Former SCC leader calls time after 20 years

A former Leader of Suffolk County Council will not be seeking re-election in May after what will be 20 years as a County Councillor – representing four different seats across Ipswich.

Bryony Rudkin was first elected to Suffolk County Council in 1997, representing Stoke Park in Ipswich, before switching to Priory Heath in 2001. In 2005 boundary changes saw her move to a new double seat, Chantry, before she switched to Bridge Division in 2009, which she has represented for the last 7 years.

Mrs Rudkin served as Council Leader from 2003 to 2005, and led the Council when it moved from old outdated offices in Rope Walk and St Helen’s Street to brand new offices in Russell Road, which were built for TXU Energy, but were bought for a knock down price when that company went into administration. Endeavour House was named by a member of the Council’s staff. [Edit: it has been pointed out that this move happened before Ms Rudkin took over as Leader and was entirely overseen by her predecessor, Jane Hore. Apologies for the error which was entirely ours.]

Mrs Rudkin also signed the Customer Services Direct contract with BT PLC, which led to a huge investment in Information Technology, and saw a step change in service delivery for both the County Council and Mid Suffolk District Council, who were the third partner in the contract. However, the contract came under detailed scrutiny once Mrs Rudkin left office, with suggestions that the Council had perhaps overpaid BT for services that were no better than could have been obtained on the open market.

In 2004 she led Suffolk County Council when it named as excellent in the final Comprehensive Area Assessment, putting it among the top 25% of councils, and showing an improvement in 62 different performance indicators; but that wasn’t enough to quell voters’ anger at council tax rises, and Labour were reduced to opposition by the Conservatives in 2005, led by Jeremy Pembroke.

Mrs Rudkin was replaced by former Transport spokesman Julian Swainson as Leader of the Opposition, and in 2009 returned to the front bench for the Labour group as Deputy Leader when her group was reduced to just four councillors. Big Labour gains in 2013 saw Labour become the main opposition again, and Mrs Rudkin became opposition spokesperson for children’s services.

Last year she was appointed Deputy Leader of the Borough Council, and her decision to step down from the County Council was taken a while ago, according to Ipswich Constituency Labour Party. She will be replaced as Labour Candidate in Bridge division – which is likely to remain Labour held – by Jack Abbott, who was Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich at the last General Election. Uninformed blogs suggested that she had been deselected by Momentum inspired Labour membership, but given the candidate who is replacing her supported Liz Kendall in last year’s Labour Leadership election, he can hardly be described as the perfect Corbynista candidate.

Spy will bring you more candidates news over the coming days, weeks and months, in the run up to the May County Council elections in 2017.

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