Independent councillors have said they will not take part in next month’s Southend Council by-election as a tribute to a former councillor, who died in January.

Councillor Julian Ware-Lane had been the Labour councillor for the Milton ward since 2012 but sadly died at the beginning of the year.

His death has left the ward without council representation and on March 21, political parties will battle it out to take over his seat.

But Independent Councillor Ron Woodley says none of the independents will take place in honour of Mr Ware-Lane.

“Julian Ware-Lane was very passionate about the ward and the cause he stood for, so we think this is only right,” he said.

“Julian was a very good councillor and very passionate about his views and the way things were done. If this was a normal situation of course we would have a candidate for this but in the sad circumstances we all feel it is right for the people of Milton to have back a Labour councillor.

“We are independent but we discuss a lot of issues together and we thought that this would be a fitting tribute.”

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal and a close friend of Mr Ware-Lane, said he was “touched by it” and called it an “honourable gesture”.

Conservative Councillor James Courtenay, deputy leader of the council, said: “We will be fielding a candidate but it is a very sad situation. Julian and I were at opposite ends of the political spectrum but we got along well in trying to achieve things for Southend.

“It is only right that the residents of Milton have their full representation on the council and if nobody fielded a candidate then the post wouldn’t get filled.

“I don’t think it is right for a party to get to nominate a replacement – the people of Milton elected Julian but sadly they don’t have that choice anymore. The Conservative stance is to field a candidate in every election to give residents the choice.”

A by-election is triggered when the council receives two letters from voters in the area. The election must take place within 35 days of the second letter being received.

Mr Ware-Lane's was not due to re-election until 2020 and the person elected to take over from him will serve the rest of his term.