COLCHESTER’S Lib Dems say they have helped residents through the tough times and have earned their backing for a brighter future.

In 2008, the Lib Dems became the dominant power on Colchester Council after a Conservative collapse which saw them lose control over the authority.

Since then, the administration has been run by a coalition of Lib Dems, Labour and independent councillors.

Launching their manifesto for next month's elections, Lib Dem leader Paul Smith said their record over four years and their plans for the future were worthy of Colchester’s continuing support.

He added: “Having been in power for four years, we’re not coming up with things that are totally new and different.

“But having gone through the tough times, we certainly see the opportunity to make Colchester better in the future.

“I think environmental issues are very important to people – recycling rates, as well as solar panels on council houses, have all gone down extremely well, as has the freeze on council tax.”

The manifesto promises to encourage more businesses to set up shop in Colchester and to investigate a “late-night levy” to pay for the costs of drunkenness in Colchester town centre.

The Local Government Information Unit, an independent think-tank, has labelled Colchester one of the 50 contests to watch on May 3.

With the Lib Dems holding only two more seats than the Conservatives, the think-tank described it as a “key contest”.

But Mr Smith claimed the Tories lost power because they made a “mess” out of projects, including the Firstsite arts centre and the Decent Homes programme of council house upgrades.

He said: “We’ve had to do a lot of work with clearing the mess they left behind.

“Now we have plans to create jobs in Colchester and look after the environment.

“It would be a shame to waste the achievements of the past four years and squander them on putting the Tories back in.”

He added: “I wouldn’t expect the Tories to make gains this time because they don’t deserve it.”