What now for Colchester?

SHOCKED local politicians will todaybe debating the results of borough elections in Colchester which mean it is almost certain the council will end up with a new leader.

SHOCKED local politicians will todaybe debating the results of borough elections in Colchester which mean it is almost certain the council will end up with a new leader.

Conservative fortunes at the ballot box on Thursdaysaw the party leap ahead to gain an unexpected four seats, making them the largest party in the council chamber.

The current joint administration at the town hall which currently sees power shared between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, could be in jeopardy if either party decides to go it alone.

The Tories' four gains leave the group with 28 seats on the 60-strong council, with the Liberal Democrats down two from previously with just 23.

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Labour made one gain on Thursday and the party now holds six seats, while the number of independents has halved from six to three.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Stanway, Gwen Ilot, who was first elected in 1998, and Wivenhoe's Independent member Bob Newman – first elected in 1990 – were among those who lost their seats.

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The Liberal Democrats performance means that for the first time since 1987 it is not the largest political group on the council.

This may mean members will vote against continuing to power share, leaving the Tories at the cabinet table with no overall majority – and subsequently extremely vulnerable to a number of types of opposition.

The basic options for the Conservatives are to try and run a minority administration of 28, to carry on a joint administration with the Liberal Democrats – if they will agree – and claim one extra cabinet seat.

Also they could try and form a coalition with the three independent members, thus giving them an overall majority (31 seats), to try and form a "Rainbow Alliance" with the Labour Group and the Independents to keep the Liberal Democrats at arms' reach.

Tory group leader John Jowers, who could be the new leader of the council, said while pleased with good results, there would have to be a lot of consideration and discussion about the way forward.

"I didn't expect this, I must say. I'm very pleased with the seats we have won.

"We are having a group meeting tomorrow. It would not be an easy road in administration – there are a lot of difficult decisions up ahead.

"Working with Colin has been great – I genuinely believe together we have done a lot of good for Colchester."

But Tim Young, leader of the Labour group, said: "I am presuming the Conervatives will try for form an administration. I would if I were in that position, being just two seats short of overall control.

"I'm pleased with how it went for us – the highlight was the result in East Donyland.

"Clearly, the Liberal Democrats have had a very bad election and the Conservatives have had a good one."

Liberal Democrats leader Colin Sykes, currently leader of the council, said: "I am very disappointed. The Euro election has stuffed us. A lot of extra votes have turned out.

"Colchester has gone the same way as many other councils across the southern part of England. We will be having a group meeting tomorrow."

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