THE Mayor of Colchester has defended the town’s heritage after calls were made for it to unite with the Suffolk town of Ipswich.

Colchester’s High Steward Sir Bob Russell has said the towns - which are 15 miles apart – should break free from county council control and create their own single tier authority.

The former Lib Dem MP and former Colchester mayor was given the civic title High Steward after losing the 2015 General Election.

But the call has been met with caution from Colchester’s mayor Julie Young who feared the town could be “undermined” if the alliance was struck.

Mrs Young, who is a borough and Essex county councillor, said: “If we were going down the route of joining forces with Ipswich we would lose that historical focus from a ceremonial and civic perspective.

“The process there would be undermined as a result of joining forces with another town.

“It would feel quite odd if someone from Ipswich was the mayor of Colchester.

“You get to be the mayor of Colchester because of your strong connections with Colchester.”

However, Mrs Young agreed there could political benefits from joining forces with Colchester’s Suffolk neighbours.

“From a council perspective the Labour group position is we would like to see local services much more determined in the locality because we feel a county-run highways service has not served Colchester well.

“On a political footing a different structure would serve us better.

“Whether that’s with Ipswich or with Tendring and Braintree, it would put Labour in a much stronger position. I could also see the benefits of a unitary authority because of the way services are provided.”

Colchester’s Conservative MP Will Quince said while he was not opposed to unitary authorities, he would “completely disagree” Colchester and Ipswich should merge due to their “political synergy.”

He added: “I think there is a good opportunity for it to be Colchester, Tendring and Braintree and for it to be a power house.

“I feel Sir Bob is proposing that because it might be politically advantageous.”

Mr Quince said issues like control over street lights could be taken control of by Colchester, Tendring and Braintree as a unitary authority.

He added: “If you speak to the police they would suggest anti-social behaviour doesn’t occur when it is dark. Having said that, I would like a serious conversation around whether we should have street lights turned back on in certain areas.”