ARMS-length companies remove councillors from decision making processes, Colchester’s High Steward has claimed.

The town’s former MP Sir Bob Russell raised the issue at a meeting of Colchester Council’s governance and audit committee.

Sir Bob said the creation of arms-length firms, such as Colchester Amphora Trading Limited, was not transparent and was undemocratic.

He said: “It is bad enough we have a Cabinet of eight and 43 councillors are not involved in the decision-making process and it is bad enough they have executive power, so one makes a decision and 50 don’t.

“Increasingly councillors do not know what is going on, let alone being involved in the decision-making process.

“I am in favour of councils being financially competent, good husbandry and all that, but democratic accountability and the involvement of elected councillors should take priority.

“They are the people’s representatives at the town hall, not the town hall’s representatives to the people.”

Colchester Council formed Colchester Amphora Energy, Colchester Amphora Homes and Colchester Amphora Trading in 2018.

Last year, they brought in a total turnover of £4.2 million and a profit of £286,000, which will be reinvested into council service.

Committee chairman Chris Pearson (Lab, Berechurch) said the firms were created after a detailed council process.

He said: “The Amphora set of companies was set up via an open process. I was a member of the trading board which made the decision to establish those. It wasn’t made by a cabinet member but after a rigorous test.”

He added: “Three years ago I started a process ensuring the council was open and transparent as possible.

“It is essential and I share your sentiment, we are elected to represent constituents and the totality of the constituency of Colchester.”