New look at Colchester town hall

LABOUR abandoned any aspirations to power in Colchester when local activists decreed the party should not serve on a cabinet which included Conservative members.

LABOUR abandoned any aspirations to power in Colchester when local activists decreed the party should not serve on a cabinet which included Conservative members.

The one Labour cabinet member, group leader Tim Young, effectively fell on his sword after attempts to broker a post-election coalition deal with Liberal Democrats – forcing the Conservatives on to the back benches – fell through.

Pre-election talk of such an alliance on Colchester Borough Council was silenced after some members of the Liberal Democrat group refused to contemplate the proposition.

The former make-up of the town's cabinet, which had previously consisted of three Conservatives, three Liberal Democrats and one Labour member Mr Young, will now be scrapped.

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Instead the cabinet will be made up of eight members, four Conservatives and four Liberal Democrats. Current Liberal Democrat council leader Colin Sykes will retain his position and hold a casting vote, reflecting his party's one-seat majority on the council.

Two senior Conservatives look set to lose their cabinet places. Christopher Arnold, former traffic supremo, is expected to take up the chairmanship of the Borough's Overview and Scrutiny Panel, and Nick Taylor, former portfolio holder for resources, is likely to chair the Best Value panel.

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Labour emerged from last week's elections with one gain, but at the weekend, councillor for Wivenhoe Quay Bob Newman, said he would refuse to take the local group's whip in the council chamber.

Mr Newman said although he had no intention of resigning from the national party, recent in-fighting amongst the ever-diminishing council group had detracted from the business of serving his electors.

He has now teamed up with Independent Labour member Don Quinn to form the two-man Wivenhoe and St Andrews' Group.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives on Braintree District Council have decided to form a coalition with the Independents.

The Conservatives won 10 seats in last Thursday's election, making it the largest group on the council, with 27 seats.

Tory leader David Finch said the group had decided not to form a majority minority party executive, but to offer positions of power to the council's seven Independents.

He added it would be up to the Independents to decide whether they wanted to offer any of their places to the council's four Liberal Democrats and two Greens.

Independents spokesman Michael Gage, of Halstead Residents' Association, which has five seats on the council, said he would be taking the Conservatives' offer to his group and it would discuss it over the next few days.

Referring to offering seats to the Liberal Democrats and Greens, he said: "I would think the possibility of giving away any opportunity we had to influence power to others would be unlikely."

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