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.
The LibDems also asked me to "lend" them my vote. Who are you borrowing it from? When does the organisation that has lent it to you get it back? Is lending the new tactical voting? Never borrow, never lend, Comrade. https://t.co/hLpUEvmyBQ
— Colchester Chronicle (@ColchChronic) April 5, 2018
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.
“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.
@dariusglaws @Cllr_J_Young @ColchesterBoy1 @MarkGoacher @CllrKBentley @willbramhill @ColchChronic ECC's Cycle Design Forum was a positive step towards re-establishing good relations between officers and cyclists. Here's advice to keep politics out if we want to make real progress https://t.co/Yk6y53EKYx
— Pam Nelson (@PamNelsonColch) April 8, 2018
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?