Tories in Colchester poised for return

FAMILIAR faces from the past could be returning to frontline politics in Colchester as the town's Conservative group looks ever more likely to try to form an administration, the EADT can reveal.

By Roddy Ashworth

FAMILIAR faces from the past could be returning to frontline politics in Colchester as the town's Conservative group looks ever more likely to try to form an administration, the EADT can reveal.

The Tories surprised everyone at last week's local elections by gaining four seats in the borough, while the Liberal Democrats – with whom the Conservatives currently share power – lost two.

The subsequent make up of the 60 seat council – Conservatives 28, Lib Dems 23, Labour six and Independents three – means if the Tories can get the agreement of just three councillors they will be able to kick the Lib Dems into opposition.


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This could be done by forming an administration with the blessing of just the Independent members – if they are agreeable – but another option could be to approach Labour and suggest a "Rainbow Alliance" of all non-Lib Dem councillors.

Given the history and make up of both groups, a Lib/Lab pact seems to be unlikely.

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If either of these approaches were successful, Tory group leader John Jowers would need to appoint four new cabinet members to take over those portfolios vacated by the ousted Lib Dems.

Last night speculation was growing among pundits about who from the current Tory group Mr Jowers might parachute in to fill the empty seats.

Former group leader Nigel Chapman – an experienced local politician who resigned from the cabinet in order to take on the year-long role of Colchester mayor – could be asked to resume frontline duties.

And former cabinet member Nick Taylor is also a possibility.

Former transport supremo Christopher Arnold, who was shuffled out of the cabinet in order to chair the borough's overview and scrutiny panel, could also be in the frame for a return to cabinet – but his re-admittance to the fold may come at a cost in terms of the portfolio he is offered.

Nobody from the Tory or Labour groups was prepared to comment on the current situation, as negotiations continue.

But current council leader, Lib Dem Colin Sykes, said: "I think that as the largest group on the council, and if able to get the support of the Independents arithmetically having a majority, the Conservatives could be able to form an administration at the council's annual meeting and that is what I would expect John to do.

"If that is the case, the Lib Dems will go into constructive opposition and prepare to retake our pre-eminent position as leading group in Colchester in 2006."

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