TWO Southend Labour councillors have quit the party within a month, sparking fears Southend Council’s political leadership is “as stable as a deckchair on the Titanic”.

Jennifer Beck - who announced the move with a “heavy heart” - joins Maggie Kelly in leaving Labour to become an non-aligned independent.

Ms Beck, who represents Victoria Ward, did not disclose why she quit, but she said the dynamics of the group “at times made her feel uncomfortable”.

It comes after the councillor threatened to resign in a row over transphobia.

Ms Beck said:“I acknowledge that this will upset some residents of Victoria Ward and party members who assisted my campaign. I am not joining another political party and remain supportive of the majority of Labour policy both locally and nationally.

“The dynamics of the local Labour group have at times made me feel uncomfortable and overall I feel I can better represent residents as an independent.”

Councillor - Jennifer Beck

Councillor - Jennifer Beck

The transphobia row broke out after a motion to Southend West Labour Party, calling for action against transphobia after a rise in crimes in the borough. However, the call was voted down, with Ms Beck claiming it “excluded women’s rights”.

The councillor - who later claimed her phrase was a “rhetorical question” and a “debating technique” - threatened to resign if the motion was backed.

Her departure leaves 11 Labour councillors, 20 Conservatives, nine independents, five Lib Dems and four non-aligned independents ahead of the elections next month.

Conservative leader, Tony Cox, said: “Jennifer has always been a hard-working diligent councillor, I have always had a cordial relationship with her, and she has always been pleasant towards our group.

“This goes to show there is clearly an internal problem when you’ve lost two councillors like that in the space of a month. The administration are about as stable as a deck chair on the Titanic.”

Councillor - Jennifer Beck

Councillor - Jennifer Beck

Independent Ron Woodley, deputy leader of Southend Council, hit back.

He said: “I can assure you the administration is not unstable, and the two councillors who have left the group will still not support Mr Cox.

“This was their decision, and we have to respect each other’s views.”

A Labour group spokesman would not be drawn further, adding: “We thank Councillor Beck for her service on Southend Council. Labour has a proud record of delivery for Southend, and we are ready to take Southend forward.

“We will invest £50 million over five years to fix our pavements and roads, we will crack down on rogue landlords, and we will regenerate our borough for the next generation.”