Southend Council sticks with yearly elections

Yearly local elections are set to stay in Southend after councillors rejected an election shake-which would have seen residents vote for all councillors every four years.

Residents currently elect one third of councillors each year for a three-year term with a fallow fourth year.

But due to boundary changes and on the recommendation of the Local Government Association an election of all councillors will be held in 2026.

Councillors debated continuing with the system but at special council meeting on Thursday only ten voted for moving to a four yearly system and 35 voted against.

Speaking at the meeting, Lydia Hyde, councillor responsible for climate, environment and waste said: “The fact we have periods of no overall control some gradual change gives a bit more predictability to officers and businesses. That contrasts with places that have all out elections where you see these seismic shifts overnight, a complete change of the council.”

Cllr Hyde said the thirds system allowed new and inexperienced councillors to be guided by more experienced members rather than “foisting cabinet responsibility on to completely new councillors in their first year”.

A public consultation showed wide support from Southend businesses and organisations for all-out elections but residents were almost evenly split with 49.4 per cent of residents in favour of whole council elections and 50.6 per cent in favour of thirds.

Martin Terry, councillor responsible for community safety used controversial Leigh Town Council as an example of what could go wrong with four-year terms. He said. “I’m going to mention Leigh because it’s very relevant. They’ve got people in there that are very unpopular.

“I don’t like the idea of people having people foisted upon them for four years if they are not performing properly. Democracy needs to speak out regularly. Elections are hard work but nonetheless it is a way to make sure all the residents and businesses in this town can hold people to account for their actions.”

Young councillor Madison Faulkner-Hatt, new Labour councillor for St Luke’s Ward, said: “It’s no secret that turn out for young voters is significantly low and they are completely overlooked in politics a lot of the time because of this.

“A lot of young people could end up having to wait until they are 22 before they could have their first vote with the four yearly system.

“This would only prevent them from getting engaged with politics at that young age. I’m a young councillor but I may not have had that opportunity with the four yearly election cycle.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter