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Line-up revealed in battle for control of Southend Council
8:11am Wednesday 11th December 2013 in Local News
THE candidates and date for a key election to decide the balance of Southend Council have been announced.
The chamber is finely balanced, with the Tory administration and opposition groups both totalling 25 members after ill health forced Conservative member Gwen Horrigan to step down last month.
A by-election for the former mayor and magistrate’s West Leigh seat will be held on Thursday, January 23, and Labour, Ukip, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have all announced their candidates.
The vacancy and by-election date will be announced officially at a full meeting of the council on Thursday, when the council will also pay tribute to the 81- year-old’s long service.
In a report for the meeting, town clerk Rob Tinlin said: “Gwen Horrigan has rendered long and loyal service to the council and the borough of Southend and I am sure members will join me in recording our gratitude for such service.”
The loss of Mrs Horrigan as a councillor and a member of the Conservative group does not trigger an automatic review of the control of the council.
It means the Conservatives officially no longer have a majority, but will make little difference in reality as Mrs Horrigan has been unable to take part in council votes for more than six months due to her health.
Even with Mrs Horrigan, the chamber was hung until former Independent councillor for Thorpe, Alex Kaye, crossed the floor to join the Conservatives in March.
The Lib Dems and the Independents each have nine members and Labour has six, with Dr Marimuthu Velmurugan, who represents Westborough, standing apart from any group.
West Leigh is the one of the safest Conservative seats in the borough, with the party averaging a majority of more than 500 in the past three elections.
Mrs Horrigan, who was expected to retire in May 2015, has been unable to attend council meetings since May due to her ill health. Council rules state councillors must attend meetings at least every six months.
The Conservative, who was first elected in 1992 and whom the Queen made an MBE for community work in 2005, served as mayor in 2008-09.
She was councillor responsible for housing for ten years from 1997, represented Southend on the regional Housing and Sustainable Communities Panel and on the Thames Gateway South East Housing Panel, served on the Southend Residents’ and Tenants’ Forum and was involved with homelessness charity Harp.
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