SOUTHEND Council is back in the hands of the Tories after a “disillusioned” councillor decided to defect.

The Echo can reveal Alex Kaye, formerly an Independent councillor for Thorpe, has decided to join the Conservatives with immediate effect.

The move restores the majority in the council chamber which the Tories lost when their share of the authority’s 51 seats was cut to 25 in last year’s elections. Ms Kaye, who has been a councillor since 2010, said: “I have not taken this decision lightly and it is not something I have done in the spur of the moment.

“I have had a growing sense of disillusionment with the Independent group and I feel I can be more effective as a councillor for my residents and the town as a Conservative.

“I find it has been increasingly difficult to be a true Independent.”

The Tories held control of the council for 12 years prior to last May, when a series of unexpected election results cast the authority into a hung state.

Since then, the Conservatives have been forced to work with the other groups - Independents, Liberal Democrats and Labour - to ensure policies can be approved and the council continue to function.

The deal included allowing all councillors to scrutinise policies before they reached cabinet, and handing over chairs of the council’s various committees to different parties.

Theoretically, Ms Kaye’s defection could allow the Tories to end that arrangement and return to absolute control.

However, Nigel Holdcroft, the Tory leader, said that was unlikely to happen.