It’s balanced on a knife edge. The Conservatives need to win nine out of the 17 seats up for grabs on Thursday to seize control of Colchester Council.

If Labour, the Lib Dems and Highwoods Independent group want to maintain their coalition, they will need to come out on top in nine wards.

With the Tories holding five “safe” seats and the Labour, the Lib Dems and Highwoods odds-on favourites in two, two and one respectively, it is likely to come down to seven “swing” seats.

Here are the key battlegrounds:

Mersea and Pyefleet

Tory Patricia Moore faces a fight to keep hold of the seat she claimed four years ago when she won 51 per cent of the vote (2,154) and Ukip came second with 22 per cent (988).

Even though Mersea is the only ward Ukip is fielding a candidate this year in David Broise, it is likely Independent John Akker, an ardent anti-development campaigner on Mersea, is the man to watch.

He polled 1,202 votes (36 per cent) last year, coming second to the Tories by 151 votes (42 per cent).

But he suffered a blow this year when West Mersea Mayor Carl Powling entered the running as an Independent.

The winner could be decided by how many votes Ukip take from the Tories and how many votes Mr Powling takes from Mr Akker.


This promises to be as close as last year’s poll when the Green Party’s Mark Goacher lost out to Tory Simon Crow by an agonising 11 votes, and Labour were only 170 votes back.

Mr Goacher is back again this year and the Greens are throwing everything they’ve got at the seat – their best shot at getting a first councillor elected in Colchester.

What makes it even more intriguing is the Castle ward incumbent is Conservative group leader Darius Laws.

Mr Laws got 1,667 votes (36 per cent) four years ago but this will be a much closer fight.

Don’t rule out Labour’s Victoria Weaver, a one-time Green Party member who has raised her profile during the fight against the Cultural Quarter plans.

Expect the Tories to throw their weight behind Mr Laws, who could wake up on May 3 to find himself council leader, opposition leader or out of a job.

St Anne’s & St John’s

The biggest shock from last year’s election was Lib Dem council leader Paul Smith falling on his sword, losing his seat to Conservative Chris Hayter. The Tories smell blood and will be targeting the same ward this year.

This time it’s Thomas Rowe trying to unseat Helen Chuah and they consider it one of their best chances of seizing control of the council.

But despite the Lib Dems’ struggles nationally, they are still the second biggest party on Colchester Council with 12 members.

And former mayor Mrs Chuah has a loyal following built over 20 years as a councillor.


In the same vein as St Anne’s and St John’s, the Tories will be targeting Stanway after success last year.

Paul Dundas beat Jessica Scott-Boutell by the small margin of 140 votes to leave the Conservatives a step closer to taking back control of the authority.

This time it will be Tory Jeremy Hagon against Lib Dem incumbent Lesley Scott-Boutell.

In Mrs Scott-Boutell’s favour she has 16 years of experience as a respected, campaigning councillor. She lost her seat last time she was in a shoot-out, in 2015, but got back in at the 51-seat election the following year.

It will be tight..very tight.

READ MORE: Darius Laws and Tim Young go head to head on our election podcast 

Shrub End

Welcome to Colchester’s swing seat.

Last year Tory Pauline Hazell won in Shrub End by a relatively narrow 155 votes against Labour’s Isobel Merry.

In 2016, two Lib Dems and one Conservative were elected.

The Conservatives won in 2015 but the Lib Dems conquered in 2014.

This year it is set to be an intriguing battle with Conservative incumbent Vic Flores, who won a by-election in 2017, beating Labour’s Mike Dale by 109 votes, facing former Labour councillor Rosalind Scott, as well as two emerging campaigners in Blake Roberts (Green) and Sam McCarthy (Lib Dem).

New Town and Christ Church

Lib Dem Nick Cope has held a seat on Colchester Council for an astounding 25 years, but he won’t be complacent after his party was beaten by Labour in New Town and Christ Church in last year’s poll.

Lorcan Whitehead snatched the seat off Catherine Spindler by a convincing 500 votes.

Mr Cope will have to see off Labour’s Elisa Vasquez-Walters and Conservative Carla Hales this time out.


Lib Dem insiders think they are in with a shout of taking the seat off Labour’s veteran councillor Chris Pearson.

The feeling is their man, Mick Spindler, is the only one of the four candidates who lives in Berechurch ward and has undertaken a high-profile campaign.

However, Labour says there is no indication on the doorsteps they will lose the seat - and it’s worth noting they haven’t lost a contest here since 2010.

READ MORE: Lib Dems and Greens agree with garden town concept...but plans are too big

Safe(r) SEATS

No-one (or not me in any case) is expecting these seats to change hands:

  • Greenstead: Tim Young (Lab)
  • Highwoods: Bev Oxford (Highwoods Independent)
  • Lexden and Braiswick: Lewis Barber (Con)
  • Marks Tey and Layer: Andrew Ellis (Con)
  • Mile End: Phil Coleman (Lib Dem)
  • Old Heath and the Hythe: Adam Fox (Lab)
  • Prettygate: Beverley Davies (Con)
  • Rural North: Nigel Chapman (Con)
  • Tiptree: Barbara Wood (Con)
  • Wivenhoe: Mark Cory (Lib Dem)

For a full list of candidates visit