), John Field (LD)*, Peter Jousiffe (G).

Bramford Ward: James Caston (C)*, Martin Redbond (LD).

Chilton (Stowmarket) Ward (two seats): Gary Green (C)*, Barry Humphreys (C)*, David Poulson (LD), Oliver Amorowson (G).

Claydon & Barham Ward (two seats): Tim Passmore (C)*, John Whitehead (C)*, Mark Valladares (LD), Helen Bridgeman (G).

Combs Ford (Stowmarket) Ward (two seats): Nick Gowrley (C)*, Keith Scarff (LD), Gerard Brewster (Ind)*, Miles Row (G).

Debenham Ward: Kathie Guthrie (C)*, Terry Wilson (Lab).

Elmswell & Woolpit Ward (two seats): Jane Storey (C)*, Kerry Burn (LD), Helen Geake (G), Sarah Mansel (G)*.

Eye Ward: Peter Gould (C), Tim Glenton (LD).

Fressingfield Ward: Lavinia Hadingham (C)*, Paul Seeman (LD), Peter Davies (G), Garry Deeks (No party listed).

Gislingham Ward: Chris Pitt (C), Jo Clifford (Lab), Rowland Warboys (G).

Haughley, Stowupland & Wetherden Ward (two seats): Stephen Britt (C), James Passmore (C), Rachel Eburne (G)*, Keith Welham (G)*.

Hoxne & Worlingworth Ward: Matthew Hicks (C)*, Tony Scott-Robinson (Lab), Steve Card (LD), David Penny (G).

Mendlesham Ward: Elaine Bryce (C), Andrew Stringer (G)*.

Needham Market Ward (two seats): Paul Allen (C), Matthew Oakes (C), Mike Norris (LD)*, Steve Phillips (LD).

Onehouse Ward: James Spencer (C), Nicky Willshere (LD), John Matthissen (G)*.

Palgrave Ward: David Burn (C)*, Gillian Heriz-Smith (G).

Rattlesden Ward: Gilly Morgan (C), Philip Cockell (Lab), Penny Otton (LD)*.

Rickinghall Ward: Jessica Fleming (C)*, Sue Coe (Lab).

St Peter’s (Stowmarket) Ward: Paul Ekpenyong (C)*, David Child (LD).

Stonham Ward: Suzie Morley (C)*, David Payne (LD), Jeremy Hall (UKIP), Nicholas Hardingham (G).

Stow Thorney (Stowmarket) Ward (two seats): Cliff Bushe (C), Dave Muller (C)*, William Howman (Lab), Terence Carter (G).

Stradbroke & Laxfield Ward: Julie Flatman (C)*, Kate Leith (LD).

Thurston Ward (two seats): Oliver Passmore (C), Harry Richardson (C), Ursula Ajimal (Lab), Ellen Kirkby (LD), Frank Wright (LD), Olivia Boland (Ind), Wendy Turner (G), Susan Tytler (G).

Walsham-le-Willows Ward: Rick Meyer (C), Eddie Dougall (Lab), Martin Spurling (LD), Stuart Masters (G).

Key: C – Conservative, Lab – Labour, LD – Liberal Democrats, Ind – Independent, UKIP – UK Independence Party, G – Green Party.

The asterisk denotes a sitting councillor in that authority or its predecessor.