Kipperwatch! Committee system sunk as UKIP don’t turn up


kipperwatch local

In the run up to the elections in May, I warned that UKIP did not make for good representatives. In the European Parliament, their attendance has been nothing short of dreadful. They consistently rank amongst the worst absentees, whilst taking home all the same pay and claiming all the same expenses as those MEPs who do the job.

It does not surprise me therefore, and should not surprise anyone who pays attention to Southend local politics, that at last night’s full council meeting in Southend two fifths of the UKIP group were absent.

What pushes this even further into the realms of absurdity, is that the absence of those kippers meant that a policy that they supported — changing the council from a cabinet system to a committee system — failed.

I am, I confess, indifferent to the cabinet/committee debate. For one thing, I don’t see how it will make any difference. A majority is a majority, regardless of which system is used. What tips me slightly against making the change in Southend at the moment is a couple of things; firstly, there is no majority. So, in its absence, I would favour some form of strong leadership over the potential chaos to which the committee system would lead.

The other aspect is money; it would undoubtedly cost to restructure the council. And at a time when Southend’s budget is being slashed by the Tory-led government in Westminster, do councillors really want to face the public and tell them that they spent money on administrative changes rather than public services, protecting the vulnerable, and other measures which actually matter to the public.

But anyway. Under the joint administration, last night saw a vote on whether to investigate making the change. The Independent Party Group were for it. As were UKIP. Labour didn’t whip the vote, and as I understand it Cllrs Borton and McMahon voted for the committee system, whereas the other Labour councillors voted to retain the cabinet system.

The vote, in the end, was lost by two votes.

So where then were the UKIP councillor for Kursaal ward, and the UKIP councillor for Blenheim Park (and prospective parliamentary candidate for Rochford & Southend East)? Both Lawrence Davies and Floyd Waterworth were absent from the meeting. I don’t know why — though in the case of Cllr Davies, I could hazard a guess — but it looks pretty damn appalling that because of their absence the vote was lost.

I don‘t think most people actually care about the organisational minutiae of local government, but some undoubtedly do. Some probably voted UKIP on that very basis. A few questions occur to me off the back of this:

  • Why would you vote for someone who isn’t actually going to turn up? Even to support one of their key policies? If by some miracle Cllr Waterworth wins the election in May, will he actually turn up for work at the Palace of Westminster?
  • Are we seeing the ebbing of Cllr Moyies authority as group leader, after losing the parliamentary selection? If he can’t motivate his councillors to turn up to meetings, how effective a leader can he be? He might want to investigate the idea of a, err, party whip.
  • How will this affect the Indie-UKIP pact? The two parties groups have been fairly chummy for a while, but the committee system has been an Indie obsession for longer. Thanks to UKIP, they missed out on it. Just saying.
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