As predicted, the appointments meeting of Southend Borough Council saw an alliance of UKIP and Conservative councillors oust the Joint Administration of Labour, Independent
Party Group, Liberal Democrats and Southend Independence Group that has been running the council for the last two years.
Thus begins, then, the new Conservative administration, and the reign of Cllr John Lamb (CON – West Leigh) as the leader of the council. Dark times ahead…
UKIP are not part of the administration, but have agreed a confidence and supply arrangement, whereby the two UKIP councillors, Cllrs Floyd Waterworth (UKIP – Blenheim Park) and David McGlone (UKIP – St Laurence) will support Cllr Lamb on confidence motions and the budget. In return, the Tories have tossed UKIP a few bones.
The biggest — and most controversial — has been the offering of Development Control Committee chair to Cllr Waterworth. I’ve covered this in an earlier blog, and I still think that Cllr Waterworth is a poor choice for the role. Labour nominated Cllr David Norman (LAB – Victoria) as an alternative, but the Conservatives still backed Cllr Waterworth (Without much enthusiasm, it must be said -Ed) by 26 votes to 24. It goes without saying that I think Cllr Norman would have made a better job of this, given his experience, the widespread respect for him across the chamber, and the fact that he has done it before.
The other price, in terms of roles, is the chair of the Licensing Committee for UKIP’s other representative, Cllr McGlone. The odd twist is that Cllr McGlone won’t take up this position for six months, during which time he’ll serve as vice-chair, to Cllr Roger Hadley’s (CON – Shoeburyness) chair. I’m sort of impressed with Cllr McGlone’s apparent awareness that he doesn’t actually know what the role entails.
The other pieces of silver are policy-related. Firstly, the want a moratorium on changes to the Kent Elms junction on the A127. I’m not sure what they’re trying to stop, or what effect this will have the recent consultation on the Kent Elms crossing would be. They also want to abolish fees for chairs and tables outside cafes and restaurants, for no council money to be spent on the proposed cliffs museum, for the council to withdraw from the Local Government Association (Which was also a Conservative election pledge -Ed), and for a UKIP veto over any property acquisitions by the council in excess of £500,000.
All in all, it’s probably not that much of a price for Cllr Lamb to pay, though I suspect we’re not done arguing about the UKIP councillors’ fitness for the roles they have bought. As for what comes next, well Cllr Lamb was the deputy leader of the council under the last Tory leader, so the smartest bet would be more of the same. Which means that a lot of the good done under the Joint Administration is likely at risk, and a return to closing libraries, care homes and children’s centres. But we’ll have to wait and see.
One interesting point coming out of the appointments meeting, is that with the fall of the Joint Administration the new Leader of the Opposition is the Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Ian Gilbert (LAB – Victoria).