Friday, 23 May 2014

A hung council

Well there we have it – every council officer’s worst nightmare, a hung council with no obvious grouping or pact to deliver a working majority. 19 Conservatives, 12 Independents, 9 Labour, 5 UKIP, 5 Lib Dems and Cllr Dr Vel. Generally officers don’t mind what political colour is in charge so long as there is a clear direction and an element of consistency. Uncertainty and confusion inevitably leads to weak control and lost opportunities. We are therefore left with the metaphorical “smoke filled rooms” and wheeler dealing between leaders to see what arrangements can be agreed to deliver that all important majority. In Southend this situation is even harder due to the Independent Party who share few cogent policies or philosophical objectives, which has been reflected by the absence of any significant and positive polices for the future development of the town. This year I will play no part in the process and have no inside track. We know from pre election announcements from the Independent Party and UKIP that there is the possibility of them working together but this will leave them well short of a working majority and I struggle to see the Conservatives, Labour or Lib Dems being able to live with the concept of any form of pact or agreement with UKIP bearing in mind the nature and content of the recent campaign. The three main parties may also be reluctant to work together in a difficult financial year and with nest year’s general election looming. In addition will the previous opposition groups be able to allow a situation where the council retains a Conservative leader bearing in mind the reaction when they allowed this to happen 2 years ago? Well for what it is worth I think that the most likely options may be either a Conservative minority administration with tacit support from the Lib Dems and perhaps Dr Vel or a rainbow pact between the Independents, Labour and the Lib Dems who have happily cooperated on occasions during the last couple of years. This second possibility would result in an interesting and demanding group around the cabinet table and a challenging opposition comprising Conservatives and UKIP. We will have to wait and see but on any basis with control finely balanced it will impose massive pressure on all members (and particularly those in the administration) to be at all meetings and to stay until the end. For some new members they may be in for quite an unpleasant shock as to the workload expected of them!

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