Voting day is almost upon us, and the date to remember for the local elections across England is 22nd May. In Southend-on-Sea, there is everything to play for. For the first time in many years, control of the council hangs in the balance. In 2014, your vote counts more than ever to shape the future direction of the town. The main parties pitching their platforms are the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Independents, UKIP, and of course Labour.
So what are the Conservatives offering the voters of Southend in 2014?
For the last thirteen years, the Conservative Party has been in uninterrupted control of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. They are the dominant political force in the town — but they are on the wane. Afflicted by the same demographic attrition as the national Conservative Party, Southend Tories have seen their territory falling to Independent candidates, Labour candidates, and possibly this time UKIP candidates.
The solution to this malaise, in my opinion, would be a comprehensive, wide-reaching and radical offer to the electorate. But unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any such plan.
What the Conservatives are offering seems to depend on the individual candidate. Each has their own project, their own wishlist for their own ward, from dog walking on the beach to blocking much needed new housing. Additionally, some candidates seem completely unable to put forward a reason why residents should vote for them, whilst others make promises that a borough councillor has absolutely no power to deliver.
So I am left to extrapolate from what the Conservatives have done during their time running Southend:
- Libraries have been stripped of paid staff, and thrown on the mercy of volunteers, which is likely to lead to their future closure.
- Only one council-run youth centre remains in the entire borough, leaving a dearth of much-needed youth facilities and provision.
- Not a single council house built in the last 20 years despite a growing crisis around the shortage of housing (whilst one of the town’s two MPs, James Duddridge, wants to see all council-owned stock sold off to be rented privately for extortionate rents).
- The transformation of the high-street into betting shop after betting shop dismissed as a good sign for tourism.
- Warrior Square earmarked for a rushed-through transformation into a coach park.
And I have seen no reason why we should expect anything different from a continuing Conservative administration after May. They and have nothing to offer because like their national counterparts they see it as their right to rule only for themselves, not for the people that they are supposed to be representing.
What will a vote for the Conservatives on 22nd May 2014 get you? Managed decline.