Thurrock councillors have whip withdrawn after voting against their own party’s budget

Thurrock Council has been left with no overall control after two Tories voted against their own budget.

The council set its budget with a comfortable margin of votes but Conservative councillors Jack Duffin and Alex Anderson who represent Stanford-le-Hope East and Corringham Town failed to back the budget. Consequently they are reported to have had the whip withdrawn and Mr Anderson is now listed as an Independent. The Labour group abstained from the vote.

The mini rebellion leaves the council with 24 Tories, 19 Labour members, five Independents and Mr Duffin sitting alone. With elections looming however, the council’s new makeup is likely to have little effect.

Presenting his budget at the council meeting on Wednesday, Andrew Jefferies, leader of the council said: “The council has had serious financial challenges over the last few years. We’ve had to make some tough decisions in the budget to secure a viable long-term future for Thurrock. We’ve made great progress in securing the viability of this council when you consider two years ago we were in a place where we did not know if Thurrock would be able to continue as a council. It was a hard budget to work on and I want to thank everyone who worked on putting it together.

“By supporting this budget today all 49 members are taking responsibility for the future of this council. They are saying yes to securing a future of fiscal responsibility and they are proving they’ve learnt lessons from the Best Value Inspection and are willing to make the tough decisions decades of different Thurrock administrations showed they were unwilling to make.

“Thurrock has come a long way and this should be applauded.

John Kent, leader of the Labour Group “To set a balance budget this evening the cabinet has nodded through a package of savings that come to more than £90million. We heard a lot of talk from the leader of the council about securing services for the most vulnerable, protecting the most vulnerable and yet they include cuts that will hit some of the most vulnerable in our community

“Although there is much that we really do strongly oppose in this budget we accept we must do the responsible thing and allow the budget to pass. To do anything else would risk turmoil, uncertainty and deeper Government intervention. That’s not something we are prepared to do so we shall be abstaining.”

The Conservative Group leader was asked to comment.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter