THE adage that “all political careers end in failure” is a saying which almost every politician is familiar with – but it is not a phrase which would resonate particularly strongly with Colchester’s new mayor, 61-year-old Tim Young.

Having served as a Labour councillor for 30 years, Mr Young, who was born in Clacton before he moved to Colchester in the mid-80s, has spent half his life in public service.

Despite having fallen just short of being elected to Westminster, Mr Young’s career in Colchester’s political scene could not by any means be described as a failure.

Indeed, one might even say it is a career which has reached its peak, after Mr Young became mayor in a year which has seen the queen celebrate her platinum jubilee, and Colchester celebrate becoming a city.

Three decades in the public eye are rarely going to pass without controversy, however, and Mr Young has experienced his fair share of it during his political career.

The councillor for Greenstead was accused of dangerous driving in 2001 – although motoring charges were officially dropped by magistrates later that year.

Despite occasionally featuring in the headlines for the wrong reasons, however, Mr Young is still the longest serving councillor to become Colchester mayor, and has been returned as councillor for Greenstead at every election since 1992 – one senses he must be doing something right.

Not that becoming Colchester mayor has been one of Mr Young’s ambitions – for years, he had been opposed to the cost of the pomp and circumstance which accompanied the mayoralty.

But Mr Young, who admits he was once nicknamed ‘Rod Greenwood’s rottweiler’ in the early years of his career for his fiery nature, admits he has mellowed over time.

The one-year mayoral term served by his then wife, councillor Julie Young, opened his eyes to the positives of such the position and the insight it gave into the amount of charity work undertaken by volunteers in Colchester.

He said: “When I was first on the council, I was a bit of a firebrand – I thought the mayoralty was public money being spent on civic and ceremonial stuff.

“But you educate yourself over the years on the council – you actually see the good work the mayor does.”

On Tuesday, for example, Mr Young had no fewer than three events to attend as part of his mayoral duties.

“The vast majority of residents appreciate having a mayor and everything that comes with that – you see so many groups who work behind the scenes," he said.

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“They do their work quietly and privately, but they are the sort of groups that make Colchester tick and Colchester work.”

Starting out as a councillor in the 1990s, Mr Young has seen the sheer volume of work put in by charities and voluntary groups over the years – and the beginning of his political career allowed him to stay in close touch with residents.

With much of the population yet to own a computer or mobile phone, council work was conducted in person, and communication took place over a landline telephone.

Although Mr Young has moved with the times, he says such a grounding has allowed him to maintain a personal connection with people in Greenstead.

“In those days, there weren’t many mobile phones, and the internet and email were only just starting," he said. 

“There were a lot more face-to-face meetings – it was a different job in those days.

“Social media and the internet have made life easier in terms of communication, but I still get around the ward a lot – councillors could just do it all from home now with devices, but I think it’s important to get around to speak to people face to face.

“That’s maybe the reason why people in Greenstead keep re-electing me.”

And what of the problems councillors are told about by residents, the gripes which now fill strongly-worded emails or tweets, as opposed to phone calls and handwritten letters?

Most of them, Mr Young explains, are exactly the same – potholes, traffic congestion, and parking fees.

But the importance of councillors – as with the familiar gripes of residents – doesn't change, Mr Young said.

“Councillors affect day-to-day living for a lot of people – the rent, the tax, the bins being emptied, planning applications… that’s all dealt with by borough councillors.

“Every time you set foot outside your door, a councillor is doing something that will affect your life – they are always trying to make things better.”

Making things better naturally means working together, and for Mr Young that means collaborating with fellow Labour councillor and ex-wife, Julie, from whom he separated in 2018.

Mr Young is measured when he discusses a potentially thorny issue, explaining they are both committed to serving residents in Greenstead.

He explained: “Our professional relationship is very healthy – we work very well in the ward with Molly Bloomfield [another Labour councillor].

“The personal differences and the relationship break-up weren’t easy – it’s had its issues, I can’t pretend it hasn’t.

“I think with time it becomes a bit easier, but marriage break-ups aren’t easy and it’s been emotionally difficult, but I think we are in a place now where we can move on.

“Julie is an amazing councillor and will she always have my admiration and respect for what she’s done.”

Understandably, Mr Young is keen to look to the future and a mayoral term which will see royal visit when Colchester is officially made a city.

He will be front and centre among the dignitaries ready to receive the royal patent which will officially confirm Colchester's new status.

But although it is an exciting time for the soon-to-be city, people in Colchester still worry about numerous issues – the cost of living crisis, the future of the high street, and plans to build new homes on Middlewick.

And despite being in an apolitical position, one of the key responsibilities of being Colchester mayor is promoting the town and everything it offers – a role one suspects will see Mr Young in his element.