Southend Tory leader accused of trying to ‘rile up football fans’ as Labour push for council control

Furious Southend Labour leader Daniel Cowan has launched a stinging criticism of Tory leader Tony Cox saying he is “trying to rile up Southend United fans with absolute nonsense”.

Cllr Cox has refused to step down and insists the full democratic process must be followed to remove him as he makes a point about comments made by Labour and Indpendents last week about the deal to save the Blues.

More than 1,300 homes are set to be built at Fossetts Farm off Eastern Avenue, Southend under a deal between Southend Council and Southend United chairman, Ron Martin.

Profits from the development will see £20million given to the club over the next ten years for the Roots Hall stadium to be refurbished following the sale of the club to a consortium led by Justin Reece.

The Fossetts deal, a partnership between the council and Thames Plaza run by Southend United chairman Ron Martin’s son Jack and Thomas will see the council lease the homes from Thames Plaza. The council will gather rents, retaining a management fee and passing the rest to Thames Plaza. If it fails to rent the upmarket properties, the council will be liable for the rents.

This week both Cllr Cowan and Independent Group leader Martin Terry have raised concerns this could leave the council in financial danger and the deal would need close scrutiny to ensure this isn’t the case.

Cllr Cox is underlining comments from the two rival group leaders, insisting this is a risk to the Blues’ deal, and refused to budge from his role as council leader, despite no longer leading the biggest party on the council.

This means a vote of confidence would need to be held, but because notice wasn’t given, a key council meeting has been moved to May 20 to allow the vote to take place.

However, Cllr Cowan accused Cllr Cox of using those concerns to cling on to office. He said: “I think it’s utterly disgraceful that councillor Cox in a desperate attempt to hang on to his position is trying to rile up Southend United fans with absolute nonsense.

“We’ve had ongoing conversations with Justin Rees for a number of months and he has our assurances that as long as there are no red flags that we will be proceeding with the deal which is the exact same position that every political group has signed up to so our position is no different than Tony’s and its just a shame that he’s now seeking to sow discord.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter