A MUD slinging match has intensified between an MP and Colchester Council.

In her latest attack on the council, Witham MP Priti Patel has blamed it for a delay in the widening of the A12, branding the authority “incompetent”.

According to Conservative Ms Patel, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has confirmed “the whole scheme will start later than originally planned” due to new housing proposals put forward, with further costings and consultation needed.

The Lib Dem and Labour-led council has been working on plans to build three garden communities in conjunction with Tendring, Braintree and Essex councils.

Planning inspector Roger Clews levelled criticism at the schemes’ “shortcomings”, including plans for transport and employment provision.

Ms Patel said: “This latest letter from the Secretary of State gives further confirmation of the inconvenience and added costs that are being caused as a result of the incompetence of Colchester Council.

“A much-needed upgrade to the A12 which will bring in road safety and economic benefits is now held back because of the actions of one failing council.

“With the Local Plan process stalled as a result of the concerns raised by the planning inspector, Colchester Council are continuing to let residents down.

“I will carry on holding this rotten council to account and lobbying the Government to intervene to get the widening scheme delivered as quickly as possible.”

It is yet another attack on the council by Ms Patel.

Council deputy leader Tim Young (Lab), said: “The only reason she criticises Colchester Council is because it is not run by the Conservative party.

“It gets a bit wearing. It is a petty, vindictive vendetta.

“The A12 widening has nothing to do with Colchester Council, it is Highways England and the Government.

“I find it a bit sad actually for someone of her apparent national standing to want to throw brickbats at the council.”

Mr Young said the councils were working together to respond to the inspector’s letter and while he was prepared or her to criticise him, it was unfair for Ms Patel to criticise all council staff.

Ms Patel’s past criticisms have included branding Colchester Council “shoddy” after its rejected of the Stane Park food complex in Stanway was overturned by a planning inspector and outspoken criticism to its opposition to Tollgate Village.

Last summer she said the “rotten” council “systematically misled” residents over how to comment on its proposed Local Plan, which sets out where in the borough can be built on until 2033.

She has also criticised how it dealt with the divisive Tollgate Village application and asked the Government’s planning boss to weigh in on the proposed Northern Gateway scheme.

The Gazette asked Ms Patel why dislikes Colchester Council so vociferously.

She said: “It has an appalling record wasting taxpayers’ money and ignoring the views of communities. They tried to block people from responding to the Local Plan consultation last year, failed to engage properly with the NHS to assess future health needs and have now caused the A12 widening scheme to be delayed.

“An independent planning inspector has issued a scathing criticism of the council’s Local Plan and instead of apologising and showing some humility the council is burying its head in the sand.

“I will always stand up for my constituents who suffer as a result of this failing and rotten council.”