Losing Momentum?

Labour councillors in Southend have seemingly distanced themselves from the left-wing organisation Momentum.

None of the 16 councillors in the city have declared an allegiance to the group on their register of interests.

Southend Council recently sought legal advice over the issue of members being connected to political movements, with experts ruling all councillors must include memberships when declaring interests.

It comes just weeks after new council leader, Stephen George, claimed four of his 16 Labour members belonged to Momentum.

Four new Labour councillors and one Liberal Democrat councillor have now declared their interests, according to council documents.

None of the new Labour councillors have admitted to membership of Momentum.

The remaining 12 Labour councillors have updated their registered interests with none including Momentum affiliation.

A Labour insider had previously claimed Momentum were behind a coup that saw former leader Ian Gilbert ousted and replaced by Mr George.

Cllr Gilbert was said to be shocked by the bid to remove him after he had led his group’s successful election campaign.

He is said to have lost a leadership by a single vote.

A Labour source, who asked to remain anonymous said: “The rules were made clear, any members of an organisation like Momentum have to declare it.”

They added it was possible councillors had opted to end their affiliation with Momentum following the rules requiring them to declare it in their interests.

Cllr George, who describes himself as a “left-of-centre, pragmatic politician” has vowed to make councillors more transparent.

He leads a coalition administration of Labour, Lib Dem and Independent councillors.

The Independent group has already warned they will leave the administration if any far-left ideology becomes apparent.

Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative Group, said: “At the end of the day it’s down to them. It came out from members of the Labour Group that there had been a hard left takeover of Labour.”

Cllr George was contacted on a number of occasions for comment to clarify the situation but was unavailable.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter