May 2nd is polling day for both the new district council of East Suffolk and our parish councils.
Polls will open from 7am until 10pm on May 2nd and the count will take place at Waterlane Leisure centre in Lowestoft from 9am the following day. Counting in the Town and Parish elections will begin at 9.30am on Saturday May 4.
This article will look at the District elections. A subsequent article will focus on our Town Council.
In this politically moribund climate created by the eternal wrangling that is Brexit, it is not surprising that many feel that our political system is shot and voting is pointless. But my view has always been that firstly, democracy is better than any of the alternatives and secondly, it’s important to remember what our ancestors went through to get us the right to vote – starting with the Victorian Chartist movement among the working classes with their campaign of ‘one man one vote’, through to the abuse suffered by the Suffragettes in the early 20th century, to the equal rights movements of the sixties and seventies.
And in our area we do have something new. Following the creation of East Suffolk council which replaced Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils on April 1, 55 councillors in total will be elected – down from the previous 90 – and all the wards boundaries have changed – meaning on the Felixstowe peninsula we now have just Western Felixstowe, Eastern Felixstowe and Orwell & Villages which covers the Trimleys, Kirton, Falkenham etc.
From a geographical point of view, East Suffolk has become the largest district council in England, stretching from the villages to the north of Lowestoft to the county’s southern-most tip at Landguard Point at the southern tip of Felixstowe beach.
Whatever your view of this it could see a shift in the balance of power.
Suffolk Coastal has always been almost exclusively the power house of the Conservatives. Labour did have a hold there in coalition with the Liberal Democrats between 1995-99, but that is the only time in its 45-year history that anyone other than the Tories have been in charge.
But things could change. The Labour Party has always been strong in the Lowestoft area and would be hoping to take power at Waveney if that was still a separate council. A combination of a strong Labour showing in the north of the district and a surge in independent support in the Suffolk Coastal area could reduce the scale of the Conservatives hold. And this is in our hands – the voters. If you have been unhappy with recent decisions – on the Local Plan for instance – now is your chance to have your say in the most significant way possible.
Senior figures from both predecessor authorities are hoping to retain seats on the new council. Former county council (and outgoing Waveney) leader Mark Bee is standing in Beccles and Worlingham – and will be facing a strong challenge from the Green Party. In the county elections two years ago he was elected alongside Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw who is standing this time as well.
Suffolk Coastal’s outgoing leader Ray Herring is standing – as is his deputy Geoff Holdcroft who got into trouble over comments he made about Ipswich earlier this year and long-serving cabinet member Andy Smith.
Here is the complete list for the Felixstowe Peninsula of who is standing:
Eastern Felixstowe Ward (three seats): Steve Gallant (C)*, Mark Jepson (C), Steve Wiles (C), David Rowe (Lab), Seamus Bennett (LD), Jan Candy (LD), Michael Ninnmey (LD), Jax Blunt (G), Kay Lyndle (G).
Steve Gallant is the councilor here who has previously held a seat at SCDC. And it must be said he has been very busy in his support of groups and issues that concern Felixstowe residents. Mark Jepson and Steve Wiles are current Town councilors – David Rowe and Mike Ninnmey are experienced in local politics and have previously held seats.
Western Felixstowe Ward (three seats): Stuart Bird (C)*, Tracey Green (C)*, Andy Smith (C)*, Mike Deacon (Lab)*, Mark Jones (Lab), Margaret Morris (Lab), Lee Reeves (LD), Kate Dickinson (G), Nigel Hiley (G), Jon Mulberg (G).
The first four names on this list have been previous members of Suffolk Coastal – Mike Deacon often the loan voice of Labour opposition. Margaret Morris has previously held a seat.
Orwell & Villages Ward (two seats): Melissa Allen (C), Richard Kerry (C)*, Neville Mayes (Lab), Sherrie Green (Ind), Stephen Wrinch (Ind), Betsy Reid (G).
Here it’s just Richard Kerry who is a sitting councilor – someone who has taken close interest in the affairs of the Trimleys and the villages in the past. Neville Mayes has been a long standing member of the Parish council and Stephen Wrinch is standing as an Independent specifically to fight the Local Plan. Sherrie Green was previously a Conservative councilor and cabinet member at SCDC but is now standing as an Independent.