THE Conservatives are set to take control of Colchester Council - for the first time in 13 years.

After Thursday’s election the Lib Dem and Labour coalition was left with just 23 seats between them, one less than they started the night out with.

The Tories failed to secure a majority, also holding 23 seats, and Lib Dem leader of the council Mark Cory said discussions were ongoing to form a renewed progressive alliance.

However, the Conservative Group has now confirmed it has reached an agreement with the Highwoods Independent Group to form a new joint administration for the next year.

The Highwoods Independents are made up of Gerard Oxford, his wife, Beverly and their son, Philip.

The two groups combined have 26 seats... on the 51-seat council.

Mrs Oxford, group leader of the Highwoods Independents, said her group were not Conservatives and their voices would remain independent.

She said: “I haven’t suddenly turned blue overnight. I have made it clear I will vote against them if I so wish, even on the cabinet, which is different from the previous alliance.

"I think the Lib Dems and Labour have become complacent and think it doesn’t matter how we do things we are always going to have the support.

"They don’t seem to listen to anyone and I think they have lost their way in Colchester.

“Running Colchester Council should be about residents, not about politics.

“We spoke to the Conservatives and we seemed to have more in common with them than we did anyone else.”

The Highwoods Independents quit the coalition in November 2019, supporting the administration on a vote-by-vote basis.

Mrs Oxford said the group had clashed with the administration over some key projects such as building homes on Vineyard Street and the Britannia car parks.

She said: “We were totally against building on the car parks but the attitude was ‘no we are going to do it’. That lead to us leaving the cabinet.”

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Paul Dundas, leader of the Conservative group, said: “We have had extremely productive discussions over the last few days and have found we have a great deal in common in our visions for Colchester.

“At the heart of this is that we both agree Colchester always comes first.

Alliance - Colchester Conservative leader Paul Dundas and (inset) Highwoods Independents Gerard and Beverley Oxford

Alliance - Colchester Conservative leader Paul Dundas and (inset) Highwoods Independents Gerard and Beverley Oxford

“I would like to thank Beverly and Gerard for the extremely open way they have conducted negotiations and it is clear from our discussions they put Highwood’s and Colchester’s needs above anything else.

“Over the next 12 months it will be extremely valuable to me to have such experienced and knowledgeable people on board.

“Over the next days and weeks we will begin to assemble a new team to take Colchester forward and we will begin to layout our policies in detail.”

The new ruling cabinet will consist of six councillors, with five Conservatives and one Highwoods Independent. Darius Laws (Rural North) has been appointed as the new deputy leader of the Tories.