Southend Tories call for vote of no confidence in council leader

The leader of Southend Council is facing a vote of no confidence over the “shambolic” handling of a new waste contract and potential changes to bin collections.

Southend’s Conservative group is calling for Councillor Ian Gilbert to step down and for a new leader be elected following the ongoing saga surround waste collections.

The Labour, Lib Dem and Independent administration dropped a plan this week to renew a deal with waste contractors Veolia and introduce fortnightly bin collections and wheelie bins.

The option had been recommended for approval by council officers and was seemingly backed by cabinet.

Instead, in an 11th hour decision, they opted for an alternative plan to invite other waste contractors to bid but this was also suddenly withdrawn at a council meeting on Tuesday.

In a letter to chief executive, Andy Lewis, the Tory group said: “With all the controversy around the original proposals that were due to be discussed behind closed doors, the announcement by the administration at full council for members to discuss the matter at the waste working party, another behind closed doors meeting, does nothing to ease the public angst over the seemingly lack of openness and transparency over the largest council contract and the only service that every resident uses.

“Due to the shambolic decision making, the chaos of the administration, the lack of openness and transparency we request an extraordinary council meeting at the earliest possible opportunity.”

At the meeting, Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for waste, announced she believed there was broad agreement among councillors over the tender and finer details could be discussed in private by a working party before being debated by council.

Tories, who had previously criticised attempts to hold all previous meetings on the matter in private, immediately called for a special council meeting and for Cllr Gilbert to resign.

Last year Tories unsuccessfully attempted to oust Cllr Gilbert over plans to invest £10million in the controversial Seaway scheme.

He said: “We need more members to sit down and come to agreement. That’s not easily done in the council chamber when everyone is limited on speaking.

“You can’t invite experts in, while we could do with a working party. It’s a huge decision.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter