Colchester Conservatives Ditch Commissioning Council

The Colchester Conservatives are first out of the block with their manifesto [pdf] for the local elections taking place on 3rd May.

This is not surprising, seeing as though the Tories have the most ground to make up.

Three seats out of the seventeen up for grabs need to be taken by the Tories if they are to form an overall administration. Plus they will need to retain the eight seats they are defending.

This is the first manifesto and campaign under the new leadership of Cllr Darius Laws.

There is no mention of CBC becoming a Commissioning Council, something that his predecessor Cllr Dennis Willetts was keen to promote.

Darius does ask residents to “lend” their vote to his party.

This is a phrase that the LibDems also roll out. At best it is optimistic, at worst it is patronising.

It assumes that the electorate is easily persuadable and their vote is a trading token at the ballot box.

What will residents receive in return for this philanthropic act of political kindness?

Never borrow, never lend etc.

Changes to the electoral system are pledged though.

The BONKERS election by thirds system is something that the Conservatives don’t support – which is not surprising seeing as they have most to lose from it.

Civic administrations running a full four years for all 51 seats is the preferred system.

Darius does his big meet ‘n’ greet speech at the front of the manifesto by declaring:

“We promise we will make Colchester an even better, safer, cleaner and nicer play in which to work, live and play.”


It is pretty meaningless to be honest. Such sweeping platitudes are used by all political parties. They mean absolutely nothing.

It’s all about the dog shit, innit?

The language is also in need of a tidy up when the manifesto talks about an ‘infrastructure deficit.’

We think this means that the roads around the borough are a bit rubbish.

Repairing them is something that CBC doesn’t have the power to do. This is an Essex Highways issue that falls under the control of Essex County Council.

But wait!

What’s this?

“A Conservative run Borough Council will have the ear of Essex Highways and the government.”

Sounds a little like cronyism to be honest.

Shouldn’t the administration at the Town Hall have the ear of Essex Highways, irrespective of party politics?

A detailed passage on infrastructure follows. There is no direct reference to the bloody Garden Villages.

This is deliberate. The bloody Garden Villages are a Sunny Colch circle that can’t be squared.

They are coming to the east and west of our borough, irrespective of who is head nodding them through at the Town Hall.

All three parties have signed up to the principle. Darius’ Tory pals over in Chelmsford are even business partners with CBC in the North Essex Garden Communities company.

Some scrutiny has been given by the Conservatives to the planned bloody Garden Village out in the east.

This is also the happy hunting ground for Tory votes in the borough…

A free bus shuttle service is pledged between the town centre and Tollgate Village for when it opens.

This is a decent move, although we doubt if the Tollgate demographic is for shoppers boarding a bus with a bag full of groceries. You try hiking a 60 inch plasma screen on to the back seat of a bus.

Meanwhile, off-peak two hour parking for the town centre is promised.


Let’s improve our rubbish roads by encouraging more people to clog up the streets in their cars.

There are some decent words regarding cycling around Colchester:

“Making sure cycling provision isn’t just an add-on but part of the overall multi-layered transport system.”

Whatever happened to Colchester Cycling Town?

In short, the money ran out – with little left to show for it.

Parking wardens will become ‘multi-skilled enforcement officers’ under a Tory administration.

We hope they will be suitably trained – and paid.

And then we come to heritage…

“I make no secret of wanting to ensure our heritage assets are lit up at night to improve the evening economy experience.”

You don’t say.

This is the worst kept secret in Sunny Colch.

The J-word is almost mentioned with a promise to build a:

“restaurant in the sky.”

What would Sir like to order?

Pie in the sky please, waiter.

Those 6M tourists that Labour and the LibDems are keen to talk up will be pleased to hear about:

“Introducing a multi-site ticket scheme for the Castle, Zoo and Roman Circus Centre.”

Does Colchester Zoo know about this?

As for music lovers?

There is the idea of:

“Introducing classical music in council-run car parks.”

Vote WINNER (although to be fair the policy isn’t aimed at attracting classical music buffs to the car parks of Colchester – quite the reverse…)

A return to a weekly black bin collection is another pledge.

This SHOUTS of Parish Pump Politics, rather than looking at the wider structural issues.

But it is what local government is all about. Focus on the policy areas that you can actually change, rather than makes promises that are beyond your control.

Ditto for the ‘greater collaboration with Colchester in Bloom’ – this is micro level policies, but they work.

Other areas include:

“Ensuring the Vineyard Gate development is balanced between retail, leisure and residential.”

It is not possible to compare this with LibLab Cabinet plans as they have been so secretive since the last collapse of the project.

Finally a ‘fair deal for villages and parishes’ is promised.

This is a reference to how the rural towns and villages are stung twice with their Council tax precept.

Residents are asked to pay for services such as bins being emptied – something that people living in the town centre don’t have to cough up for twice.

And so a half decent start from Darius. He has impressed during his first few Full Council sessions.

The manifesto marks a significant change from the Commissioning Council model that failed to give the Conservatives an overall majority.

But will it be enough to retain those eight seats and gain three more?

Oh yeah – has anyone see a LibDem, Labour or Green manifesto yet?

Do the Highwoods Indies even know what a manifesto is?

2 thoughts on “Colchester Conservatives Ditch Commissioning Council

  • 9th Apr 2018 at 11:02 am

    My name is Neil Gilbranch. I am standing independently in the Marks Tey and Layer Ward.
    I have started delivering my leaflet outlining my offering and speaking to people out and about, gathering peoples views where possible.

    The main issue is of course the Local Plan, ie. Garden Town and of course the A12 but by no means the only issue. The overriding comment on the local plan is that people don’t want it and they don’t fully understand it because the information is poor. To be able to fully grasp the enormity of it you have to give up your life and spend hours researching. Then you will find that much is propaganda and spin, leading you down the wrong path.

    So I intend to keep asking the people that count, the electors, what they want and don’t want.

    Other “smaller” issues that have come to light are footpaths in a poor and in places dangerous condition and street lights not working for weeks despite residents reporting them. No money possibly to upkeep the infrastructure we’ve already got, but we can spend millions on developing a local plan for which I’m struggling to find any supporters.

    As for a manifesto. That’s an interesting subject. At a local level its the views of the electors that count, not the candidates or the party. At this stage it looks like a call for a referendum on the Local Plan should be top of the list.

  • 9th Apr 2018 at 6:47 pm

    No emphasis in manifesto of CBC becoming a Commissioning Council because the Council has taken our policy on board and is now heading in that direction. CBC has set up three commercial companies under the parent organisation of Colchester Commercial (Holdings) Ltd, which went live on 1 April 2018:

    Colchester Amphora Trading Ltd (CATL), takes over the management of Colchester Events Company, which promotes and hires out a variety of council venues and assets for functions, weddings and concerts and Helpline, a care line service supporting vulnerable residents in the borough with a growing list of currently nearly 2,000 customers, and provides professional property and commercial development skills and expertise to the Council and other public and private sector clients to deliver a range of estate management, economic regeneration and commercial investment.

    Colchester Amphora Homes Ltd (CAHL) is a housing development company established to provide a local solution to the provision of high quality new homes for sale and rent. It is designed to help stimulate house building and bring innovation into the construction sector, whilst increasing the number of affordable homes delivered and providing a commercial return to the council. It will work with a range of private and public sector partners delivering and creating value through innovation, partnership working, joint ventures and an entrepreneurial approach.

    Colchester Amphora Energy Ltd (CAEL), managing the development of a new low carbon heat network for the council, one of nine projects funded by the Government’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as part of its first wave of Heat Network’s Delivery Unit (HNDU) funding. The company will grow the number of localised heat and power sites across the borough and continue to seek opportunities to work in partnership to deliver low carbon sources of energy for local people. CAEL are part of the North-East Energy Group, working with partners and local businesses to identify opportunities to grow the energy sector.

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