The Labour, Independent and Liberal Democrat groups on Southend Council have reached an agreement to form a joint administration, and give the borough the stable leadership that it needs.
Following the Appointments Council on 16 May, where the Conservative minority administration lost every contested position and it was made clear that Cllr Tony Cox cannot command a stable majority, and the Independent Group calling an extraordinary meeting of the Council, negotiations between the three groups continued. The result is an agreement to work together for the good of Southend, to provide the bold and radical change in direction that residents voted for at the local elections.
This agreement will see Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the Labour Group, as leader of the Council, at the head of a cabinet which will include Cllr Ron Woodley, spokesperson for the Independent Group who will be Deputy Leader of the Council, and Cllr Carole Mulroney, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group. The cabinet will be reduced to seven members from the present nine under the Conservatives, with three portfolios going to Labour, three to the Independents, and one to the Liberal Democrats. Major decisions on the administration will be taken jointly by the three group leaders, working in cooperation.
The new administration will take forward an ambitious programme for the town, covering all of the council’s policy areas. This platform includes:
- Provision of new social housing and key worker housing, and beginning the process of a selective licensing scheme for private sector landlords;
- A two-year programme of improving street lighting infill and additional CCTV provision in priority areas;
- Supporting public transport and seeking to improve mobility and access for all residents;
- Introduction of 20mph zones in residential streets, and environmental zones around schools;
- Conducting a parking review for residents/business/visitor parking, and providing multi storey car parks at Tyler’s Avenue and on a suitable site in Leigh;
- Improving recycling and decrease the use of single use plastics and other environmentally damaging materials;
- Promoting ethical employment practices and increasing and promoting apprenticeships throughout the Borough;
- Reviewing and improving children’s centres by increasing the range of services and greater community involvement;
- Providing extra care beds and look to provide, promoting the provision of Shoebury Health Centre and a health centre in the west of the borough, and supporting the local NHS to ensure the retention of Southend University Hospital and its services.
Cllr Ian Gilbert said, “People in Southend voted for change, and it is now clear that the Conservatives are unable to command the support of a majority of councillors. The Labour, Independent and Liberal Democrat groups have come to an agreement that guarantees a stable administration for a year, and a balanced, legal budget. We have reached broad agreement on policies which we believe will deliver for people right across the borough.”
Cllr Ron Woodley said, “It is clear that as Councillors we have, in the past, proved that we can work together to achieve a stable administration while maintaining the Bell principles in local democracy. I am confident that the three groups will achieve all the priorities that we have set out in this joint statement.”
Cllr Carole Mulroney said, “It is very easy for a Tory minority to propose a whole raft of new initiatives, as has happened in the last week or so, to curry favour with residents. What they have failed to do is say where the money is coming from. None of the proposals were in the very recently approved budget and we have not been told how they are to be paid for and what other area may be affected because of them.
“Having said that we will take a sensible approach and rather than ditching them for the sake of it we will defer the Tory proposals until we can see how they fit in with our own priorities and at the right time make a considered and agreed policy announcement.”