Does Southend need town councils?

southend marine plaza

It occurs to me that many readers might be unaware that I served, for a time, as a councillor on Wargrave Parish Council. For transparency’s sake, I’m reiterating it now.

You see, with the exception of Leigh Town Council, Southend doesn’t have a lower tier of local government. And lately I’ve been wondering if it wouldn’t benefit from the addition.

Parish and town councils are traditionally the lowest level of local government, giving a forum for local residents on issues like planning and… Well, what I remember is mostly planning, but I think there were benches and Christmas trees too.

Read on…

Maggie Kelly for Shoeburyness

maggie kelly friars library

With 2015 almost upon us, I’m going to carry on announcing selected Labour candidates for the 2015 Southend-on-Sea local elections. And Maggie Kelly will be contesting Shoeburyness ward on 7th May.

Maggie fought the same ward earlier this year, the first time she had stood for election. She performed, in my biased opinion, excellently, increasing the Labour share of the vote by some three percent. I’m delighted that she has decided to stand again.

Of her selection, Maggie said,

Living in Shoeburyness myself, I know what a great place it is to live in, and I am delighted to have been selected to stand again. I hope to be a strong, clear voice for my fellow Shoeburyness residents.

With Roger Hadley, the Conservative councillor defeated in May, standing again for the Conservatives, it seems like the same options are going to be on offer. Particularly given that Nick Ward, the Independent candidate elected in May, is essentially the puppet of Anne Chalk, the Independent councillor up for re-election next year.

Shoeburyness residents should look at the disappointment of their latest Independent councillor and come to the obvious conclusion: that the real choice for change is Labour and Maggie Kelly.

Friendly fire

mike assenheim and roger hadley

The above photo depicts Mike Assenheim, councillor for Shoeburyness and portfolio holder for Regulatory Service, outside Shoeburyness High School alongside former councillor for Shoeburyness Roger Hadley. Nothing innately interesting there, but Mike sits with the Independent Party Group and Roger Hadley a Conservative. And this picture seems to be causing a little trouble.

In the May elections, Roger was beaten rather decisively by Independent Party Group candidate Nick Ward. This was a bit of a shame, not because Roger was a brilliant councillor — he wasn’t — but because his replacement is a competence-vacuum in the shape of a man. Still, Roger was punished by the voters for slavishly following his party line and not listening to Shoeburyness residents. You can’t really argue with that.

But what is interesting here is the reaction of the third Shoeburyness councillor Anne Chalk (Independent) — who seems so embittered of her defeated foe that she is laying into Mike, ostensibly her friend.

Read on…

Ian Gilbert and Southend Labour kick off the 2015 campaign

ian gilbert and co in shoeburyness

My feet have just about recovered from walking up and down those absurdly long avenues in Westborough ward on election day. And of course, in the barmy logic of the world we live in, that means it is time to get campaigning again.

So this morning saw me, wearing decidedly better shoes, once again walking up and down residential streets knocking on doors. This time we were out in the east of the borough, in Shoeburyness, where PPC (and new Deputy Leader of the council) Ian Gilbert was firing the first shots of election campaign.

It might seem a bit early to be back out campaigning for an election still a year away, but Rochford and Southend East constituency has more than 70,000 voters, and we want to speak to as many as we can by May 7th. Knocking on doors in Shoeburyness saw a generally positive reaction, but Ian is a good candidate and a lot of people have very little time for Tory James Duddridge.

We were also out with Maggie Kelly, Labour’s candidate for Shoeburyness ward at the elections just gone. She didn’t win the ward, but increased the Labour vote, and I hope she will consider putting herself forward to stand again in 2015.

Anne Chalk and the “Tory Yoke”

anne chalk

With the new administration officially in place as of last night, reactions are trickling in from Southend’s political blogosphere. On the left, Julian Ware-Lane has said his piece, whilst on the right Nigel Holdcroft, Mark Flewitt and Tony Cox have weighed in. For myself, I have blogged a twice now on the joint administration arrangement; once before last night’s vote and once after.

Shoeburyness Independent councillor, Anne Chalk, has yet to blog about the deal. That isn’t altogether surprising. Her blogging is a spasmodic affair, going months at times without a post and then a flood of updates at once. A cynic might note that her most recent blogging surge coincided quite neatly with the local elections.

Read on…

Take independent nonsense out of Southend local politics

southend civic centre

The Southend Echo finally published my letter about the Shoebury hustings yesterday. It’s a touch truncated, but I’m going to presume that is down to space-saving rather than any sort of censorship. If you want to read the entire letter, including the part where I ponder on whether I was deliberately cut out of the debate, then luckily you can read it here.

What did catch my eye, however, was a letter from Cllr Anne Chalk (who organised the farcical hustings in question) entitled “Take party politics out of locals”.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows just how little I think of the Independent Party Group and that I have pointed out many, many times that if it looks like a party, acts like a party, quacks like a party, it’s probably a party — no matter how many times it calls itself “independent”.

So maybe this is just rehashing the same old round, but call me the patron saint of pointless exercises, because I’m going in.

Read on…

Letter to the Echo: The Independents manipulated the debate

southend echo

The below letter was sent to the Southend Echo on Wednesday 14th May 2014. See these previous posts for the background.


On Monday evening I attended the local election debate at Hinguar Primary School for West Shoebury and Shoeburyness candidates, advertised in your pages (Southend Echo, 9th May). You can imagine my surprise, then, where upon arrival and with no notice I was informed that the terms had been changed and it would be just for Shoeburyness candidates.

The effect was to create a debate only between the sitting Conservative councillor and the Independent candidate (whose group had been involved in organising the event). It was a shame that the debate was so needlessly constrained, particularly given that the main subject of discussion (the sea wall) is primarily in West Shoebury ward, where I am campaigning to represent the residents after the election.

But what angered me greatly was the assertion that the Labour candidate for Shoeburyness had “decided not to turn up”. This was absolutely not true. Maggie Kelly was unable to attend due to the short notice and her working commitments, which is the very reason that I – as the candidate for West Shoebury – was to take part in the debate.

Labour’s voice was deliberately cut out of the debate and I am very disappointed that the organisers resorted to this, as Labour is the only party in Southend with an optimistic and forward-looking plan for the borough. A cynic might wonder if this was the reason I was not allowed to participate.

Matthew S. Dent
Labour candidate for West Shoebury

How Labour was cut out of the Shoebury hustings

shoebury hustings

When I blogged about Monday’s Shoebury hustings, back on Tuesday, I focused on the questions (question?) asked, and the answers given (or not) given by the two candidates. In short, I focused on the debate that actually happened.

What I didn’t dwell on, and perhaps I should have done, was the debate which didn’t happen.

Read on…

A mess of a hustings

southend civic centre

Firstly, an apology. It is, I suspect, not an apology owed by myself, but I will give it nonetheless. To anyone who attended the hustings last night at Hinguar Primary School in order to see and listen to me, you would have been disappointed.

I arrived at Hinguar at ten to seven, only to be told by Cllr Anne Chalk that I wouldn’t in fact be speaking. It had changed, apparently, from the West Shoebury and Shoeburyness hustings that had been advertised, to a Shoeburyness only debate. And as such, only Conservative Cllr Roger Hadley and Independent candidate Nick Ward would speak.

Now, I don’t know when this decision was made. I do know that I had discussed my intentions today and last night with senior Labour councillors, and no such communication had reached any of us. I do however know that the decision served to make it an Independent vs Tory battle, and that the accusation that the Labour Shoeburyness candidate had not turned up was entirely spurious. Maggie Kelly was never intended to come, as she was working.

But actually, having sat through the spectacle ensued, I’m not sure I’m not glad to have been little part of it.

Read on…

Shoebury hustings, Monday at 7pm

southend civic centre

It’s a bit short notice, but I will be taking part in a hustings for the West Shoebury and Shoeburyess local elections at Hinguar Primary School in Shoeburyness.

Julian has already pointed out that these elections are suffering from a surprising shortage of debate (something for which we have both tried to make up using our blogs), so it’s good that there will be some opportunity for live questioning.

The debate will be held at Hinguar Primary School, at 7pm on Monday evening. I don’t yet know who else will be speaking (presumably a selection of the West Shoebury and Shoeburyness candidates), but it will be hosted by BBC Essex radio presenter Tim Gillett.

All are welcome, so come along and put your questions to your local candidates before the vote on May 22nd.