Southend chooses a new leader and administration (2)
So now we know! This is the promised follow up to Part 1 of this mini-series (see here).
It is the Tony and Meg team now in charge, rather than Daniel and some other “Rainbow”, thanks to eight Independents, 3 of which voted for Tony and 5 abstained, thus adding to the votes of the Tories 22 councilors to give Tony the votes he needed to become leader, select his preferred cabinet and tie up the chairmanship of a much larger number than one might think committees to be in his favour, including as predicted giving jobs to the boys (and girls) where politics shouldn’t even come to into it. It seems to me that when politics is not an issue e.g. arts related the one who is appointed should be the best candidate and when it comes to scrutiny that should go to someone from the opposition. For more details, check out the Southend Echo “Tories take over leadership of Southend Council after vote tonight” article or go to the Southend Council webinar library (here and here).
The Echo article begins: “TORIES have taken over the leadership of Southend Council following the resignation of labour’s Stephen George who led the former joint administration. Tony Cox and his Conservative group won a leadership vote, gaining 25 votes to beat Labour’s Daniel Cowan and Lib Dem Paul Collins Mr Cox said Conservatives will deliver on promises made during the May elections including providing some free High Street parking and rescuing the Jazz Centre UK which had been under threat of eviction from the council owned Beecroft Gallery”.
And despite my intention to watch the show, I missed the important bit – the election of leader. I just happened to tune in late and when I did it was already done and dusted and the Councillors were on a break. When they came back, it was all about voting in chairs and vice chairs for the various, numerous committees – all done, I must say, with minimal fuss and with the fun element being removed in the light of the efficient use of electronic voting (Dominion here we come lol). I got my first sight of the now not so new Southend Council CEO, Rob Polkinghorne, who did a good job overseeing the voting and new mayor, Stephen Habermel, who I thought chaired well. The interesting aspect as a result of my missing the first part of the show that was about who was voted in as Council leader and later finding out that Tony and his crew were now in charge, albeit with Independent support (likely part of the deal), was being able to figure out before what had happened when it came to finding out the various appointments, which I discovered on previous occasions was down to which administration was in charge.
When I did get to watch the bit I missed, which actually appeared not long after the show ended, I saw that the vote for leader was a three way one with the announcement prior to that of an alternative vote system should the person coming first on the first ballot not get an overall majority. It happened, this was not needed, but since the number of councillors are 51, I assume there were some abstentions (unlike before when councillors verbally, personally announced their vote – pray someone enlighten me as to who did abstain). Given the LibDems put their hat in the ring for their leader to be the Council leader and thereby not supporting Labour like last time, this would have been a good indication how the vote was going to go. As for showtime, this one was definitely for the nerds given the whole show was very business like and councillors only spoke if proposing a candidate or on matters of order. It was a pretty slick affair, even if a bit of an anti-climax for those who may have expected fireworks.
I’m sure over the next few days, more will coming out as the new administration get to work. One snippet from the Echo report, on top of the parking and Jazz Centre, pertain to the 15 minute cities idea, (see here): “Mr Cox added: “We will under no circumstances be blocking off Hamlet Court Road with planters. We will not be blocking any roads off under the guise of 15-minute neighbourhoods and we will also not be taking one breeze block out of Queensway underpass”. Another pertains to an interesting recent discussion on my Facebook page: “As part of his leadership responsibilities, Mr Cox will take on a portfolio dedicated to special education needs and disability. Meg Davidson has become deputy leader and will take on the environment portfolio”.
All that remains is to wish the interesting leadership team, the Tony and Meg combination, well and to encourage councillors who have committee etc. responsibilities to do so, based on understanding the issues and what is best for Southend, and those losing out to hang in there and help ensure those in power are made accountable, and the people they are meant to represent are represented. As for me, I will remain a neutral, partly based on my antipathy to all main parties and on local mattters my leaning toward person rather than party. I will engage with those councillors of all shades I have not managed to upset, to make our city great and care for the poor and vulnerable.
I am grateful to one of my trusted informants for sending me the breakdown of who voted for who to lead the Council … and found there were surprises and something I wrote I needed to correct. Interestingly enough, all the candidates in the Independent Group (Martin Terry, Stephen Wakefield and Nick Ward) abstained. Except for Tricia Cowdrey, who abstained, Ron Woodley and Mike Stafford of Residents First voted for Tony Cox. The other Independent, Stephen Aylen, also voted for Tony Cox. Kathy Murphy did not vote. Richard Longstaff, Southend’s first Green councillor, abstained.
2 thoughts on “Southend chooses a new leader and administration (2)”
A little (lot) of aggression being shown in your use of words to describe the Conservative group on the council and the selection of posts and persons that make up the new cabinet system.
We will all watch to see how they perform and whilst watching them we will watch all groups in the council to see if they can work for the interests of Southend and all its residents rather than the political party’s or if independent just their local wards they represent. Southend is a city which needs all of its councillors to make it a better place to be.
This year will give Cllr Cowan as a good councillor and leader the opportunity to do his best to sort out the disputes and interal problems within his group. Having been on the receiving end of disagreements it is not an easy task as a deputy leader or one who as a councillor who in the end had to walk away from a party I cared because I found the then leader was not the decent or trustworthy person I believed him to be.
He’s moved on and I’m now back with that party and will remain with them but I’ll now be more alert to the way individuals in the party look at me and what they think of me. They will no longer be friends but party colleagues some who will now receive my greatest respect but others I will acknowledge or ignore.
Not Politics is not an easy thing nor are the people you sometimes rub shoulders with. So my lesson learnt, I will not be so gullible.
I will give the new administration time to fulfill their promises as I did the previous.
There are a lot of dark (not so secret) secrets that the Labour group and Cllr Cowan are trying to brush under the carpet. It is no coincidence that a number of female councillors have left Labour to become independent.