Elections 2021: What are the Conservative pledges in Suffolk?
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
With the local elections coming up for Suffolk County Council on May 6, each of the political parties have been unveiling their manifestos. We'll be taking a look at each of the main party's pledges this week, beginning with the Conservatives.
Suffolk's Conservatives' manifesto for the 2021 Suffolk County Council elections is based around four key principles.
Launched online while the Covid-19 restrictions continue, the manifesto commits to protecting the county's most vulnerable, strengthening the economy, enhancing the environment and delivering value for money for taxpayers.
The party goes into the polls on May 6 defending a strong majority of 50 of the 75 seats.
Leader Matthew Hicks said the party's candidates were "proud to stand on our record over the last four years" and described the election pledges this year as "an optimistic, forward-looking, positive manifesto to build Suffolk back even better than it was previously".
Uniquely for this year's elections, recovery from the devastating effects of Covid-19 will be prominent alongside the usual issues such as roads, waste management, education, health and the environment.
"Clearly the world has changed enormously since 2020, and the thing that we really have focused on at Suffolk County Council is about supporting the most vulnerable residents through the pandemic," Mr Hicks said.
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"Our manifesto is a really comprehensive Covid recovery plan for Suffolk.
"What we are going to do is build on the fantastic partnership working across the public sector that has worked really well throughout the pandemic to protect Suffolk's vulnerable residents, we are going to work with businesses, leaders and organisations to continue to revitalise Suffolk's economy.
"We are going to enlist the help and support of communities to protect and enhance Suffolk's environment, we are going to invest in innovative technologies, improve our services and of course become more efficient so we give Suffolk's taxpayers real value for money.
"This is a realistic programme of policies to enable Suffolk to move on from the pandemic and build a stronger and fairer economy."
Among some of the party's key plans are:
- Harnessing new technology to help older people remain independent in their own homes
- Promoting the government's Kickstart scheme to get young adults into work
- Install more than 100 new electric vehicle charging points countywide
- £10million investment in tackling road flooding
- £10m to upgrade 500 miles of pavements
- £20m of upgrades to the cycle network
- Invest in electric bus services
- Install dimmable LED streetlights
- Deploy automatic numberplate recognition cameras to curb speeding motorists
- Plant 200,000 trees by March 2022
West Suffolk MP and health secretary Matt Hancock joined the manifesto launch.
He said: "Over the last several years, Suffolk Conservatives have delivered excellent value for money, have delivered great services for residents and worked very closely together with the NHS."
He hailed the "forward-leaning, go-getting positive attitude of the county council" for its part in the vaccine rollout, which he said "represents the team coming together to deliver for residents - that is what Conservatives do in Suffolk, it is what Suffolk County Council does".
Other key challenges which must be addressed over the next four years include soaring numbers of roads regularly flooding, continued investment in special educational needs places in schools, fighting for fairer government funding for the county and managing increasing demand for adult care services.
Who isn't standing?
This year's polls have seen some significant names opting not to stand for re-election across each of the political groups.
For the Conservatives, the two headline names are deputy leader Mary Evans and fellow cabinet colleague Gordon Jones.
Mrs Evans has held cabinet positions for both highways and education, as well as the deputy leader role since Mr Hicks's leadership began in May 2018.
Gordon Jones, meanwhile, was recognisable for his role as cabinet member for education prior to Mrs Evans, before moving across to the finance portfolio from October 2019.
It means that if the party retains overall control of the council after May 6, at least two changes will be made to the front bench.
At each full council meeting, each of the three political groupings get the opportunity to put forward a motion.
A key one for the Conservatives over the last four years has been the widely popular healing woods motion secured unanimously in July 2020.
Cabinet member for the environment, Richard Rout, put forward the idea to create memorial woodland to those lost during the Covid-19 pandemic, and provide a space where people can remember their loved ones.
But as well as its important role of providing space for Suffolk people to grieve, it also has the added benefits of being environmentally positive, helping aid biodiversity and giving people a space to walk to boost both their physical and mental health.
The idea has attracted swathes of positive comments across social media, and demonstrated that positive policies with very few downsides are possible in local government.