Election takes place next Thursday

ON Thursday next week 73 candidates will battle it out for 17 seats on Waveney District Council.There are contests for two seats in Beccles, one in Bungay and one in Halesworth.

ON Thursday next week 73 candidates will battle it out for 17 seats on Waveney District Council.

There are contests for two seats in Beccles, one in Bungay and one in Halesworth.

Sitting candidates are seeking re-election in all three.

And the Green Party is again fielding a candidate in all 17 wards in the hope of building on its success last year, when Graham Elliott won a Beccles seat for the party for the first time.

This year, along with the 16 seats being contested as part of the normal electoral procedure, there is an extra by-election at Carlton Colville following the decision by Ron Bell to step down. Voters at Carlton Colville will have the chance to vote for two candidates.

At the moment, the Conservatives have a substantial majority on the council, holding 30 seats, and they will be looking to strengthen their grip still further.

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Labour has 11 seats, the Liberal Democrats two, Independents two, the Greens one, and there are two vacancies.

On Thursday, May 1 the Tories will be defending 12 seats, Labour four and the Liberal Democrats one.

Local issues are high on the agenda of all candidates and the political parties.

The Tories point out that the 1.8pc council tax increase for Waveney this year is one of the lowest in the country and that the council is in the top five local authorities in the country for recycling and waste disposal.

The opposition parties, however, are pointing out a number of areas in which they believe the council is falling short.

An emotive issue is the decision to abolish the council-run pest control service which, opposition councillors believe, will mean that some of the poorer residents in the district will be faced with large bills from private companies as they try to get rid of rats and other pests.

Labour's manifesto includes a promise to reinstate the pest control service, overhaul the planning service and ensure that Lowestoft's Marina Theatre is not privatised.

The Liberal Democrats will be keen to keep hold of the Kirkley seat held previously by David Young who moved to France last year. and will be looking to make gains in other parts of the district.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is fielding five candidates and will be hoping to make an impact on the council.

Independents standing for election include Jane Wilson at Harbour, Reg Allen at Whitton and Michael Ladd at Southwold.

An added item has been thrown into the political melting pot this year as the government looks to reorganise local authorities across Suffolk and Norfolk.

The Boundary Committee is looking at various options that include new unitary authorities replacing the existing county, district and borough councils in the two counties.

One of the options the committee is considering is a new cross-county unitary authority that combines Waveney District Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council - the so-called “Yartoft” option.

Opinion on what changes, if any, are needed to improve local authorities varies enormously, but the issue is sure to influence

voters as they fill in their ballot papers.