How will your vote help make South Norfolk a better place to live? That is the question parties vying for control of the district council have been trying to answer with the release of their manifestos and key pledges in the run up to the May 7 election.
At the last election in 2011 The Conservatives retained control of South Norfolk Council with a huge majority and prior to next month’s vote, had 35 councillors out of 46. The Liberal Democrats were the next highest with eight councillors.
The big surprise this year has been the resurgence of Labour in South Norfolk.
This year it has 39 candidates standing to be councillors, up from a mere 14 in 2011, and are fielding a candidate in most wards.
Its manifesto states that South Norfolk Council has become too “top heavy” and will seek to be more responsive. It has pledged new bus routes, working with operators, to help people better access services they need.
In light of the large amount of housing development planned for the area, Labour said it would better hold developers to account so that things like roads, schools, health services an other infrastructure are delivered to cope with increased populations.
Labour also wants to care better for the elderly and build more affordable homes.
The Liberal Democrats ran the council from 1995 to 2007, but have fallen away in South Norfolk since then.
They are billing themselves as the only likely alternative to the Conservatives, who they have accused of wasting tax payers’ money since their control of the council from 2007.
Their pledges are to increase free parking in market towns and reduce the burden on those that are paying for free parking themselves.
On housing, the Lib Dems want to scrap what they describe as “random growth” of towns and villages and explore the building of two or more “properly planned” new villages with integrated services including public transport.
They also want more affordable homes and limits on house building to satisfy what is needed locally only.
Things they would campaign for are a dual carriageway bypass for Long Stratton, as opposed to the single carriageway option currently proposed for the A140. It wants better broadband and better bus and rail provision.
The Conservatives meanwhile are pointing to their track record since 2007, stating that they will continue to keep council tax “under control” with an aim to freeze council tax for another four years, having frozen it for seven years already.
In this time they say services have been maintained and improved.
Their pledge includes the building of a Long Stratton bypass, which will also see 1,800 homes built in the village, while they said they will ensure that super-fast broadband is delivered to every neighbourhood.
Street cleaning, recycling, enhancing the character of towns and villages is a priority, while supporting those in most need with more affordable homes, tackling homelessness and offering help to the disabled and infirm to aid independence and dignity.
The party also has a candidate standing in every ward in the district.
UKIP, which is fielding 11 candidates across a range of wards states that residents in South Norfolk are not best served by the Conservatives holding such a large majority, which they say can breed complacency.
David Thornton, chairman of UKIP South Norfolk said: “The major plank of our local campaign is that UKIP would seek to introduce binding local referenda (when requested by the electorate) on major planning issues such as proposed significant housing developments on greenfield sites and onshore wind turbine projects. This brings back power to local people.”
They also want brownfield sites to be a priority for any new homes, with affordable houses for young people the most important.
The Green Party has announced that it would support the building of new council houses, and more affordable and “environmentally sustainable” housing.
They would campaign for higher recycling rates, promote re-use networks and also develop community renewable energy and ‘permaculture’ projects.
Campaigns for better public transport and cycling infrastructure as well as promoting schools staying under local authority control, rather than creating free schools, would also be fought.
District councils typically deal with planning, including individual planning applications, as well as long-term planning blueprints for areas, such as the 1,800 homes and bypass plan for Long Stratton.
They also deal with waste and environmental issues and also handle with certain benefits and welfare issues such as housing and homelessness.
For a full list of candidates for each ward, visit: www.south-norfolk.gov.uk/democracy/7239.asp