ALL eyes will be on Ukip at next month’s borough and district council elections as they attempt to shift the political landscape for the first time in years.
The anti-EU party – still riding the crest of a wave after a series of gains in last May’s county council elections – is now looking to make inroads into the borough council elections on May 22.
The party will look to latch on to votes from dissatisfied voters, with the European Parliamentary elections happening on the same day.
Tories admit they could struggle in the face of widespread disillusion with the Coalition Government nationally.
Just a handful of seats will have to be lost in Basildon, Castle Point and Southend to topple those ruling Conservative administrations.
Rochford is regarded as a Tory stronghold and even if the Conservatives lose all the seats they are defending, they would still retain power.
In Southend, there will be some interesting political battles as Ukip seeks to make ground.
West Shoebury, in particular, will be the focus for Nigel Farage’s party as it hopes to topple sitting Tory Tony Cox.
Plans for a new seawall on Shoebury Common, proposed by the Tory-led council, has been a source of controversy.
In Basildon, Ukip is fielding candidates in every ward as it looks to built on its success in the county council elections, where three of its candidates secured seats.
Last May, Ukip won 34 per cent of the total vote in Basildon, compared with 32 per cent for the Conservatives, 24 per cent for Labour and 5 per cent for the Lib Dems.
Kerry Smith, branch manager for the party in Basildon, said: “I think we could win every seat. I think it is very likely the Tories will lose overall power.
“Even in Billericay, which is regarded as a Tory stronghold, there are a lot of issues that are deeply concerning, not least the Local Plan.”
The Basildon Tories have been in power for almost a decade and they have recruited Communities Secretary and Brentwood Tory MP, Eric Pickles, to launch their campaign later this month.
Eleven Tories are defending their seats, and if they lose three theywill lose overall control of the council.
The group’s leader, Tony Ball, is defending his seat in Wickford North in May.
He said: “Five years ago we cleaned the board, but it’s a bit different as the Tories were not in control of the country.
“We’re finding people are going to vote Ukip in the EU elections, but are coming back to us locally.
“We’re asking, ‘who would you trust with your money?’ I’d say we’ve got a record to back that up.”
In Castle Point, the Conservatives would have to shed six of the 14 seats up for grabs to lose overall control.
Ukip is likely to field around eight “strong” candidates as they look to build on the success of winning two seats in the county elections last year, branch secretary Jamie Huntman said.
Mr Huntman, who represents Thundersley and leads the party’s county contingent, said: “The Tories come across as really tired and past their sell-by-date.
“We don’t have any career politicians. All our candidates are local and have had jobs.
But, like me, they have grown frustrated with the status quo and want to do something about it.”