BATTLE lines have been drawn for this year's local council elections in south Essex. 

The candidates vying for your vote in Southend, Rochford, Castle Point and Basildon have been announced. 


IN Castle Point, the Conservatives hold narrow overall control of the administration, with 21 out of 41 councillors.

Their dominance of the council was severely hit in last May’s election, when it lost five seats to Ukip.

After coalition talks failed, the Tories initially ran the council as a minority administration, with only 20 members.

But it gained the slimmest of majorities in November when Steven Cole defected from the Canvey Island Independent Party.

Next month’s election will see 14 of the 41 seats on the council being contested.

A repeat of last year’s outcome would open up the possibility of a coalition between Ukip and the Canvey Island Independent Party.

Earlier this year, the two parties announced an agreement not to field candidates in the same wards as each other for the borough elections.

The absence of any Ukip candidates means the Canvey Island Independent Party should be able to retain its dominance of the island, where it holds 14 of 17 available seats.

Ukip won five seats last year, but Ron Hurrell announced last month he was resigning from the party and would be continuing as an independent councillor.

Mr Hurrell was elected last year, so his seat in St Peter’s ward will not be contested again for another two years.

Former Canvey Island Independence Party councillors Joan Liddiard and Liz Swann will both be standing as independent councillors next month.

Upon announcing their plans to stand, the pair claimed Canvey Island Independence Party leader Dave Blackwell had taken the decision to form an alliance with Ukip without consulting party members.

Mr Blackwell denied the accusation, stating a meeting of members was “100 per cent in favour” of the agreement.

Council leader Colin Riley is one of several Tories who could face a stiff challenge from Ukip to retain their seat.

Mr Riley will be competing for votes alongside Ukip’s Patricia Blackmore in Victoria ward.

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THE Conservative status quo in the Rochford district faces another shakeup this May with the strength of opposition to the Tory council increasing.

In the past 18 months, four Conservative district councillors have defected from the Tory group.

One, David Sperring, went back to the group before last May’s elections, but the remaining three, Phil and Tracy Capon, as well as Toby Mountain, have all joined the opposition alliance between Rochford District Residents party and the Green Party.

The Greens have two candidates this year, to add to their two sitting councillors, and Rochford District Residents could potentially end up with nine councillors come the next full council meeting.

With the Conservatives fighting in all 13 contested wards and given their current position of strength, they are unlikely to lose their majority.

But leader Terry Cutmore may not be sitting so comfortably after polling day.

The key issue affecting residents at the minute is the council’s house building  plan, which involves building thousands of new homes on what was previously allocated to remain as green belt.

With the adoption of the housing strategy, the areas may no longer be classed as green belt, but the land itself has not been built on thus far, it is still fields at present.

With council members having already rejected an outline planning application for 500 homes west of Rayleigh, it is clear the strength of public opinion against the plans is being heard, but for how long will that remain the case?

This controversy over housing has led to the increase in independent and Rochford District Residents candidates this May and will probably see a reshaping of the council makeup if they, as expected, do well on election day.

The magnitude of the reshaping will be down to the voters when they go to the polls on May 7.

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LAST year’s elections signalled a change in mood Of voters choosing the members of Southend Council, as they used the ballot box to end 14 years of Conservative administration at Civic Hall.

Although the Tories remained the largest group in the council, they fell seven short of an overall majority and were arguably the biggest losers of the night – allowing Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent Group councillors to form an administration.

Ukip ousted Conservative councillors in West Shoebury and Kursaal, as well as Liberal Democrats in Prittlewell, Blenheim Park and St Laurence, giving the eurosceptic party a total of five councillors.

The Tories also lost to Labour in Milton, bringing the party’s representation at Civic Hall to nine, while the Independents managed to win four seats from the ruling party in St Luke’s, Thorpe, Shoebury and Southchurch.

Former transport cabinet member Tony Cox lost his seat to Ukip’s James Moyies in West Shoebury, though it was revealed at the Tories’ local manifesto launch on Friday that Mr Cox would be contesting the seat again in May.

A third of Southend Council’s 51 councillors will be elected on May 7 in each of its 17 wards.

Although residents will be casting their votes for just one councillor in most wards, St Laurence and West Shoebury electors will be voting for two.

This is owing to the resignation of Conservative Liz Day in West Shoebury on the grounds of ill health and both Ukip’s Lee Burling and Tory Adam Jones stepping down in St Laurence.

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ONE third of the 42 members of Basildon Council will be elected next month, with voting taking place in 14 of the borough’s 16 wards.

Heavy losses in last year’s elections left the Conservatives with only 17 seats, five short of the number needed to formamajority administration.

Last May’s results ended 11 years of overall Tory rule in the borough.

Ukip were the biggest winners in last year’s vote, gaining 11 seats, although its former group leader Kerry Smith now sits as an independent after quitting the party in December.

The increasing influence of Ukip means the party has two councillors – Linda Allport-Hodge and Mark Ellis – sitting as cabinet members without portfolio.

Current mayor Mo Larkin is the most notable absentee from the list of candidates for May’s election.

The Tory councillor, who has served as mayor since 2010, has announced she will not seek re-election due to the stresses of the role.

Candidate Amanda Arnold will be seeking to retain Mrs Larkin’s Pitsea South East ward seat for the Conservatives.

Former council leader Tony Ball, who was ousted by Ukip last year, is seeking to regain his place on the council in Vange.

The Conservatives, Labour and Ukip are fielding candidates in all 14 wards, while the Liberal Democrats, who currently have only one serving councillor, are fielding 11 candidates.

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition has entered candidates in the Fryerns and Vange wards. Ukip won 11 of the 15 seats contested a year ago, achieving 39 per cent of the popular vote, compared to 34 per cent for the Conservatives.

A similar outcome next month could present a realistic prospect of Ukip overtaking the Tories as the most represented party on the council. Turnout last year was only 33 per cent, but the overall vote is expected to be significantly higher on this occasion because the General Election is being held on the same day.

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