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Lib Dems and Labour to fight it out over Colchester mayor
AN unseemly row has broken out over Colchester's mayoralty.
A gentleman's agreement has existed for more than 100 years for the top civic role.
Under the deal, the most senior councillor who wants to be mayor has got the role unopposed.
For 2015/6, that would be outspoken Labour councillor Julie Young - and the Liberal Democrats are having none of it.
They have put forward Theresa Higgins - even though she has been a councillor for a year less. But Mrs Young is not giving up without a fight.
Her Labour colleague Cyril Liddy has put forward an amendment to Thursday's full council meeting, backing her for the deputy mayor role in 2014/5.
Whoever is deputy mayor becomes mayor the following year.
Liberal Democrat group leader Nick Barlow admitted it was a radical move.
He said: "The group discussed it several times.
There is a historic dispute and the feeling is Mrs Young has not supported the mayoralty during her career.
"It is a civic role and should be above politics but Julie Young has not shown she is capable of doing that.
"This is not a decision which has been taken lightly. We do feel strongly about it.
"It is not an ideal situation and I don't think anyone wants to be in this position.
"We would have liked a solution which would have pleased everyone but that is not possible."
Mrs Young, who has been a councillor since 1998, denied she had not supported the mayoralty.
She said: "I am the most senior councillor who wants the role and normally that is unopposed. It has never been a political decision in the past.
"Obviously I don't want to make a huge issue of it. I am standing absolutely and utterly because it has been years since there was a Labour mayor - the last one was Mary Frank back in 1992."
She added: "I always support mayoral functions including the Remembrance Sunday service in Colchester."
The Labour party has run an alternative Oyster Feast in Colchester where pensioners are served fish and chips while dignatories gather in the town hall for the Oyster Feast.
Mrs Young said: "I would like to bring a different feel to the mayoralty. I would seek charitable funding as I would like to see some of those people who attend the alternative feast at the real feast."
There are currently 26 Liberal Democrat councillors, eight Labour, three independent and 23 Conservatives.
Will Quince, leader of the Tory group, said his councillors would have a free vote. He added: "We don't think the mayoralty should be political. Some will vote based on length of service, others on the individual."
CONSERVATIVE Tiptree councillor John Elliott is the current deputy mayor and is due to become mayor next year - if he is voted back in. He is due up for election on May 22 - a date chosen to tie in with the European elections. The new mayor will be installed on June 18 - a month later than usual and with only 11 months to serve. Other councillors who have served more years than Mrs Young include Conservatives Margaret Kimberley, John Jowers, and Elizabeth Blundell, Lib Dem Mary Blandon and Julie's husband, Tim.
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