LIB Dem and Labour leaders have criticised their former coalition colleagues for “getting into bed” with the Tories.

Mark Cory, the existing Lib Dem leader of the council, said discussions had been ongoing to try and reform a new progressive alliance.

He said: “We wanted to keep progressive politics going in Colchester which is why we were talking.

"In some ways we are surprised but in others we are not as the Conservatives threatened to take the Highwoods seat.

“I believe having a Conservative-run Colchester Council, Essex County Council and Government is not healthy for the public sector and I worry about the longer-term effects on the town.

"But I wish anyone the best in improving the borough.

“We have left the borough in a very good position financially, despite Covid. I don’t want to see the Tories run that into the ground.

“We have sorted the finances out and if they once again come in and spend, spend, spend, like they did before, we will be in a dire situation.”

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Colchester Labour leader Adam Fox said: “We are disappointed the Highwoods Independents have chosen to get into bed with the Tories. We worked well with them over many years.

“They always said they would never do a deal with the Tories and they will have to explain that decision to their voters.

“Colchester is better for 13 years of Labour in coalition in the council - building new council houses, investing in our communities to make them safer and supporting our renowned creative and heritage attractions.

“Colchester deserves better than another Conservative council.

“We have been neglected for years by Tory-run Essex County Council who closed our children’s centres, stole the books from our libraries and failed to fill in our potholes.

“We will hold the Tory council and the MP to account for the decisions they make and fight to return to power at next year’s election.”

Colchester Council's annual general meeting takes place at the end of May at Charter Hall.