Politics in Southend is, to be honest, a joy. You never know what’s going to come along next.
I don’t know if it’s something in the water, but politics seems to be particularly…weird around here. So in the spirit of the end-of-year listicle, I decided what better way to round off the year than with a rundown of my personal favourites of the lot (And split it over two posts to boost traffic -Ed).
Here it is then. Numbers 10 to 6 in my top 10 rundown of the maddest things that happened in 2015 in Southend local politics.
Regular readers may recall a few weeks back that I reported a tip from one of my little birds that Cllr Martin Terry (IND – Thorpe) had left his cabinet role as portfolio holder for Public Protection, Waste & Transport.
Attentive reasons may have noted that, in fact, Cllr Terry remains in his post. So what happened? Was my source wrong?
Unconfirmed as yet, but my little birds are whispering to me that Southend’s Cllr Martin Terry (IND – Thorpe) has left his cabinet post of portfolio holder for Public Protection, Waste & Transport, to be replaced by Cllr Mike Assenheim (IND – Shoeburyness).
Martin Terry, the Independent Party Group councillor for Thorpe ward and portfolio holder for Public Protection, Waste & Transport, has announced his intention to stand for the position of Police & Crime Commissioner for Essex.
I tried to think of something witty or funny to preface it with, but there really is just that. Cllr Terry wants to be the next Police & Crime Commissioner.
As a rule, meetings of the council’s scrutiny committees are duller than ditchwater. Pastimes for the topical subject enthusiasts and political obsessives (I.e. you -Ed).
But with all rules, there are exceptions. And the Monday night meeting of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Place Scrutiny Committee was just such an exception.
There was actually a bloke sat behind me in the unusually full public gallery, muttering to Cllr Aylen about how boring the meeting was. I’m not sure how he knew this, mind, since he seemed to talk all the way through it.
But I digress. It did start of rather boringly, but it didn’t stay that way. In fact, for an observer, it was unusually exciting and nearly ended up coming to blows.
I’ve said before that one thing that unifies Southend Independent Party Group is an inability to play well with others. Represented in their number is former Labour candidates, former Lib Dem candidates, and until very recently a former Tory.
The news that Cllr Steve Aylen has left the Independent Party Group after a falling out with Ron Woodley is scarcely news. Conservative blogger Cllr Mark Flewitt already covered it in his stream-of-consciousness style, and the Southend Echo in something a little closer to English.
I don’t want to get too deep into Cllr Aylen’s accusations (Putting it simply, I have heard that he was rather brusque to an officer, but that Cllr Woodley threatened him in open committee -Ed), but whilst I don’t agree with Steve on a great deal of subjects — not least culling deer in Belfairs Wood — I have always found him pleasant to deal with and entertaining in the council chamber.
But one of the points Cllr Aylen made when quitting the Independent Party Group was how much like a political party it had become. Hardly a surprise to most of us, but strenuously denied by Messers Woodley and Terry. But given that my little birds this morning report to me that Martin Terry has stepped down as the leader spokesperson of the Independents, to be replaced by Cllr Mike Assenheim, this blogger wonders how much longer the fallacy can continue.
Rubbish. That’s what Independent Party Group leader Martin Terry branded my revelations of infighting amongst the Shoeburyness independents.
I trust he will be describing Anne Chalk’s latest leaflet doing the rounds in the same terms, given she roundly turns on her former colleagues now that she has been relieved of the burden of being on the council.
Introducing the new make-up of the Cabinet on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council:
Cllr Ron Woodley (IND – Thorpe) — Leader of the Council
Cllr Ian Gilbert (LAB – Victoria) — Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Councillor for Community and Organisational Development
Cllr Graham Longley (LD – Blenheim Park) — Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Councillor for Enterprise, Tourism and Economic Development
Cllr Martin Terry (IND – Thorpe) — Executive Councillor for Public Protection, Waste and Transport Cllr David Norman (LAB – Victoria) — Executive Councillor for Housing, Planning and Regulatory Control
Cllr Anne Jones (LAB – Kursaal) — Executive Councillor for Children and Learning
Cllr James Moyies (SIG – West Shoebury) — Executive Councillor for Health and Adult Social Care
That makes 3 Labour councillors, 2 Independent councillors, 1 Liberal Democrat councillor, and 1 Southend Independence Group councillor.
I’ll leave it up to readers to decide who they think is driving this administration’s agenda…
So the Southend Tories have done a George W. Bush and declared mission accomplished in their long and bitter war against the closure of toilets. They can now presumably go back to their long and bitter struggle to close Priory House care home.
On a serious note, I was never particularly pleased with the proposal to close public toilets, its presence marring what I think is generally a pretty good budget, Southend’s £11 million Tory cut considered. I spoke out against it in the Labour group meeting, and hoped that it wouldn’t be part of the final passed budget.
Sometimes it feels like local politics goes in circles. Case in point: I am sure I’ve written this blog before. I have, in fact, back in December last year: A Coalition of Fools.
Back then, I said:
“I’ve no idea what the May elections will bring. More than likely there will be no party in overall control, and extensive negotiations will be necessary to provide Southend with local government. But regardless, any concept of a stable Independent-UKIP coalition taking control is limited to the fanciful imaginings of Messers Moyies and Terry.“
I hesitate to blow my own trumpet, but I did call it right. I underestimated the number of UKIP wins, but no one party had a majority, and a UKIP-Independent alliance was a mathematical flop. That doesn’t seem to have disuaded them though; in the pages of the Echo they’re at it again: Ukip eye up coalition with Independents.