THE Independent group has been accused of failing its voters and leaving Southend with the Tories still in control.

Independent councillors refused to be part of an alliance with a member of a political party as leader meaning the Tories kept control despite losing its majority during the local elections.

Basildon Standard:

Angry - Carole Mulroney said the independents had 'failed' to compromise on anything

Basildon Standard:

Independent - Ron Woodley

The 11 councillors that make up the group chose to abstain from a crucial leadership vote on Thursday, which saw Tory Tony Cox win leadership of the council by just two votes.

The Labour Party – which is Southend’s second largest party – had hoped to form their own administration through an alliance with the Lib Dems and the Independents, which would have controlled 31 of the council’s 51 seats.

But the Independents withdrew their support after Labour refused to agree that an Independent councillor should be leader.

Speaking after the meeting, Independent spokesman, Ron Woodley said: “We now have a Conservative minority administration. 

“If the election results show us anything it’s that the residents wholeheartedly rejected the previous Conservative administration.

“As Independents we must be free from the control of any political party, pressure group or whip, so we offered to work under a politically neutral leader.

“It is disappointing that Labour and the Lib Dems could not agree to this - once again party politics came first. The Independents are extremely disappointed that, after residents have voted out so many Conservative councillors, Labour and the Lib Dems have ignored the wishes of the people.”

Labour leader, Ian Gilbert, said claims that their party ignored residents by proposing a Labour leader “does not stack up” as the party holds more seats than the Independents.

He said: “I would emphasise that we made an extremely fair and generous offer to the Independents in terms of division of responsibilities and the commitment to joint working between the groups that would have been in the party.

Labour councillor Matt Dent added: “The Independents knew full well what sitting on their hands was going to do.”

Carole Mulroney, leader of the Lib Dems, said: “Labour were fair both to us and the Independents in the negotiations.

“The Independents have failed to move or compromise on anything at all. They want the leadership and nothing else will do.”

Basildon Standard:

New leader - Conservative Tony Cox