Labour Put Forward Claim to Control the Town Hall

We’re late to the party with the Colchester Labour manifesto for the local elections on 3rd May – much like the Labour party itself, which was the final party publish its plans.

We say ‘publish’ – the local paper stated that it was available on the party’s Facebook page and website.

It wasn’t.

The party’s website is currently under construction; FB is full of happy smiley selfies of the Comrades doing the #labourdoorstep thing.

A bit of prompting from The Chronic led to the manifesto being published on the personal website of Cllr Rosalind Scott of all people.

Is she now the spokesperson for Colchester Labour?

Remember: the medium isn’t always the message, etc.

But we got there in the end.

There is a grand, sweeping title:

Making Colchester for the many, not the few

This wasn’t quite the case three years ago when Progress candidate Jordan Newell was put up as the ‘Labour’ candidate in the General Election.

We wonder whatever happened to Jordan and his Progress pals in the local Labour party?

Interesting times, Comrades etc.

Despite the internal divisions taking place behind the scenes, the local party has done well to come up with a unified manifesto.

As ever, you have to ask which Labour party you are voting for on 3rd May: the democratic socialism of that nice Mr Corbyn, or the free market model that props up the LibDems at the Town Hall.

It comes as little surprise to see that the Labour manifesto is remarkably similar to the LibDem effort.

I guess that answers our question about who triumphed in the ‘what Labour party are we today’ competition when the manifesto was being penned.

A bold claim hits you early on:

“Labour in Colchester has the vision, support and determination to achieve a Labour-led local Council at the 2018 elections.”

Are we talking Laour-led outright, or Labour-led as being the senior partner in the coalition of convenience?

Both options are optimistic tbh.

The main themes are:

“Taking Local Control of Local Services”

We’re talking about a unitary revolution here.

“Quality of Life for All”

One of those nice manifesto platitudes that all political parties make. They mean bugger all.

And:

“Local Community Determination of our Local Economy”

Blimey.

Unilateral economic determinism.

As mentioned – we doubt if Comrade Jordan put his hand to writing this manifesto.

The manifesto then attempts to set out the track record of the local Labour party whilst it has been propping up the LibDem party at the Town Hall.

It includes:

“Built the first council houses in Colchester for over thirty years;

Significantly increased the Borough’s recycling rate;

Committed £3.6m funding for new temporary housing solutions and homelessness support;

A real ‘Living Wage’ for council employees and contractors;

Introduced locality budgets for ward councillors to fund start up projects;

Welcomed and supported Syrian refugees (the 1st Essex council to do so;”

It’s a decent track record with some very welcome changes.

All these have been delivered with the support of the local LibDems, don’t forget.

We also find that Colchester Labour has:

“Significantly increased visitor and tourism numbers.”

Or more to the point – Colchester Labour has continued to use a system to count tourists that basically tells a pile of big fat porkies.

6M my hairy arse.

There is also the claim:

“Kept employment levels high and unemployment low.”

Betcha Will Quince will have something to say about this…

The manifesto then sets out how Labour will tackle housing, planning and homelessness.

As the Cabinet have been told many, many times – these three areas are not mutually inclusive.

At the top of the list we have:

“Building more council houses.”

DOH!

But as Labour Cabinet member Cllr Tina Bourne is all to fond of telling residents, it’s not that simple.

Some other half decent policies follow:

“Introducing rent controls on Houses of Multiple Occupation;

Increasing the number of staff providing housing advice;

Investigate local rent controls and letting agent duties;”

Note the use of the phrase ‘investigating.’ As ever, it is not a criminal offence to be slightly economical with the truth in the promises that you make in an election manifesto.

After reeling out some one-liners about housing and planning, we then get a weighty paragraph all about the bloody Garden Villages.

Oh Lordy.

This has been a difficult balancing act for the Labour careerists in Cabinet. They know that they need to push the bloody Garden Villages through to keep the coalition cosy.

But the branch meetings around the borough have witnessed some rather uncomfortable internal opposition from local party members.

The official response in the manifesto is:

*deep breath*

“Ensuring the proposed garden settlements to the east and west of the Borough are well designed, with significant amounts of affordable housing (which must include social housing for rent), with the infrastructure put in first including the link road between the A120 and the A133 and no residential development south of the A133. There must be significant employment zones within the garden settlements so that they do not become ‘dormitory’, soulless places purely for commuters to London. Also ensuring that there are defensible and sizeable green buffers between the garden settlements and existing communities. Support modern waste collection and sustainable waste systems in these settlements, provide state of the art play areas, green spaces, country parks, cycleways and transport solutions so that they are desirable and attractive places to live and work;”

Phew.

And relax.

There’s enough disclaimers and reverse ferret opportunities in there to keep the party foot soldiers signed up, Tim.

Well done you.

On the environment:

“Commencing a debate and a plan to pedestrianise the High Street within three years;”

This is more or less the same policy as the LibDems and the Tories. It is only the Green party in Colchester that doesn’t support such a move.

There is a very good argument that suggests that if you shift the pollution problem out of the High Street, you only push it elsewhere.

A more wider debate is needed on how to reduce pollution itself.

Colchester Labour also pledge:

“Investigating a community bike system similar to London and other cities in the UK;”

Note the use of the term ‘investigating’ once again.

Regeneration is referenced in the Labour manifesto. This includes completing the Northern Gateway and backing the Business Improvement District.

BID’s tend to favour big business. Local authorities elsewhere prosecute local traders who refuse to sign up to the scheme.

We’re sure that Colchester Labour will take part in an honest debate with local businesses in the lead up to the vote on introducing the BID…

Meanwhile, In Wheelie Bin News:

“Evaluating the effectiveness of wheelie bins, to determine the appropriateness, with agreement, following consultation of rolling them out to other parts of the Borough;”

Good luck with that one in Wivenhoe, Comrades.

A more general rambling heading of ‘Protecting the Borough for future generations and give financial and economic stability’ covers:

“Leading a campaign to make Colchester Borough the central player in a new unitary authority releasing us from the shackles of Essex County.”

#shackles

“Supporting the redevelopment plans for Queen Street, the Mercury Theatre and the new Vineyard Gate proposals;”

No mention of funding is given.

“Allowing the media to question the Cabinet at bi-monthly open sessions.”

One would hope that the media – and residents – can question Cabinet whenever they chuffing want.

The manifesto concludes:

“For the first time in a generation there is a genuine chance that Colchester Borough Council could become a Labour-led local authority after the 2018 elections.”

Let us remind ourselves that the Labour party is currently the minority party at the Town Hall. The Tories and the LibDems each hold more seats.

We get more of an admission when the manifesto adds:

“The Labour Party is aiming to make gains so that it can be in a dominant position when discussing the make-up of the administration that will run Colchester Borough Council for, at least, the next twelve months.”

So that will be another LibLabIndie administration then.

Which begs the question: if you want to keep out the Tory bogeyman in the borough, then you can vote tactically in your ward. There is little difference between a vote for Labour and a vote for the LibDems.

Residents in Shrub End, Castle, Mile End, New Town & Christ Church, St Anne’s & St John’s, Stanway and Wivenhoe might like to consider this.

Plus:

If you want to see which side of the Labour party the Colchester CLP is currently aligning with, then this event with Alex Nunns on Sunday would be a half decent indicator.

Most Colchester Labour Cllr’s actually believed that Yvette Cooper would make a good Labour Leader back in 2015.

Interesting times, Comrades.

Interesting times.

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