Questions over Southend councillor’s position

A Southend Labour councillor is said to be now sitting as a non-aligned member as the party continues to be dogged by allegations of a “toxic atmosphere”.

Kathy Murphy, who was last week described as a Labour member, is now said to be non-aligned on Southend Council’s website – one year after she was elected to represent St Luke’s ward.

It follows the resignation of Tricia Cowdrey, formerly the Labour councillor for Kursaal ward, last year.

Ms Cowdrey cited the “toxic atmosphere” in the Labour group for her decision to join Thorpe Ward councillor Ron Woodley to form the Residents First Party.

Cllr Murphy also recently referred to the “negative behaviour” in the council as she defended wearing a t-shirt displaying the slogan “Don’t rape people” during last week’s mayor-making ceremony.

Speaking at the time, Cllr Murphy said she was using her platform as a councillor to defend women’s rights.

She added: “My experience over last year, my first as a councillor, is that negative behaviours are often ignored which is tantamount to collusion.”

Cllr Murphy has since refused to explain why the council website does not list her as Labour councillor but says she hasn’t resigned from the party.

The Labour group – and the council as a whole – has become embroiled in accusations of a toxic atmosphere among councillors in recent years.

It led to Stephen George pledging to ensure all councillors adhered to their code of conduct and act with decorum during meetings when he was appointed as Labour leader last year.

Cllr George was ousted as leader after only a year following the local elections.

He was replaced last week by St Laurence ward councillor Daniel Cowan.

The Southend Labour group and Labour East refused to comment on Cllr Murphy’s position.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter