Colchester LibDems are pledging to return power to residents, a new Colchester strategic transport policy and homes for ‘Colchester families.’
Unlike two years ago, #LiDemBees doesn’t feature in the 2018 local election manifesto.
The pledges have been published with three weeks until the next set of election by thirds held on 3rd May.
Seventeen seats across seventeen wards in the borough are up for grabs. The LibDems are defending Mile End, New Town & Christ Church, St Anne’s & St John’s and Stanway.
They will be optimistic of gaining Wivenhoe and possibly Castle wards, with Andrea Luxford-Vaughan and Jo Hayes standing respectively.
Candidates are everything…
The thoughtful manifesto goes under the title:
Our Borough, our future, our choice.
But only if Tim says so, YEAH?
Three main themes run throughout the eleven page manifesto:
The ‘returning power to residents’ is interesting – who took it in the first place?
The LibDems have been in power at the Town Hall for the past decade. You’d think they would have notice if someone had lifted on their watch.
The manifesto adds a little more detail:
“We want a Borough where the power to make decisions remains in hands of local people, where people in Colchester decide what’s best for them.”
Some people call this process democratic elections. They take place every three years out of four in Colchester, thanks to the LibDem backed elections-by-third system.
It’s also all about taking back control [steady] from Chelmsford.
The LibDems will:
“Petition the government to create a new unitary authority, based in Colchester, that takes on the powers of the district and county councils.”
Essex County Council is currently under the control of the Conservatives.
It’s a move that would actually get cross-party consensus at the Town Hall. Local Labour and Conservative Cllr’s are pretty fed up with the limitations of CBC.
That’s the polite way of putting it.
In short they they are pissed off at having to forever listen to residents banging on about bloody potholes, something which falls outside their remit.
Speaking of which…
The LibDems have pledged to set up Transport for Colchester – ‘a new strategic transport body.’
“We’ll get everyone with responsibility for the different parts of Colchester’s transport – the Department for Transport, Essex County Council, Highways England, Network Rail, Greater Anglia, bus companies, and groups representing users and businesses – to sit down together and plan for the future.”
Talk about an integrated transport system, etc.
It’s hardly a new idea, but one that often falls short. The problem is that you have corporate interests conflicting with civic responsibilities.
Which pretty much sums up the classic LibDem model…
The manifesto states:
“Seek ways to develop the public transport network that allow us to wholly or partly pedestrianise the High Street in ways that doesn’t reduce access to the Town Centre.”
Hang on – pedestrianise the High Street?
Where have we heard this one before?
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, etc.
Or more to the point, something borrowed from that blue rinse lot.
The LibDems will also:
“Work with rail companies to improve and reduce the cost of trains.”
Good luck with that one.
“Improve the condition of roads, pavements and pathways by bringing back true local control of repairs and maintenance.”
And we’re back to the POTHOLE argument for a unitary local authority.
There are few surprises in the housing policies being put forward by the LibDems for 2018:
The title of ‘Building Homes for Colchester Families‘ is something of a dog whistle statement.
It’s good to get that ‘Colchester families’ disclaimer in. No one like non-Colchester families, or even non-Colchester folk moving into the borough, right?
No one is denying that there is a waiting list for ‘Colchester families’ to be housed locally.
But when did this figure rise to 40,000+?
Yep – we’re talking about the bloody Garden Villages.
Building homes for Colchester Families is most definitely not what the bloody Garden Villages are all about.
But still the LibDems believe that the borough is best placed to deliver on housing and infrastructure:
“Developing new Garden Communities means Colchester will have more control over the development of new housing, and we’ll make full use of those powers to ensure we build new communities and provide housing solutions for the century to come.”
The bloody Garden Village debate is one that can’t be won. The LibLabIndie coalition supports it; the Tories at ECC support it along with subservient head nodding from the blue rinse lot in Sunny Colch.
It’s a question of managing the development.
Voters need to think who would they best trust to manage such a financially unstable project that has the potential to bankrupt CBC.
It’s all about the economy, stoopid.
So where will the new residents of the bloody Garden Villages all work?
The LibDems pledge to:
“Ensure there is provision for new jobs, community facilities, education and community open space within these developments.”
Sadly no one is owed a living.
Not even Mozza 🙁
Some of the bloody Garden Village employment stats that have come out of Cabinet are pure fantasy.
Meanwhile, this is our FAVE line in the LibDem manifesto:
“Seek to set aside space within these new communities as Housing Innovation Areas… encouraging low- and zero-carbon houses like Passivhaus and Earthship housing.”
We had to Google Passivhaus and Earthship housing. An estate with 24,000 Passivhaus and Earthship housing in West Tey could be quite an eye opener…
We also find out:
“Businesses are relocating into the borough, wage levels are rising, and more and more tourists are visiting here.”
Two outta three ‘aint bad, etc.
“Deliver the Northern Gateway development as a regional hub for sports, leisure and business, bringing new investment and new jobs to Colchester.”
True to their word the LibLabIndie alliance has been half decent at making progress on the Northern Gateway, despite some tricky hurdles to overcome.
This is a project that has significant economic and political investment. It won’t be allowed to fail.
It shows what can be achieved when the political will is there to get things done.
Compare and contrast with the AWOL Vineyard Gate.
Does anyone at the Town Hall still give a stuff about this?
Chest beating is on show:
“Promote the Borough widely as a place for growth and innovation, continuing schemes like the Colchester Ambassadors.”
The Chronic has many reservations and suspicions about the Colchester Ambassadors. We even bashed out a 2,000 word blog post to get these off our chest.
We read through the words once again in the cold light of day.
Our legal reservations prevented us from hitting the Publish button.
But good luck, Ambassadors, however you have managed to achieve such great civic status.
Some of the more innovative ideas in the LibDem manifesto address different models that the Council could operate under:
“Introduce ways where new and developing businesses can pay their business rates through equity shares and service provision to develop new links between business, the Council and the community.”
This is very forward thinking stuff. We’d been keen to see some more detail on this.
It sounds very similar to the Co-operative Council network that is being rolled out across mainly Labour administrations in the country.
When the #localgov economy is f-ed, you need to find new non-fiscal ways about doing local business.
Not so progressive is:
“Support the introduction of a Business Improvement District in the town centre, and when it starts, work alongside it to promote and develop the area.”
This is going to happen, right?
Very few BID ballots fail at the first hurdle. There is often very little publicity, or even explanation given to local traders about the consequences.
The Council’s bed partner Fenwick will be able to cough up the extra tax. But what about the new local start ups that are finding the trading conditions tough going in the town centre?
As with any legally binding tax, if you don’t pay then you end up in court with a hefty fine.
Careful what you wish for, Comrades.
A little internal navel-gazing is on display:
“Conduct a localism audit on all council expenditure to determine how we can best use its spending to boost the local economy and support local jobs.”
Now we’re talking.
Local authorities by law have to publish expenditure each month for any items clocking in at over £500. CBC does this on the rather fiddly Datashare portal.
A localism audit sounds like something that should be covered by the Governance Committee’s Audit Report each year. This is legally signed off by a trusted auditor.
So what’s new?
“We’ve taken the lead in protecting Colchester’s natural environment in a number of ways, from the Council’s free ‘Trees for Years’ scheme through to improving our recycling rate and drastically cutting the amount of waste that goes to landfill.”
Trees for Years is ACE.
The recycling rate figures do seem to suggest that the change has been a success. There is still some concern about fly-tipping, recycling rates in flats, dumping black bins bags in tips, etc.
But the cultural shift was handled rather well.
“We’ve secured investment in many of our facilities, including a redevelopment of the Castle and the recently announced multi-million pound Mercury Rising project to expand and improve our theatre.”
Tim is going to BLOODY LOVE this.
It gets a little parochial with:
“Investigate sites and funding for historical-themed public art, such as a life-size Roman centurion for people to take selfies with.”
Isn’t Darius the current Go-To-Boy in the borough if you want a Rent-a-Roman?
Do you think the Tory Leader comes cheap?
Speaking of which:
“Seek ways to fund the permanent lighting of heritage buildings that doesn’t cut the funding available for other work within them.”
Bright idea, etc.
Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, etc.
“Develop more guided walks and heritage trails, including long walks that link several parts of the Borough.”
It should keep Sir Bob busy, if nothing else.
We rather like:
“Seek to develop more fitness opportunities accessible to all the community such as outdoor gyms in parks and open space.”
This has already been delivered around the borough with some success. LibDem Cllr Mark Cory partnered well with Wivenhoe Town Council to deliver the outdoor gym overlooking the river.
Related to this is:
“Continue to support organisations like Parkrun and GoodGym that provide a fantastic service and opportunities to the local community.”
We’re not quite sure precisely how the LibDems support Parkrun in an official capacity.
It is noted that there are some very decent volunteers from the LibDems on stewarding duties around Castle Park.
But it all comes back to the elections, and more specifically it all comes back to how the LibDems can hold on to a power:
“Request the power to run our local elections using a fairer and more representative electoral system, like the Single Transferable Vote used in Scotland and Northern Ireland and proposed for use in Wales.”
Overall this is a well thought out manifesto. It connects local Sunny Colch issues with national issues. Many ideas across different levels of local government are addressed.
It at least gives residents a choice – the classic LibDem compromise manifesto compared to what is a classic Tory cut and run manifesto.
But will it be convincing enough to retain those four seats and gain another couple?
We suspect that the choice of candidates will play stronger on the doorstep than any well considered policy document.
Anyone seen a Labour manifesto btw?