Deputy mayor steps down blaming Southend Council bosses

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The deputy mayor has blamed senior managers at Southend Council for his decision to step down from his position as a councillor.

Councillor Mark Flewitt (Con), who represents the St Laurence ward, announced on Tuesday that he will not stand for re-election in May after 16 years.

Mr Flewitt was expected to be made the 100th mayor of Southend later this year, taking over from Cllr John Lamb, but he blamed “weak senior management” and turmoil in the council for his decision to go.

“For me pride and joy are not two words I would associate with Southend Council and it is important that I distinguish that I am going because of the council and not because of Southend,” said Mr Flewitt.

“It has come to a point where I can’t do the job properly because everything is a fight, even to get a pothole filled in. It has become unworkable.

“When we express problems as councillors – and I’m not the only councillor of any party to say this – if we say it is not happening it is then ignored. It is only if you are in administration that even a highways request gets done.

“I’m not elected to tell residents I can’t get something done because I’m not in administration.”

He went on to say the blame should be on the council’s top boss, chief executive Ali Griffin.

Speaking on whether she should resign as a result of the difficulties he has faced, he added: “If there was a Conservative administration, I don’t see much option. She has to take responsibility.

“Relationships are broken beyond repair.”

However, Mr Flewitt added that he was not closing the door on returning one day. He said: “I’m not closing the door. It is always wrong to say never again, or I’ll be back again but I am going to keep a watch, 16 years is a long time and I am glad I’ve concluded it as deputy mayor.”

Tory leader, Councillor Tony Cox, said: “It is a great shame Councillor Flewitt is standing down, but I fully respect his right to do it.

“He would have made a great mayor for Southend, and it’s a shame that he feels like this.

“What fitting tribute to have the first openly gay mayor in Southend be the 100th mayor, sadly its not to be.”

Councillor Daniel Cowan (Lab), who also represents the St Laurence ward, said: “Whoever is elected in Mark’s place and joins the council, my offer to them will be the same as it has been to Mark which is let’s work together for St Laurence.

“We can have policy debates and disagreements in the council chamber but on the ground we need to work for the best of St Laurence.”

He said that he had also experienced trouble getting things done at the council, but did not blame council officers, instead he said it is often due to political disputes.

He added: “I genuinely wish Mark the best after 16 years on council, I hope he enjoys his well-earned rest.”

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter