Gazette columnist Alan Hayman, previously a borough and county councillor, takes a sideways look at last week’s local election and how the result will impact the future of Colchester Borough Council.

“YOU’RE joking. Not another one!” was how Brenda from Bristol memorably greeted the news of the 2017 General Election.

Brenda may well have welcomed last year’s respite from democracy, when the Covid lockdowns put paid to electioneering for 12 whole months in 2020.

But all good things must come to an end.

Last Thursday, local voting was back in our part of the world and Colchester was among the handful of places in England where the ballots were counted overnight.

I follow these events the way others follow the Eurovision Song Contest.

Tough, I know, but someone’s got to do it.

Anyway, the scene at Charter Hall when the votes were counted in the small hours of Friday morning was a deeply weird one, by Eurovision or any other standards.

The ladies and gents who counted the votes were kept behind Perspex screens to protect them from Covid risks.

No winning candidates came up on stage to be cheered by their adoring supporters.

And the customary municipal refreshments provided for thirsty poll workers and would-be councillors were conspicuous by their absence.

The results were equally low key.

Gazette contributor Alan Hayman

Gazette contributor Alan Hayman

Colchester doesn’t seem to like sudden drastic changes in how its town hall is run.

That idea was only reinforced by the voting this month.

Only one in three of those entitled to vote actually bothered to do so and, by and large, they sent back hard-working councillors from all parties to carry on with the job.

The Lib Dems went down a seat, to emerge with 12.

Their Labour coalition partners stood still on 11, giving the ruling administration a total of 23 votes.

By a happy coincidence, that’s the number of seats now held by the Tories.

They remain the largest single party on the council.

So was it all dull in Colchester?

Not entirely.

The Green Party doubled its strength - from one to two - and the borough council leader, Wivenhoe wonder-boy Mark Cory, received a surprise bonus.

He won a seat on Essex County Council as well, seeing off Labour stalwart Julie Young.

When the same person serves on two different councils, it’s known as “double hatting”.

It’s quite legal, but some purists don’t like it.

If Colchester Council and Essex County Council are at loggerheads over some knotty local issue, could Mr Cory have to negotiate with himself from now on?

And which side will he decide to back?

I think that we should be told.

Over in Tendring, the political scene was generally quiet last week.

People in Tendring only do it once every four years.

Elect the whole of Tendring District Council, that is.

But there were two by-elections for Tendring seats.

Elsewhere, the citizens of Dedham were asked to top up the numbers on their parish council.

Finally, it’s now back to business as usual for all our councillors, as the lockdown emergency law that let them hold remote meetings on Zoom has lapsed.

So they must go back to meeting face to face - albeit six feet apart and wearing face masks if they are sensible.

Knocking on doors to get the vote out may also make a comeback, when Covid restrictions allow.

All that means Brenda from Bristol may not be safe from being pestered by politicians for much longer.

She has my sympathy.