A FURIOUS councillor has offered to hand power back to the Tories in Southend after his leadership bid was scorned.

Ron Woodley, an Independent councillor for Thorpe, said he was willing to strike a deal with the Conservatives that would mean the party retained control of Southend Council’s key committees.

Mr Woodley’s attempt to seize the leader’s chair at the Civic Centre failed last week after most of the Liberal Democrat group refused to vote, clearing the way for Tory leader Nigel Holdcroft to return to the top job.

In the wake of that decision, Mr Woodley, who publicly backed Lib Dem leader Graham Longley at the local elections, said he could never trust the Lib Dems again and was now willing to negotiate with the Tories.

He said: “I am prepared to talk to Nigel about the committees if he is willing to talk to me about issues in my ward.”

Councillors will vote on who they want to act as chairmen and vice-chairmen of the council’s three scrutiny committees when they meet on Thursday.

Outside of the ruling cabinet, the committees are seen as the most influential vehicles for change in the authority, with the power to demand the leadership reconsiders its policies and decisions.

Despite Mr Holdcroft retaining his position, the Tories’ minority position in the council chamber led most councillors to assume the chairs would pass to a mixture of Independent, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates.

With those three groups holding 26 seats to the Tories’ 25, it was thought they would seal an arrangement to out-vote the Conservatives and divide the roles between themselves.

However, Mr Woodley said he was now prepared to switch sides and ensure the Tories can choose their own chairmen – if Mr Holdcroft was willing to withdraw controversial plans for Thorpe.

The Tories and Mr Woodley have clashed in recent months over the council’s plans to introduce parking charges in Eastern Esplanade and the car park behind the Camelia Hotel.

Mr Woodley said: “I have to consider my position now.

“I will go back to fighting for my residents. That’s what I was elected to do and that’s what I will do, by whatever means.”

But Mr Holdcroft said he was unable to negotiate with Mr Woodley directly.

He said: “Ron is not the leader of his group.

“If the Independents want to talk to me, that is fine, but I cannot negotiate with every single member of the council individually.”