» city status ¦ What You Can Get Away With

Here’s something interesting I’ve discovered today – initial figures suggest that people from the Colchester area (CO postcodes) were more likely to complete the 2011 Census online than people anywhere else in the country. (via)

It’s also interesting that the article refers to Colchester as the ‘top city’ for completing the census online. Nice to see that people are already taking notice of the campaign for city status, less than a week after the Council approved it.

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While I’ve spoken at many Council meetings, last night was the first time in my Council career that I proposed a motion to Council which is a wholly different experience. I tried to keep away from politics in my speech and centred it on four main points:

  • Colchester’s historic status as Britain’s first city and it’s importance as part of our Roman heritage. People in Colchester are very proud of our history and heritage and becoming a city would promote that and emphasise it.
  • Colchester’s current status as an important regional centre with a dynamic and creative population, great cultural facilities, a top rank University and an important garrison.
  • Why having a community-led bid is so important. This isn’t about self-aggrandizement by the Council, this is about the people standing up for themselves, and that concept of an informed and active civitas goes right back to the Roman concept of a city.
  • What city status would mean for us: Putting us on the national stage by bidding with the potential for international recognition for Colchester if we’re chosen in 2012, highlighting our importance and potential to tourists and businesses.
  • There was a lengthy debate – one of the longest I’ve known in my time as a Councillor – and some very good points were made by a number of councillors from all sides. In the end, though, the vote was in favour of proceeding with a bid – put together by the community through Destination Colchester, without cost to the Council – by 26 votes to 19. Which means I now have a 100% record in presenting things to full Council.

    I’ve submitted a motion to the next meeting of Colchester Council to discuss whether we should bid for city status. Here it is:

    Motion that:-

    (a) Council notes that the Government is requesting bids for city status to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. City status merely confers upon a place the right to call itself a city, and does not carry with it any implications as to size and future growth of the area.

    (b) Council believes:-

    (i) That as well as being Britain’s oldest recorded town – Camulodunum – Colchester is also Britain’s first city, and as Colonia Victricensis was the first capital of Britain.
    (ii) That Colchester remains a vibrant and dynamic borough as well as being a key regional hub and the largest borough in Essex.
    (iii) That there is support from across Colchester for a bid for city status.
    (iv) That bidding for city status would provide a great opportunity to promote all that’s good about Colchester Borough and allow us to place ourselves in the national spotlight.
    (v) That Colchester deserves to be granted city status in 2012 to recognise its historic status and future potential.

    (c) Council resolves:-

    (i) To support in principle a bid for city status for Colchester.
    (ii) To work alongside community and business groups to create a bid for city status at no cost to the taxpayer.
    (iii) To request the Leader of the Council and group leaders work together to oversee the detail of the bid before it is brought to the Council meeting in May for a final endorsement.

    The meeting takes place next Wednesday (23rd March) starting at 6.00pm in the Town Hall. We probably won’t get to the motion much before 7pm, though, as there’s other business to deal with first, including making my former ward colleague Dr Chris Hall an Honorary Alderman of the Borough.

    Working with destination Colchester, the Council is running an online consultation to find out what people’s views are about applying for city status. So, whatever your opinion, why not click here and let us know what you think?

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    As you may have heard, the question of whether Colchester should apply for status has come up again. The Department for Culture has announced that there’ll be another competition for city status in 2012 to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Colchester applied for city status in the 2000 and 2002 competitions, but was unsuccessful on both occasions.

    (For those of you abroad, yes, this is one of those strange British quirks whereby a place can only become a city if it’s designated as such by the monarch – but it’s also quite confusing for us to go the US, for instance, and find places scarcely bigger than a hamlet calling themselves cities)

    Supporters and opponents of city status have put forward various arguments as to why we should or shouldn’t apply for it. Some say that we shouldn’t give up our status as Britain’s oldest recorded town to be the newest city, whereas others point out that we were more than just the oldest town, we were Britain’s first city, and we’re claiming back an old title. Some say it would help us promote Colchester and give us a wider profile, while others say we don’t need to do more than we already do and should stay as a regular town.

    I’m not revealing which way I lean here just yet as I’d like to hear other people’s views on whether you support it or not and whether you think it’s a good idea.

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