End of an era as county council elections loom

Suffolk County Council is marking the end of an era as a raft of councillors prepare to step down ahead of impending elections.

Voters will take to the polls on May 2 to decide the future shape and direction of the authority, which is made up of 75 councillors representing 63 divisions.

The Conservatives currently hold a 35 seat majority.

Nominations must be made by April 5 but the future is already certain for a number of councillors who are not returning.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Craig Dearden-Phillips is not contesting his seat in Bury St Edmunds’ Hardwick division, which he has held for four years, due to ‘personal reasons’.

He said: “It’s quite hard to balance family, work and public commitments successfully. I’ve done a pretty good job but it’s very difficult. I’ve really enjoyed the community side of the role. It was difficult though to get things done at the council quickly and it required an inordinate amount of time.”

Stefan Oliver, who represents the Tower division, in Bury, is stepping down after about 10 years as a county councillor.

He was deselected by his Conservative Group as they sought a ‘fresh appproach’ at county level.

After initially hitting out at the move, Cllr Oliver said he is now ‘slightly more philosophical about it’.

Asked what he has enjoyed most about the role, he highlighted ‘the satisfaction of knowing that even in a small way you can do something that helps people’.

Fellow Conservative Cllr Bill Bishop is retiring after representing Brandon for 20 years. He said: “I’m 79 and I think the next years are going to be harder than probably what they are now so it’s to give someone else a chance really.”

Others stepping down include council chairman Jeremy Pembroke, Charles Michell, David Yorke-Edwards, Eddy Alcock, Stephen Frost and Jane Midwood.