Well, it’s done.
The first meeting of the new council has happened, and the vote for leader has been cast. Congratulations to the new leader of Southend Borough Council, Councillor Ron Woodley.
The actual votes were as follows:
Cllr Woodley (IND) 31
Cllr Lamb (CON) – 18
Absence – 1
Abstention – 1
The abstention was the mayor, and the absence was Labour’s Cllr Royston, who is still recovering from an operation. All five UKIP councillors backed Cllr Woodley, which is mildly surprising. They aren’t a part of the joint administration, and I had wondered if James Moyies would be a little bitter at the failure of his pact with the Independent Party Group. It’s actually a bit unfair to blame that on the Indies — it actually comes down to lacking the numbers.
But the result means that the joint administration has taken power, and there is a now a whole new executive team in place.
- Councillor Ron Woodley (IND – Thorpe) – Leader; Corporate Services
The first non-Conservative leader of Southend Borough Council in some thirteen years, is of course the power behind the Independent throne, Thorpe’s Cllr Woodley. I would, of course, prefer a Labour leader, but any change from Tory stagnation has to be embraced — particularly if it puts Labour policies in place for Southend. I don’t know how Cllr Woodley will fare as leader, and I suspect that actually keeping the Independent
Party Group in line will be a hard ask in itself.
But I will be watching carefully, and with interest.
- Councillor Ian Gilbert (LAB – Victoria) – Deputy Leader, Community Development
If you needed any proof that Labour did well at the local elections, this is it. Labour in the administration, and a Labour deputy leader at that.
Ian has a big task ahead of him, trying to make sure that Labour’s voice comes through the council’s policies, at the same time as mitigating the harmful policies of other parties. With luck, any success will show the people of Southend what a positive difference Labour can make for the town. The Community Development brief will give a platform to do this, particularly important after the disconnect between local government and residents shown by the poor turnout at the recent elections.
- Councillor Graham Longley (LD – Blenheim Park) – Deputy Leader, Enterprise, Tourism & Culture
Despite losing four seats at the elections, the Lib Dems have ended up with a seat at the cabinet table. It seems a little odd, but that’s how local politics works. Cllr Longley takes charge of the Enterprise, Tourism and Culture brief, which to my mind is particularly important given that Southend is a seaside resort and a tourist town.
I don’t really know what Lib Dem policy is when it comes to this brief, so I will be watching to see what he does.
- Councillor Martin Terry – (IND – Thorpe) – Public Protection, Transport & Waste
Confusingly, despite Cllr Woodly being leader of the council, Cllr Terry is still the leader of the Independent
For those paying attention, this was Tony Cox’s old brief, so one imagines that Cllr Terry is hoping to be able to block the sea wall on which his group campaigned so exclusively during the election. The joint administration agreement only commits them to a review of it, and I remain suspicious that it could well prove impractical. I wonder how well Cllr Terry’s reputation will hold up to the difficult realities of power.
- Councillor David Norman (LAB – Victoria) – Adult Social Care, Housing & Health
Cllr Norman is one of the most experienced, and respected, councillors on the council. Previously he was chair of the planning committee, where he served excellently. This won’t be an easy brief for him, but given that our main policy through the elections was housing provision — and increasing affordable housing provision is now a council priority — it is a vital brief.
I am very glad that Labour have secured this one, and glad too that it has gone to Cllr Norman. I am hoping for great things here.
- Councillor Anne Jones (LAB – Kursaal) – Children & Learning
Southend is headed for a serious shortage of school places, something which desperately needs to be addressed. The school system here needs work to make it fit for the future, and no one who has worked with Cllr Jones can deny her tenacity, and her dedication to the good of the people she represents. Quite frankly, the children of Southend are lucky to have someone like Cllr Jones going to bat for them.
- Councillor Mike Assenheim – (IND – Shoeburyness) – Regulatory Services
I’ll be honest; like Nigel Holdcroft I am somewhat confused as to what this brief entails. Presumably it is a combination of health and safety, trading standards and the like. It’s important work, doubtless, but I’d like to see a bit more specification around it. I haven’t had much experience previously of Cllr Assenheim, but he’s certainly not the worst of the Independents who could have been given a chair at the top table.