SOUTHEND has its first ever Labour council leader after an alliance of opposition parties managed to wrestle control from the Tories.

Labour’s Ian Gilbert was made leader of Southend Council tonight after the majority of councillors voted in favour of a no confidence motion in Tory leader Tony Cox.

The no confidence vote forced Mr Cox to step down from the leadership position and sparked a second vote on who will lead the council.

In a surprise move the majority of the Tories chose to back councillor Stephen Aylen, who is not aligned with any of the parties or groups, as leader of the council but were only able to pull together 15 votes against 27 given to Mr Gilbert.

Five councillors chose not to vote.

The landmark victory over the Tories means he is the first Labour councillor ever to lead Southend but he has promised that it is not Labour that will be running the council but a partnership of three parties, consisting of Labour, the Independent Group and the Lib Dems.

However the vote of no confidence was greeted with widespread anger in the council chamber, with many branding the actions of the Independents, who called the motion of no confidence, “undemocratic”.

Mr Aylen called on those responsible for the motion to resign and said: "Democracy has gone out the window."

Tory councillor Daniel Nelson said his faith that councillors were representing Southend for the betterment of the town had been “shattered”.

Former leader Tony Cox accused the opposition of making the council a “national laughing stock”.

Independent leader Ron Woodley defended the decisions and said he was confident the partnership would form a strong administration.

Leader Ian Gilbert said: “We all regret the particular circumstances that led us to this meeting but we have agreed to deliver what I genuinely believe is what people voted for and that is a partnership that represents 59 per cent of the vote."