Paul Dundas, Leader of the Conservative Group, explains the horrors of the 2024/5 Lib-Dem budget


At the Colchester Council’s annual budget meeting, the Conservative Group proposed some sensible, costed, approved, amendments which prioritised front-line services over rather risky commercial property ventures.

The Council, for what at the time might have been good reasons, established a House Building Company and an Energy Company back in around 2018. Now both are defunct and non-operational. No houses were built. No energy has been generated. With the best will in the world no one could call that a success.

As a result of these failed ventures, the Council is wilting under a debt pile of £35m it did not expect. The land in question at Mill Road under the original business plan was expected to be sold by 2022. This means the Council now has an extra annual interest bill of over £3m a year. This is money which can no longer be spent on the front-line services that residents expect.

This year’s budget as, proposed by the Lib Dems and voted for by Labour, spends another £7.7m on these property projects with

absolutely no guarantee they will go anywhere. Not unlike a gambler giving one last throw of the dice, more in hope than expectation. This reckless decision will add another £755,000 to the annual interest bill which, again, has to be taken from front-line services.

The Conservative budget amendments were simple: Do not spend the £7.7m. Let a property developer do that and let them pay the interest. Get on and sell the land like the Council always planned at a market price. As soon as possible pay-off the debt, which was originally going to be paid by 2022. This cuts the Council's interest bill by nearly £4m. So, rather than paying £4m a year to banks, spend it on front-line services. This may sound simple because it is.

Residents of Colchester pay their Council Tax to fund Council services, not to pay debt interest from commercial losses.

Front-line services are what the Conservatives are prioritising.