A NEW era in Southend politics could see more councillors getting a say on the big decisions as a new coalition gets set to take power.
A coalition of Independent, Labour and Lib Dem councillors will seize power from the Tories on Southend Council tonight and are planning a major shake-up of the status quo.
Controversial plans to build a seawall in Shoebury, close libraries and shut care homes will all be reviewed, while the current cabinet system could also go in favour of a new committee system.
Soon to be council leader, Independent councillor Ron Woodley said the coalition represented a “new beginning” for the borough.
He said: “I am very pleased with the outcome of the negotiations between my three partners here.
“Now we have to pick up the reins with it very, very quickly.
“This is about the people of Southend-on-Sea and on that basis we are prepared to work together to form this joint administration to take this town forward to represent the people and listen to the people.
“I believe the last Conservative administration stopped listening to the people and the only people they did listen to was themselves and we have got to be a caring, listening, open democracy in Southend.”
Mr Woodley will be supported as leader by Ian Gilbert and Graham Longley, leaders of the Labour and Lib Dem groups respectively, who will act as deputies.
Martin Terry will remain as spokesperson for the Independents.
During a press conference, the coalition leaders outlined their key policies, which were: • Setting up a working party looking to move from the cabinet decision making system to the committee system, which could lead to more councillors get a say on the big decisions being made.
• Reviews on controversial plans for the Shoebury seawall, library closures and shutting of care homes.
• Urgent action to derelict buildings in Victoria Avenue.
• More community facilities in Southend town centre.
• Building more affordable and social housing.
• A pedestrian crossing at Kent Elms.
• Having scrutiny panels chaired by opposition councillors.
Mr Gilbert said: “We he hope to be able to deliver a change of direction for Southend, but at the same time ensure the council has stability and the ability to make the difficult decision that we are going to have to make.”
Mr Longley added: “The only way we can build a majority which means there will be stability is by way of working together and that means the Independents, Labour group and Liberal Democrats working together.”
TORIES fear the new coalition will “dismantle” the council’s financial reserves after seizing power.
Conservative group leader, John Lamb, pointed to his party’s success at turning the council’s performance around while in power and said his members would continue to work for their constituents in opposition.
Mr Lamb said: “When the Conservative group took office, the town was on it’s knees and the Labour government at the time were making plans to send in inspectors to administer the council.
“In the years since we took office, we have completely reversed the situation. The town is thriving and the regeneration process is highly successful and ongoing.
“There are now financial reserves and we took the council from near disaster to a point where we were awarded council of the year in 2012.
“We shall continue to be robust and united during our time in opposition and do our best to defend the town town and it’s residents against the inevitable dismantling of our reserves and resources.”
Mr Lamb said following the local election results on May 22, his party held lengthy talks with the Labour and Lib Dem groups but could not reach satisfactory agreements.
He had previously ruled out working with Ukip.