Southend Council leader survives second vote of no confidence

The leader of Southend Council and his administration have survived a second no confidence vote brought by the town’s Conservative group after a series of “U-turns causing chaos”.

Councillors voted 26 to 20 to keep the Labour, Lib Dem and Independent administration and its leader Ian Gilbert in place just two months after a similar vote took place.

Conservatives cited a series of U-turns by the administration in recent weeks as proof the council is in “chaos”.

These included dropping plans to charge for seafront parking up to 9pm and a decision to put the waste contract out to tender rather than allow the current contractor, Veolia, to continue with a scheme for wheelie bins and fortnightly collections.

Speaking at an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday, Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group, said: “It’s chaos. We had the waste disposal contract.

We’ve had the speed hump fiasco in Thorpe Bay.

“We’ve had the 6pm to 9pm parking charges – another U-Turn, self-inflicted. We don’t always get it right first time but to repeat mistake after mistake leans to incompetence.

Cllr Cox also accused the council of making a series of slurs and wasting public money.

Cllr Gilbert saw off a vote of no confidence last year after Tories attempted to oust him over a £10million investment in the controversial Seaway leisure scheme planned for Southend seafront.

Councillors voted 23 to 27 against the motion.

Anne Jones, councillor responsible for communities and housing defended Cllr Gilbert.

She said: “The fact is the leader has done a great job leading this council through the most challenging times in living memory.

“I would just like you to think about what we’ve all been through in the pandemic and what our residents have been through and how we have served them at that time The focus on outcomes for the people of this city has been one which we have all taken part in.

“The services which were set up and he led on have ensure the safety and well being of people and I include with pride, his willingness to support payments for free school meals even at this difficult time.”

Cllr Gilbert thanked councillors who supported him, adding: “I can’t add much more to the generous words of support that have been given to me.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter