MOST 31-year-olds will feel they have enough on their plate trying to climb the career ladder and forge their way in the world.

And Mark Cory is no different.

Except, he is now set to be the top man in the newly created ‘progressive alliance’ which is expected to run Colchester Council for at least 12 months.

After the borough council elections on May 3, a deal was struck between the Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Highwoods Independents group.

The coalition, or ‘alliance’ as it is keen to be known as, holds a wafer thin one-seat majority over the 25-seat Colchester Conservative group. But a majority nonetheless.

Early indications from the Conservative camp suggested Tory boss Darius Laws was keen on running a minority administration.

But the three groups have since agreed on a deal, which will see Mr Cory take up the leader of the council post.

And the politics teacher, who was first elected to the council 11 years ago, is determined to breathe new life into the set up.

He said: “People might well look at me and point to my age and perhaps say: ‘He’s inexperienced.’

“But I’ve been a councillor for 11 years and a portfolio holder for three of them, so I have more experience than most in this new role.”

“I’m political but I’m not a political animal so to speak but, yes, I do hope to be a fresh voice.

“I think it is fair to say in the past the coalition might have been looked at and labelled a ‘closed shop’ by people on the outside.

“I want to change that. I’ve got friends in all political parties so I’m not partisan enough to say: ‘Good ideas only come from us, Labour or the Highwoods group.’

“I want to be clear, a good idea is a good idea no matter where it comes from.

“So, I would like to say the door is a lot more open than perhaps it might have seemed before.”

A popular criticism of the previous administration from Tory campaigners was a perceived failure to make the most of Colchester’s tourism offering and heritage.

And one of the first things the new alliance plans to do is create a group which will specifically focus on that.

Mr Cory added: “We want to put in place a tourism and heritage task and finish group and we’d like Darius to chair that.

“He’s shown he has got the passion and some good ideas for heritage.

“Some of the things that committee will be looking at are his ideas and, to me, it doesn’t matter where they came from. A good idea is a good idea.”

The 31-year-old knows more than most the importance of taking others into account.

Aged 22, having known he was gay since he was about 16, he came out to his family.

For those six years, he had kept it to himself, having been wary of how the news could change people’s perception of him.

It just so happened he ended up telling his parents on April Fool’s Day - but it wasn’t a laughing matter.

He added: “I think that really shaped how I view things and how I view other people and how it’s important to take into account what other people believe.”

Despite openly discussing what positives he hopes to bring to the new role, the leader elect isn’t shy in expressing his fears of taking the post.

He added: “Paul [Smith] was great because he put himself forward and took a lot of the flak which came our way on decisions we had made.

“As a cabinet, we could have agonised for hours over the smallest of details on something and once it’s out there, people will make their minds up like that, often without knowing just how much we agonised over it.

“That’s my biggest fear, that I will be blamed for things that couldn’t be helped.”

Hailing from Romford and arriving in Colchester via Ingatestone, the young left-leaning Mr Cory made his first political choice in the run up to the 2005 General Election.

He opted for the late Charles Kennedy’s party ahead of Tony Blair’s Labour Party.

He added: “I suppose what Charles Kennedy was doing in the Liberal Democrats spoke to me more.”

When he made the journey north to Essex University to start his modern history and politics degree, he joined the Colchester Lib Dem team.

He enjoyed his first two years would but he confesses his third year was “somewhat fractured” by becoming the borough’s youngest councillor, aged 20. He was also the first Lib Dem to be elected in Wivenhoe Cross.

Three years ago, in a cabinet reshuffle, he was handed the portfolio for resources.

And once he had proved “I was competent in the role”, his responsibility, which included the all-important budget, increased and he has since received cross-party support for his management of the budget.

Eleven years on, his younger self might not have known his grasp of all things politics and modern history would be so important.