RESIDENTS go to the polls today and this election will shape the make-up of Colchester Council for the next year.

At the moment, Colchester Council is run by a coalition of the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Highwoods Independents.

The Conservative Party is the largest single group but is three seats short of an overall majority, meaning it is the only party in opposition at the moment.

It means there are a number of potential scenarios.

It’s possible - perhaps even likely - there will be little change.

The Lib Dems, who lead the rainbow coalition, will be confident of regaining most of the seats they hold - but not without competition.

That means Mile End, New Town and Christchurch, St Anne’s and St John’s and Stanway.

In Mile End, despite former cabinet member Dominic Graham stepping down, his replacement David King has a good profile, being a long-term member of Myland Community Council.

It is likely he will hold off the charge of Conservative Thomas Rowe.

It remains to be seen, however, what effect Independent Jason Leonard will have on voters given his innovative plans to introduced a form of e-democracy to Mile End. Most punters will be betting on a Lib Dem win, though.

Current council leader Paul Smith is almost certain to reclaim St Anne’s and St John’s while waste boss Jessica Scott-Boutell will face quite a fight in Stanway against Conservative Paul Dundas. That ward is too tough to call.

That leaves New Town and Christchurch as a key battleground.

With stalwart Annie Feltham standing down in the former, there is no clear frontrunner there although Labour appear confident newcomer Lorcan Whitehead could sneak it.

From a Conservative point of view, Lexden and Braiswick, Marks Tey and Layer, Prettygate, Rural North and Tiptree seem likely to stay in blue hands.

Tory bosses would like to add Shrub End to that list but word is both Labour and the Lib Dems are putting up quite a fight.

Castle ward will be key for the Conservatives, with sitting councillor Daniel Ellis having stood down to pursue other interests.

Their new candidate, Simon Crow, is up against Labour’s Norma Dinnie-Weall, former councillor and Lib Dem, Jo Hayes, and Green Party leader Mark Goacher.

Mr Goacher’s election literature states his party is the only one which can defeat the Conservatives.

But given the Lib Dems picked up a total of 2,442 votes in the all-out elections in 2016, he could have a job on his hands. He will, at the very least, have a say in who wins. Make no mistake, it wouldn’t take a miracle for the popular Sixth Form College history teacher to win.

For Labour, it will be a priority to hold on to Wivenhoe in the face of a challenge from relatively new Lib Dem - and former high profile independent - Andrea Luxford-Vaughan.

Berechurch, Greenstead and Old Heath and the Hythe would appear to be red strongholds.

Perhaps the ward which will draw the most eyes in the early hours of Friday morning is Mersea and Pyefleet, where Independent John Akker is taking aim at Tory stalwart Robert Davidson.

The independent will be buoyed from his performance in the county council election last year, when he garnered 1,058 votes and placed second behind winner John Jowers, with 2,555.

Highwoods will only go one way and independent Philip Oxford is nailed-on.

What will change?

THE short answer is... probably very little.

That’s the advantage and disadvantage of having elections by thirds.

By and large that system leads to fairly stable authorities, simply because the scope for change is so small.

There are those who will argue that’s for the best while others will say instead of stability, it leads to staleness. There are fierce fights to be had in Castle, Mersea and Pyefleet, New Town and Christchurch, Stanway and - perhaps - in Wivenhoe.

Aside from them, I expect few surprises and in all likelihood, there is a high chance you could all wake up on Friday morning and find the make up of the council is roughly the same as it was when you went to bed.

If there is to be any change, it is likely to come in Stanway, New Town or Castle. Crucially, the latter two do not have sitting councillors on the ballot list.

It’s no secret the Conservatives are targetting Stanway and they’ll be hopeful of a gain there.

But that will only matter if they can fight off competition in Castle and Mersea and Pyefleet.

In all likelihood, the Tory group will remain the largest single party on the council, but will remain in opposition.

Opposition, though, is not to be sneered at.

My home is Northern Ireland and if there is one thing the institutions need there, it’s someone to keep the ruling parties in check.

There is a difference between ‘an’ opposition (those not in power) and ‘the’ opposition.

That’s democracy. If you do well in opposition - pointing out mistakes by the ruling parties and suggesting alternatives - it will get you far.

And an effective opposition is a force for good and ultimately makes the town a better place.

But... show me a party satisfied with being in opposition?

What the groups have to say

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Election in numbers 

  • There are 135,155 people registered to vote across the borough - that's more than 5,000 more than the number last year (129,692)
  • 19,558 postal ballots have been issued for this year's election
  • In recent years, the poll which drove the most turnout was the EU referendum, with 75 per cent 
  • In 2016, the lowest turnout was in Shrub End, with 28 per cent 
  • There are 17 seats up for election