doc

SOUTHEND could see three parties team up to run the council.

The most likely future is an arrangement between the Independents, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the Echo understands.

Conservatives lost their 14- year grip on power after losing seven seats at the local election.

Ukip gained five councillors and the Independent group increased its councillors by three, while Labour won four extra seats.

The Tories remain the biggest party, with 19 councillors, but are seven short of a majority.

To continue running the council, the group would need to formacoalition with, or gain the support of, some of the Independent group’s 12 councillors or Labour’s nine.

But Conservative leader John Lamb ruled out working with Ukip and some Independent members, severely limiting future possibilities He said: “There are options that need to be looked at.

“We could do it with Labour, they’ve got enough that could make it happen.

“I could work with some Independents, but there are some I couldn’t work with.

“I am open to discussions and I’m available on the phone to anyone who wants to talk to me.”

Labour leader Ian Gilbert said: “We have had no real negotiations yet.

“I wouldn’t rule anything out, but if you look at the results, it’s clear the electorate does seem to have voted for change in Southend.

“It wasn’t a vote for business as usual, so it would be difficult to see us supporting the Conservatives for that reason – leaving aside our natural opposition to them.”

Mr Gilbert also said he would not want to work with Ukip, meaning an alliance between Independents, Labour and Lib Dems could be the only viable option.

Lib Dem leader Graham Longley added: “It’s difficult and discussions are still going on with different people, but I’m not sure what John Lamb can offer that would stand up.”

Independent group spokesman Martin Terry said: “As far as we’re concerned, nothing is decided and nothing is ruled out.”

Former Independent group spokesman Brian Ayling added: “In Southend, we will now see a truly independent group of councillors prepared to work with any good councillors who can leave politics out of the equation.”