IAN Gilbert has been voted in as leader of Southend Council with a Labour-led coalition holding control of the council.

It was the first face-to-face council meeting since the Covid pandemic began, with Labour’s Ian Gilbert and Conservative Tony Cox vying to be leader of the council.

Southend Council was left in a hung state after the May 6 election saw neither party gain enough seats to have a majority.

Prior to the meeting, which began at 6pm on Thursday, Mr Gilbert and his fellow Labour councillors believed they had the backing of the Liberal Democrats and Independent group to form a “rainbow coalition”.

Mr Gilbert said: “I will be standing again, and it is my understanding that I have the support of the coalition.

“Both the Lib Dems and Independent group are behind me. It’s only fair to be democratic, and allow others to be involved.

“If there’s a tie, the mayor will have the casting vote.”

Labour's beliefs were proven accurate during the meeting which saw Mr Gilbert named the leader of the council.

Mr Gilbert had stepped down as council leader prior to the meeting in an effort to create a “fair and democratic” process.

With the Lib Dem and Independent group councillors support, Mr Gilbert has 25 seats, one short of an overall majority.

While the Conservatives have 23 seats, they needed the support of three unaligned independent councillors in order to secure a majority.

However, this wasn't the outcome as councillors voted 26 to 23 during the motion which also saw two abstentions.

If the number of seats came to a tie, it would have been the new Mayor of Southend, Labour’s Margaret Borton, who would had the casting vote.

Mrs Borton was sworn in as mayor during the same meeting with councillor John Lamb, who has served for two years, handing over his chain.