Home   Bury St Edmunds   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Bury St Edmunds councillor Cliff Waterman on ‘exciting’ new era for West Suffolk Council after being elected coalition leader





A new era begins at West Suffolk Council as the head of a coalition group has been elected leader, marking the end of a Conservative hold.

Councillor Cliff Waterman, leader of the West Suffolk Progressive Alliance Grouping, was elected on Tuesday following a period of uncertainty after the Conservatives lost their majority in the local elections earlier this month.

The district council will now be made up of a partnership between the West Suffolk Progressive Alliance Grouping – which consists of Labour, Liberal-Democrat and Green members – and the Independents, under the title of the West Suffolk Working Partnership (WSWP).

Bury St Edmunds Councillor Cliff Waterman has been elected as the new West Suffolk Council leader. Picture by Mark Westley
Bury St Edmunds Councillor Cliff Waterman has been elected as the new West Suffolk Council leader. Picture by Mark Westley

Despite the difficult task of managing disparate political views, the Bury St Edmunds Eastgate ward councillor told SuffolkNews he was ready to accept the challenge.

He said: “The challenge is to find common ground and move forward together on it.

“Most of us in the West Suffolk Working Partnership have worked together in opposition for the last four years.

Cllr Waterman with some of his cabinet members Diane Hind, Donna Higgins, Roger Dicker, Phil Wittam, Jim Thorndyke and Victor Lukaniuk. Picture by Mark Westley
Cllr Waterman with some of his cabinet members Diane Hind, Donna Higgins, Roger Dicker, Phil Wittam, Jim Thorndyke and Victor Lukaniuk. Picture by Mark Westley

“We know each other, we respect each other and most importantly we trust each other. We know we can work together for the benefit of everybody in West Suffolk.

“Between the groups in the partnership, we’ve got 38 councillors and we share a common purpose to improve West Suffolk.

“It’s exciting.”

He said the partnership would work to address four key areas – housing, the cost-of-living crisis, sustainability and growth.

Cllr Waterman said the challenge was to find common ground and move forward together on it. Picture by Mark Westley
Cllr Waterman said the challenge was to find common ground and move forward together on it. Picture by Mark Westley

In particular they wanted to move the district towards a high-skilled, high wage type of economy

Cllr Waterman worked as an English teacher in schools across the county, including Stowupland High School, Mildenhall Upper School and Westley Middle School in Bury. He is the Labour group leader and works as a cyclist training officer at Suffolk County Council.

In the meeting at which he was elected, he said he would not indulge in ‘petty politics’ from the council chamber following a proposal by Cllr Nick Clarke, leader of the West Suffolk Conservatives, to suspend council procedure rules to allow for a recorded vote, which was accepted by members.

Cllr Clarke said he wanted transparency for residents and called for Independent councillors to abstain from voting for a leader.

He said: “The Independents are clearly the kingmakers – they can choose to remain truly independent, as voters believe they are and abstain from the leader vote, or alternatively they can vote for Labour or the Conservatives. This is a matter of respect for the electorate. It would be strange for an Independent councillor to turn a vote into a vote for Labour.

“What is the motivation behind propping up a minority Labour administration? Do the Independents and Labour political strategies align – I’m not sure they do.”

However, Cllr Waterman said Cllr Clarke’s statement was misguided.

“There is no minority Labour administration – there is a majority West Suffolk Working Partnership,” he said.

“West Suffolk is in very safe hands. It’s in the hands of people who are totally committed to the wellbeing of our district.

“It’s an administration that wants to listen and we want West Suffolk to be the best it can be.”