Talks over Castle Point Council's future break down

6:00am Tuesday 3rd June 2014

By Ian Weinfass

MAJOR talks over the future running of Castle Point Council have broken down.

The council faces months of uncertainty and slow decision making as it looks set to be run by the Conservative Party, which doesn’t have a majority.

Negotiations for a coalition, in which all parties elected to the council would take part in running it, fell through last week when they had barely begun.

The Canvey Island Independent Party and Ukip have slammed the Tory party for being “divided” after its leadership election, which saw Colin Riley and Bill Sharp installed as leader and deputy by just two and three votes respectively.

Former deputy council leader Jeffrey Stanley had been favourite to take over.

Ukip county councillor Jamie Huntman, who acts as spokesman for his party’s borough councillors, said: “We won’t be entering into a coalition with the Conservatives.

“They had a meeting the other day where they elected a new leader and there are unhappy people within their group. It’s best for us to stay outside that.”

Dave Blackwell, leader of the Canvey Independent group, said: “I’ve spoken to Tories who are totally unhappy with what’s going on in their party.

“We’re not prepared to enter into a coalition that might blow up in a couple of months.”

Responding to claims a minority administration could struggle to get anything voted through the council chamber he added: “If they put forward policies that we feel will be for the benefit of the whole community, we will support them.

“We’re not going to be a group that goes in there to cause destruction.”

However, Mr Riley denied there was an issue in his group.

He said: “It’s unfortunate if Dave Blackwell and (Ukip leader on the borough council) Alan Bayley are making it difficult by saying they’re not prepared to work with us.

“It’s just unfortunate. We’re not going to let that stop us.

“I and Bill Sharp were elected in an open and democratic process.

“We’re not divided, they’re trying to scare people. We are all Conservatives and we’re definitely not divided.”

He added an administration needed to be formed soon to get work going on the council again.

He said: “I can’t speak too much about the future until we meet all Conservative members on Monday evening.

“The planning committee is so far behind, we’ve got to get it up and running again.”

Following the election, Castle Point Council is now made up of 20 Conservatives, 16 Canvey Independent Party members and five Ukip councillors, meaning no one party has overall control.

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