Deputy leader of Southend Council claims to be on verge of quitting over opposition “bullying”

The deputy leader of Southend Council has threatened to resign from cabinet over a “campaign of bullying” by opposition councillors.

Ron Woodley, Independent councillor for Thorpe ward has come under fire from the Conservative group for taking out an advertisement in the Oracle magazine promoting the benefits of the Southend Pass.

The pass is a monthly season ticket which allows three hours free parking in the borough.

Cllr Woodley, 73, said he paid for the ad and no council funds were used but the advert carries the Southend Borough Council logo, which councillors were recently banned from using.

Conservatives have questioned the latest use of the council’s logo, but have not made a formal complaint.

However, Cllr Woodley said: “It is absolutely petty and I’m getting to the point where I want to take a couple of steps back because it’s affecting my mental health.

“There is such negativity when all I want to do is the best for the town.

“I think what is the point when there is continual bullying. It’s really getting to me.

“When I started 15 years ago it was about people working together. I’m not going to resign from the council but I don’t think I can stay on in the cabinet.

“I will see the budget through. I won’t let the administration down with the budget but I don’t think I can last in cabinet until the May elections.”

The borough solicitor called on councillors to cease using council headed notepaper after Shoebury Independent councillors circulated a letter accusing the Tories of misleading the public about building on green belt land.

There have been several clashes during council meetings in recent months and the Conservatives lost a vote of no confidence in council leader Ian Gilbert last year.

Cllr Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group said: “I have a right to ask questions.

“It’s fine if he paid for the ad himself but if it uses council branding I can ask questions.

“We’ve been told by the borough solicitor not to use the council logo and to ask about that is not bullying, it is due diligence.

“This is not bullying. These are legitimate concerns.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter