Southend Tories face code of conduct accusation

Southend Tories have been accused of “disregarding” a code of conduct intended to ensure high standards in public office.

At an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday it emerged the Conservative group has refused to take part in standards committee meetings because they believe it to be “corrupt”.

The group was accused of disregarding the Nolan Principles of standards in public life, which include selflessness, integrity, honesty and leadership.

Outraged members of the administration launched a petition following the meeting, urging Conservatives to “be better than their Government”.

Speaking at the meeting, Martin Terry, Independent councillor, said: “Your group has decided you don’t want to be a part of that any more. You don’t appear at any meetings.

“We’ve seen with your party that’s turned its back on standards. Residents of Southend deserve to know what’s going on.

This is not good enough for our new city or our democracy and Southend expects better.”

The standards committee met last Monday to consider a complaint against an unnamed Conservative councillor who did not attend.

The complaint was upheld and will now be the subject of a hearing.

At Thursday’s full council meeting Tricia Cowdrey, Labour councillor, said: “As a member of the standards committee I was dismayed that members appointed to this committee failed to attend as well as on numerous occasions over the past year. They refuse to take part and then argue the process is undemocratic.”

James Moyies, Conservative councillor for Shoebury ward, said: “We won’t take any lessons on the corrupt disciplinary procedure that’s been introduced over the last couple of years. The process is corrupt and is working against one party.”

The meeting became rowdy at times leading to Mayor Margaret Borton scolding councillors for giggling and talking over others.

She said: “We should behave like grown-ups and not call people names. That is for the playground. You really, really need to show some adult behaviour.”

After calling on the Tories to make a complaint to the standards committee if they had a problem, Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative group said: “It’s not your position to start going on a rant about what my group decide to do or not do.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter