New leader for Colchester's council

THE new leader of Colchester council has pledged to improve key services for the town now his ruling Conservative group has been given a mandate from the voters.

By Sharon Asplin

THE new leader of Colchester council has pledged to improve key services for the town now his ruling Conservative group has been given a mandate from the voters.

Robert Davidson, formerly deputy leader and regeneration and partnerships portfolio holder, was announced as John Jowers' replacement this weekend.

His appointment comes after Mr Jowers announced after Thursday's local elections that he was standing down as council leader and leader of the Colchester Tory group.

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Meanwhile, spearheading the fight for the opposition will be current Colchester mayor, Terry Sutton, who becomes leader of the Liberal Democrats later this month.

Mr Davidson, the Pyefleet ward councillor, said yesterday: “I am delighted we have increased the number of Conservative seats on the council which has given me a mandate to continue to improve Colchester's frontline services - I want to see a safer and cleaner town centre, day and night, to make it attractive to visitors and residents.

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“My key aim is to continue to deliver one of the lowest council tax rises in the area - I am absolutely determined to deliver best value and services at a lower cost.”

Mr Davidson also hopes to persuade Mr Jowers to continue to contribute to running the council.

“John has been a magnificent leader for raising Cochester's profile both locally and nationally and, more importantly, for driving forward improvements to the town which affect all residents,” he said.

“He is entertaining, engaging and politically astute - he will be a hard act to follow.”

Mr Jowers said he had loved leading Colchester Borough Council but there could be conflict of interest with his cabinet role at county level.

He said: “Being leader has been fascinating, frustrating and entertaining in equal measure. I have met some wonderful people and am proud to have been involved in a number of projects; the community stadium and the visual arts facility particularly are really good news for the town.

“I think Robert will be brilliant. He is a compassionate, thoughtful, kind man who is also very businesslike with tonnes of commonsense - he is a man it is easy to underestimate.”

Mr Davidson has already assumed the role of group leader and is due to be ratified as council leader at the annual mayor-making ceremony on May 17. Christopher Arnold, who currently holds the street services and waste portfolio, will be his number two.

This weekend proved a double celebration for Mr Sutton - his beloved Colchester United were promoted and he was elected leader of the council's Liberal Democrat group.

He said: “I'm extremely delighted to have been given the opportunity to lead the group and am looking forward to next year in office.

“I am sure I shall be making some changes as I think the group needs a bit of a shake-up and I am determined to fulfil their aspirations, which include retaking control of the council.”

He replaces Colin Sykes, who lost his Stanway seat in Thursday's elections, and will take over the reins when his year of office ends on May 17. Current deputy leader, Anne Turrell, will be acting leader until then.

The Conservatives have 30 seats on the borough council, the Liberal Democrats 21, Labour seven, and Highwoods Independents two.

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