Prodigal Southend councillors form new political group

Two Southend councillors who quit their parties have joined forces to form a new political group – teasing that they could back Southend Tories.

Ron Woodley, who represents Thorpe Ward, and Kursaal Ward’s Tricia Cowdrey, have become the leader and deputy leader of the new Residents First Group.

They claim they have been sidelined both by council officers and the Labour-led, Independent and Lib Dem joint administration since becoming non-aligned councillors.

Cllr Woodley resigned as deputy leader of the council in March last year and left the Independent Group, criticising it for becoming part of a “left-leaning” administration following last year’s local elections.

He said: “It’s a join-up of two councillors who are like-minded in terms of wanting to serve our residents.

“Unfortunately, as an unaligned councillor you tend to get ignored by officers and the administration, so we thought we would form a team and that way we can now really cross-examine the budget and make sure we remain on the committees that we want to remain on, because there is a move by certain parties to remove us from committees.

“The frustrations that both Tricia Cowdrey and I have had since we moved to a non-aligned status has just been tremendously poor.”

Cllr Woodley welcomed other councillors to join the new party, adding: “I’m a Conservative-minded person and Tricia is a Labour-minded person but we’ve both got thoughts for our residents.

“I will go into the next election as a non-aligned councillor for Residents First. I am sure that I will be supporting the Conservative Group as an administration because the administration we’ve got now is not fit for purpose.”

Cllr Cowdrey resigned from the Labour Party in December, citing the “toxic culture” within the group.

She said: “We both feel the role of a councillor is to put our residents first and we will be able to do that with a bit more strength and authority rather than as an individual non-aligned councillor.

“It’s not a political group. We do have things in common but we’ve got very different political leanings and I just think that makes an interesting debate.

“We will both vote in a way that we think is best for our residents but also in line with our values.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter