Colchester Council coalition proposed to continue under new leadership

Following the Colchester Borough elections held last Thursday (3rd May), it has been proposed three parties in Colchester will continue to lead by coalition.

Following almost a week of intense negotiations and discussions behind closed doors, the Liberal Democrats, Labour and Highwoods Independent group leaders have reached an agreement for the continuance of a coalition-led “Progressive alliance” Council in Colchester.

Former council leader Paul Smith lost his seat in the May 3rd elections. We understand the front runner for Council Leader is Cllr. Mark Cory (Lib), with Cllr. Tim Young (Lab) to remain as Deputy Leader.

MORE: See the final results of the Colchester 2018 local elections

Cllr. Martin Goss, leader of the Liberal Democrats said they will outline “key initiatives” which have received unanimous support from the three groups, including forming ‘Transport for Colchester’ to allow roads and transport issues to be managed within one group.

Mr Goss added: “Crime was a big issue on the doorstep and we want to see what we could do to help the police. We will be looking at how we can best support the police officers on our streets.

“We will also support Tollgate Village and put forward plans to connect it to the Town Centre, set up task and finish groups for ‘tourism and heritage’ as well as ‘alternative methods of service delivery’. We will also progress on fresh plans recently put forward for Vineyard Gate and create a Colchester Infrastructure master plan.”

Labour group leader, Cllr. Tim Young said: “Labour is delighted to be part of the Progressive alliance to run Colchester Borough Council and really pleased that so many policies from the local Labour manifesto are included in the agreed programme and priorities.

“60 per cent of voters didn’t want the Tories so we are proud to, collectively, represent the wishes of the majority.”

“Intensive negotiations”

Highwoods Independent, Cllr. Gerard Oxford said: “Following 6 days of intensive negotiations with all political groups we [can] confirm an agreement late yesterday [9th May] had been reached with The Liberal Democrats & Labour.”

“The stumbling block with the Conservative offer was return to weekly black sacks, when even Cllr. Laws agreed that only 3 wards out of the 17 have any issues. This would be throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

“No mandate to govern”

Conservative leader, Cllr. Darius Laws said: “This coalition has no mandate to govern, they are clinging on to power in a grubby deal of self-interest against the wishes of the people of Colchester.

“I’m disappointed our calls for weekly waste collection were seen as a stumbling block. I said I’d be prepared to comprise. But before I knew it, they had done a deal. I wonder if the residents of Highwoods are happy that by voting ‘Independent’ they get Labour and the Lib Dems?”

Cllr. Laws also spoke of challenges ahead in Colchester tourism. “In the twenty years or so in which I’ve intimately known Colchester, I’ve always been incredibly frustrated by the apparent failure to realise the potential of our old town centre.

“York and Lincoln Councils are run by Labour politicians who have seized the heritage opportunity yet in Colchester we now have the ludicrous situation where people are telling me on the doorstep that Chelmsford is a better experience than Britain’s Oldest Recorded City.

“Support for lighting up historic buildings”

Mark Goacher, who stood in Castle Ward for the Green Party against candidates Simon Crow (Con), Norma Dinnie-Weall (Lab) and Jo Hayes (Lib), said he supports the illumination of Colchester’s historic buildings, but goes on to criticise a lack of plans to protect the environment.

“They have already been in power for 10 years so need to get moving on issues like cleaning up the town centre and reducing air pollution”, said Mr Goacher.

“I welcome the setting up of a task group looking at tourism and leisure but it needs to listen to ideas such as setting up a distinct Civil War museum and improving the St Botolph’s Priory and Roman circus sites.

Mr Goacher added: “I would support lighting up our historic buildings. I welcome the creation of a Colchester infrastructure master-plan and the aim of supporting the police however we need to see the detailed proposals that they devise in terms of turning aspiration into achievable goals.

“My main criticism of these proposals is that there is no proposal for a task and finish group on improving and protecting our environment.”

A full Council meeting will be held on May 23rd to vote for a new Council leader.