Elections 2021: Labour unveils its manifesto
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This week, we are exploring the manifestos of each main political party standing in the Suffolk County Council elections. Today the Labour group shares its plans.
The Suffolk Labour group's 2021 election manifesto, called Believe in Suffolk, has the strapline "Proud of our heritage, ambitious for our future".
Among the priorities highlighted for the party are rebuilding Suffolk's economy post-Covid, investing in children's services, caring for communities, focus on transport and infrastructure and delivering a cleaner, greener Suffolk.
The party currently holds 11 of 75 seats on the council, all of those largely based in the urban centres of Ipswich, Lowestoft and Sudbury.
For this year's election, the response to Covid-19 - be it education, health or the economy - will be just as much a part of the focus as the usual day-to-day issues the county council is responsible for, such as highways, rubbish tips and adult care among others.
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Sarah Adams, leader of the Labour group, said: "Now is the time for change, change that looks to help people and businesses recover not only from the pandemic but from a decade of Conservative cuts, incompetence and complacency.
"This is their record of failure."
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The manifesto launch, held online while the coronavirus pandemic continues to restrict gatherings, highlighted controversial changes in services under the Conservative administration in recent years - including divisive school transport changes, cuts to health visitor numbers and taxpayer cash spent on infrastructure projects like the Upper Orwell Crossings which are no longer going ahead.
Ms Adams continued: "Enough is enough. We in the Labour party believe in Suffolk and its potential. We are proud of our heritage and ambitious for our future.
"We want to protect the things that make our county great, by safeguarding our beautiful countryside, reconnecting our communities and helping our tourism industry get back on its feet as we know it must.
"We also want to unlock our potential by offering a first class education to every child, by supporting all of our residents from young families through to our loved ones being cared for, and by creating well-paid employment through a green recovery."
Among the policy pledges are:
- Introducing an SME business fund to help businesses recover
- Immediately enacting a plan to tackle food poverty
- Change the school transport policy to end split villages and split siblings
- Increase the number of SEND school places
- Guarantee every child access to a laptop and the internet
- Roll out successful pilot projects improving mental health countywide
- Carry out a care sector review assessing care home Covid-19 deaths, care staff pay and access to PPE
- Plant 750,000 trees
- Create a not-for-profit organisation to bring together buses and community transport
- Keep street lights on for longer to improve safety
Anneliese Dodds, shadow chancellor in Westminster, helped the party launch the manifesto, and said: "The vision Labour has in Suffolk is really compelling - proud of Suffolk's heritage, ambitious for its future - that is what we need to see.
"There is an enormous contrast with Labour ambitions compared with what we are getting from the Conservatives right now. These elections really are a chance for people to get that change that is so desperately needed in Suffolk."
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 Labour, around half of the candidates have opted to step down. They include Jack Abbott, a vocal campaigner for children's services in his role as opposition education spokesman, while Jack Owen and Sandra Gage - both of whom have held the opposition transport brief in the last four years are also stepping back.
Kathy Bole, Kim Clements and Mandy Gaylard, three councillors for the Ipswich area are also stepping down, however the town's former Labour MP Sandy Martin is standing in the ballots in his first frontline politics role since 2019 General Election.
It means fresh opposition voices from the Labour group will be in the council chamber after May 6 if the party continues to hold those seats.
At each full council meeting, each of the three political groupings get the opportunity to put forward a motion.
One of the legacies for Labour is a motion which secured unanimous backing from all councillors in July 2020 to introduce a Food Justice Action Plan.
That plan aims to help eradicate food poverty in the county, reduce dependence on foodbanks for low income families and address the root causes of food poverty.
Work on that plan is ongoing, and due to be published later this year, but has already seen a food poverty officer recruited to oversee the work.
While a problem before Covid-19, the pandemic last year exposed just how many families could struggle to make ends meet. For those families the plan could be a lifeline.