LOCAL ELECTIONS: Manifestos for Southend City Council candidates

Conservatives

Southend Conservatives

Southend Tories have vowed to scrap plans for a £50million leisure complex on Seaway car park in their first 100 days if they win power in May.

Conservative leader, Tony Cox, branded the plans “economically unviable”.

The Tories would also end the Southend Pass which allows free parking for a monthly fee, keep the Queensway underpass open, and maintain a weekly waste collection service.

The party promise to stop “anti-car policies… like taking away road space on the A13 to create a cycle lane”.

Green issues will be tackled by increasing the number of electric vehicle charging points, and electrifying the council’s vehicle fleet including the mayor’s car, HJ1

Conservatives will also remove all parking charges in Southchurch Park and step up the fight against green belt homes.

They add: “We will stop 7,000 homes being built on green belt land north of Bournes Green Chase.”

The party also promises to create a new portfolio for special educational needs children, to ensure they get the help they need.

In the first year in power, a Conservative administration would create free car parking spaces in the High Street, tackle anti-social behaviour, review all council joint adventures, increase police numbers and “improve accountability and democracy. “

Above all, Mr Cox said there would be a change in the council culture. He said: “The past three years have been an extremely difficult time for Southend. The Labour-led administration, propped up by the Independents and Lib Dems, has provided nothing except chaos, infighting and wasteful spending.

“Let’s work together to put the past three years behind us.”

Labour

The Labour group say they are committed to opposing airport night flights and plan to build more homes and spend £50m improving the city’s roads and pavements.

Labour leader Ian Gilbert, who has led the council since 2019, said the party would invest the cash into roads and pavements over the next five years.

Ian Gilbert

He also promised that the party would plant more trees than are cut down each year, build more council houses than are sold under Right to Buy, and to tackle rogue landlords.

Labour’s manifesto says that this will all be done whilst keeping council tax lower than in neighbouring authority areas.

Mr Gilbert added: “We want to introduce a key-worker housing offer to support those who help and protect our communities.

“We will also remain committed to opposing night flights at Southend Airport.”

Mr Gilbert pointed to achievements under the Labour-led coalition, including improvements to the Queensway estate, the Seaway leisure development, a revamp of the High Street, and the council’s move to buy up the Victoria Shopping Centre.

The Labour manifesto also includes making the Luminocity light festival an annual event, founding an annual city day event to boost both business and civic pride, and to bid for Levelling Up funds from the government to bring the Kursaal back into use.

He said: “These projects will bring jobs and investment to boost the city’s economy. This is vital to our recovery and despite every effort of the Conservatives to chase this investment away, we are moving forward.”

Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats have pledged to boost the High Street and tourism, aim for zero waste going to landfill and keep council tax down.

Carole Mulroney, leader of the Southend Lib Dems, has asked voters to judge them on their record as part of the multi-party coalition which has been running the city since 2019.

She said: “We are proud to have been working within a joint administration to deliver real improvements for Southend while keeping council tax levels well below those of neighbouring Castle Point and Rochford.

“Our priorities are protecting our local environment, promoting our local economy and supporting and investing in our local communities. We want every resident and business to have pride in Southend. “Through innovative and thoughtful recovery projects we will continue to enhance our High Streets and tourism areas, supporting local employment, museums and galleries, and make Southend the go-to city by the sea.”

The party has promised to grow Southend’s network of cycleways, plant more trees, and to support electric car use by providing more charging points.

They also say they will “work towards zero landfill”, by improving recycling services and “promoting an education programme for residents and businesses to ensure our waste is recycled properly”.

Mrs Mulroney added: “For the last three years the Liberal Democrats have been leading the council’s green agenda. We declared a climate change emergency and are determined this means action, not just words. We will enhance our parks and gardens with areas for wildlife and meadow plants and seek to bring park buildings back into beneficial use.”

Independents

Martin Terry

Public safety and a revitalised city centre are the foundations of the Independent group’s election pledges.

Martin Terry, leader of the group (pictured), said: “We will continue to successfully push for inward investment and encourage economic growth on top of the £1 billion already on the table, and we’ll encourage new businesses and jobs.

“We’ll revitalise the city centre, with better use of empty shops with affordable rents from non-council landlords.

“We’ll support the tourism economy with continued investment, take advantage of staycation, and make Southend an all-year destination.”

Mr Terry promised to work closely with policing, with more officers in the town at peak times, and continue to invest in the City Community Safety Unit and CCTV to “ensuring Southend is as safe as possible”.

And he promised to continue the £10 million annual investment in Southend’s roads, to keep parking costs down, and support weekly bin collections.

He added: “We’ll deliver a successful waste tendering process.”

Green Party

Southend Green Party says it wants to bring major changes to the city, including revolutionary green technologies and re-thinking public transport to make it not-for-profit.

This year’s manifesto includes cutting energy bills by installing sustainable energy generation technologies and retrofitting homes.

The Greens want to invest in supporting Essex food growers, make leisure facilities free to access for all residents, and improve recycling rates.

With policing, the party advocates “proactive early-intervention, not blunt and ineffective reactive policing”. James Vessey-Miller, branch co-ordinator of of the South East Essex Green Party, said:

“We would invest in youth offending and social services to help tackle teenage drug dealing and the knife crime epidemic.”

On transport, he added: “We want properly-planned infrastructure, and an integrated public transit system that works for people, not profit. We think that the greenest travel option should always be the cheapest and most convenient. “

And the manifesto includes a promise to introduce more equal pay across Southend Council: “We would seek to lead by example in making changes to the council itself; by bringing in a fair pay ratio of no more than 10:1, and by introducing a Living Wage for all council staff.”

But Mr Vessey-Miller also believes that having a Green presence in the council chamber can have a wider impact too, telling the Echo: “The power of having ‘a Green in the room’ is incomparable.

“In neighbouring areas like Rochford, Colchester, and Witham, we hold those in power to account, strive for better town planning, and we stand up for what matters.”

Conflicity Party

James Miller

The Conflicity Party is Southend’s newest political group, and hopes to bring a breath of fresh air to the city by working with existing businesses whilst making life easier for new ones to be set up.

But the party has also promised to oppose plans for 7,000 new homes on Green Belt land, and that it would make weekly bin collections mandatory.

Party leader James Miller, said: “Southend High Street has the potential to reshape its contribution to the city. We need to bring all landlords together to work alongside the council and other stakeholders to agree a vision. Parking, cleanliness and safety are a must – but ultimately it is the shops people come for so all our efforts should be geared towards filling the empty retail units.

“We need to make it easy for local people to set up a business.”

He said the party will lobby the Government on green issues, adding: “The sea is a precious asset, but during off-peak months water and sewage companies are allowed to pump sewage discharges from storm overflows. We would pursue regulation that would make this illegal.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter