AS we approach May's election, control of Colchester Council is teetering on a knife-edge.

The town hall is controlled by a coalition of Labour and the Lib Dems, who together hold 24 seats.

There are 51 seats in the borough, meaning the coalition is technically a minority administration.

The Highwoods Independents were part of what was then called the "rainbow alliance", but 18 months ago they packed their bags.

Support is now on a vote by vote basis, meaning there are some crunch votes on contentious issues.

The Conservative Group are the largest group on the council, holding 21 seats.

In May they need to secure an additional five, as well as hold all of their existing ones, to hold an overall majority.

There are 19 seats which will be fought in the forthcoming election across the borough’s 17 wards.

Two of the wards have two seats up for grabs, with two Conservative councillors having already stood down.

A number of the seats up for election are probably considered safe but some are genuinely too close to call.

If there is to be major change, something has to give, and most in the know would say the wards of Castle, New Town and Christ Church, Shrub End, St Anne's and St John's, Stanway and Wivenhoe could hold the key to the borough's future.

Here's a run down of the situation in each of the key battlegrounds (*denotes sitting councillor):


  • Martin Gillingham, Lib Dem
  • Fabian Green, Con
  • Richard Hill, Lab
  • Step Nissen, Green

The Lib Dems hold this seat at the moment, although sitting councillor Nick Barlow has decided to step down.

Other seats in the ward are held by the Tories and Greens.

In 2019's election, this ward threw up the story of the night when Tory leader Darius Laws (more on him later) was ousted by Colchester Sixth Form teacher Mark Goacher of the Greens.

The Greens will surely be buoyed by this recent success and could have a chance this time round.

However, the three other parties will have something to say about that. This one could be extremely close.

Expect the Alumno development to be an extremely important topic on the doorsteps.

New Town and Christ Church

  • Bob Brannan, Green
  • Pam Cox, Lab
  • Carla Hales, Con
  • Catherine Spindler, Lib Dem

Long-standing councillor, cabinet member and former Mayor Theresa Higgins is standing down in May.

The ward has one Lib Dem and one Labour councillor at the moment.

Expect this to be a two-way battle between Professor Pam Cox, of TV fame, and Catherine Spindler, who is well-known locally.

Depending on which way things go, it could mean a shift in power dynamics in the coalition.

Shrub End

  • Lyn Barton, Lib Dem*
  • Joe Johnson, Reform UK
  • Angela Linghorn-Baker, Con
  • David McCulloch, Lab
  • Blake Roberts, Green

Shrub End generally moves between the Tories and Lib Dem.

Until 2019 the Tories held two seats in the ward, when Vic Flores was beaten by Lib Dem Sam McCarthy.

Incumbent Lyn Barton is extremely well respected and it would be a surprise if she lost, but this is the kind of battle the Tories need to win if they want to take over the town hall.

St Anne’s and St John’s

  • Abigail Chambers, Lab
  • Mike Hogg, Lib Dem*
  • Pam Nelson, Green
  • Tom Rowe, Con

St Anne's and St John's has one Lib Dem and one Conservative councillor at the moment and will surely be a target for the Tories in May.

However, Mike Hogg is the longest serving councillor in the borough and known by some as the "grandfather of the council".

Veteran - the Lib Dems will be delighted veteran councillor Mike Hogg has decided to stand again

Veteran - the Lib Dems will be delighted veteran councillor Mike Hogg has decided to stand again

He had announced he planned to step down due to a Parkinson's diagnosis, but has decided to stand one more time.


  • Kevin Brown, Lab
  • Jeremy Hagon, Con
  • John McArthur, Green
  • Paul Williams, Lib Dem

Another seat which usually flip flops between the Tories and the Lib Dems.

Conservative councillor Fiona McLean is standing down so this one is likely to be close.

If the Tories want to get their majority, losing a seat in Stanway would be a huge blow.


  • Asa Aldis, Green
  • Michelle Burrows, Lib Dem
  • Jodie Clark, Con
  • Cyril Liddy, Lab*

Wivenhoe is traditionally a fight between Labour and Lib Dems anyway but this year former Wivenhoe Mayor Asa Aldis is standing for the Greens.

Battle - Labours Cyril Liddy is hoping to retain Wivenhoe, one of the hardest wards to call

Battle - Labour's Cyril Liddy is hoping to retain Wivenhoe, one of the hardest wards to call

This could split the vote three ways, particularly with environmental issues (and the impending 9,000 home new town on the border) extremely hot topics in the town.

The ward is a tough one to call.

Read more:

What about the rest of the wards?

The other 11 wards are traditionally seen as safe for one party or another, but there are still some big stories from each.

Of course just because they are traditionally safe, doesn't mean they will be this time round either. 


  • John Clifton, Green
  • Dave Harris, Labour*
  • Chris Piggott, Con
  • Mick Spindler, Lib Dem

Berechurch is a Labour stronghold and Dave Harris is one of the council's best known faces.

He'll expect to hold on to his seat.


  • Kevin Blair, Reform UK
  • Kemal Cufoglu, Green
  • Michael Hinton, Con
  • Chantelle-Louise Whyborn, Lib Dem
  • Julie Young, Lab*

Another Labour stronghold and deputy leader Julie Young will be confident of a good result.

It will be interesting to see which party Reform UK takes votes from, however.


  • Diane Baker, Reform UK
  • Clare Burgess, Green
  • Kieron Franks, Lib Dem
  • Jocelyn Law, Lab
  • Gerard Oxford, Ind*
  • Stephen Rowe, Con

It would be a huge shock if Highwoods Independent leader Gerard Oxford lost his seat.

Lexden and Braiswick

  • Roger Bamforth, Green
  • Sandra Culham, Lib Dem
  • Luke Hayes, Lab
  • Martin Leatherdale, Con
  • Kayleigh Rippinggale-Shaw, Lab
  • Dennis Willetts, Con*

There are two seats up for grabs in Lexden and Braiswick as Tory Brian Jarvis has stepped down already.

This is almost certain to bring the Conservatives one of seats they are in need of whilst Dennis Willets will be very confident of retaining his.

Marks Tey and Layer

  • Kevin Bentley, Con*
  • Neil Gilbranch, Ind
  • Mark Hull, Lib Dem
  • Amy Sheridan, Green
  • John Spademan, Lab

Most people are predicting Kevin Bentley is likely to be Essex County Council's leader after May when David Finch steps down - but he still needs to win his borough seat.

He's expected to walk it.

Mersea and Pyefleet

  • Peter Banks, Green
  • John Jowers, Con*
  • James Pey, Lab
  • Susan Waite, Lib Dem

Independent John Akker has decided against standing this year, which is a huge boost for the Tories.

He ran them extremely close in both 2018 and 2018, but they'll be confident of John Jowers succeeding this year.

Mile End

  • Pauline Bacon, Lab
  • Martin Goss, Lib Dem*
  • Amanda Kike, Green
  • Rachel Smith, Con

Mile End has three Lib Dem councillors at the moment and cabinet member Martin Goss will be confident of holding on to his seat.

Old Heath and Hythe

  • Soban Asghar, Lib Dem
  • Rowena Cable, Con
  • Andrew Canessa, Green
  • Mike Lilley, Lab*

Another Labour stronghold, expect public safety boss Mike Lilley to be returned.

The future of Middlewick Ranges, however, could prove a difficult subject on the doorstep.


  • Richard Bourne, Lab
  • John Burgess, Green
  • Natalie Edgoose, Green
  • Sue Lissimore, Con*
  • John Loxley, Lib Dem
  • Leigh Tate, Con
  • Victoria Weaver, Lab

Another ward with two seats up for grabs after Beverly Davies stepped down.

The Tories will expect to take both.

Rural North

  • Sue Bailey, Green
  • Diane Brown, Lab
  • William Brown, Lib Dem
  • Darius Laws, Con
  • Andrew Phillips, Reform UK

The big story here is the likelihood ex-Tory leader Darius Laws will be back on the council.

Returning - Mark Goacher of the Greens beat Darius Laws in 2019

Returning - Mark Goacher of the Greens beat Darius Laws in 2019

He'll be much more confident of winning in the safe Tory seat of Rural North than he was in Castle last time round.

Tiptree Ward

  • Roger Mannion, Con
  • Clare Smee, Green
  • Jennifer Stevens, Lib Dem
  • John Wood, Lab

Tiptree Conservative councillor John Elliot is standing down, but the Tories will expect to win in the village.

What are the possible outcomes?

The seven key election seats which hold the key to future of Colchester Council


There are several possible scenarios which could play out after May 6.

The Tories will be hoping they can make gains in wards like St Anne's and St John's and get to the magic number of councillors - 26.

This would mean a change in who is in control of the council and have huge ramifications for the future of the borough.

However, the result could see a host of other smaller changes in the dynamics at the town hall.

After a disappointing year in 2019, Labour will be hopeful of increasing their number of councillors.

This could mean there is a change in the power dynamic between the coalition.

However, if the Lib Dems see success in Stanway or Wivenhoe they could even strengthen their position further.

Maybe there's an outside chance the Highwoods Independents may even be persuaded to rejoin the coalition.

There are lots of different options and with many seats too close to call - I am glad I'm not a betting man.