Tories set to take control of council
By Ted JeoryTHE Conservatives are set to run a council for the first time in 17 years - with a pledge not to ignore the plight of villagers.John Jowers, leader of the Tories on Colchester Borough Council, signalled last night his intention to “go it alone” and take the reins of power after overhauling the Liberal Democrats in last week's elections.
By Ted Jeory
THE Conservatives are set to run a council for the first time in 17 years - with a pledge not to ignore the plight of villagers.
John Jowers, leader of the Tories on Colchester Borough Council, signalled last night his intention to “go it alone” and take the reins of power after overhauling the Liberal Democrats in last week's elections.
Now with 28 councillors, the Conservatives have become the largest group on the 60-member council, although they remain three seats short of an overall majority.
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Mr Jowers said he was preparing to end the current power-sharing agreement with the Liberal Democrats, but insisted no deals had been done with either the six-strong Labour group or any of the three Independent councillors.
If his proposal is accepted at a full council meeting following the mayor-making ceremony on June 23, the Mersea fisherman will become the new leader of the council.
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Mr Jowers said that would be “good news” to people living in villages and other rural areas of the Colchester borough.
“That's where we want our emphasis to be. We have got to move away from this big brother attitude that central councils know best,” he added.
“It's those 60,000 people on the ground that know their stuff. We in the borough council have to be kinder, gentler and more sympathetic to those areas.
“We've worked well with the Lib-Dems in a joint administration, but now it's time for us to take over.”
Mr Jowers acknowledged “hard decisions” on budgets would have to be made, but stressed money would be spent where necessary.
“Transport will also be a top priority. We must have a park and ride for Colchester. We must make our streets cleaner and we must make them safer and more respectable at night,” he said.
Abberton and Langenhoe Parish Council chairman, Stephen Miller, welcomed Mr Jowers' promise.
“We have been very impressed by Mr Jowers, who seems to take the villages seriously. He has actually bothered to come and see us and talk about the issues we're interested in,” he said.
“For example, why should we have to pay two council taxes? We have to pay for our own street lighting, as well as for those in the town centre. Urban people make no contribution to ours and it doesn't seem quite fair.”
But Liberal Democrat leader Colin Sykes, who has led the council for four of the past six years, cautioned against a dramatic policy shift to rural areas. “There are far more people living in urban areas than rural ones in the borough. There always needs to be a balance,” he said.
“It doesn't surprise me that John Jowers wishes to go it alone. We wish him well and look forward to constructive opposition - it will give us time to re-focus.”
Labour leader, Tim Young added: “I hope the Tories just don't turn their backs on the larger housing estates simply because they don't have many votes in those areas.
“They need to represent the whole of Colchester - not just their own pockets of supporters.”
Gerard Oxford and his wife Beverley, both Highwoods Independent councillors, find themselves potential powerbrokers.
But Mr Oxford said: “We will vote on an issue by issue basis, based firstly on how it affects Highwoods and secondly the borough.”