Inside My Council

Being a Tory and a Mayor "Elect" is not by any standards an easy position to be in, especially when you have an election to face before a whiff of the Mayoralty!!

Apart from being a member of Southend Borough Council and part of the LGBT+ community, life has delivered some interesting challenges in Southend and one of these has been trying to secure a celebration of the recent Brexit from Europe.

A joint call for the "marking" of Brexit fell on utterly stony ground with the most senior official flatly denying any opportunity to celebrate.

This obviously has everything to do with a politically motivated decision by the ruling Labour group who lead a coalition with a mix of Independent and Lib Dem members.

Occupying the Deputy Mayor role has been a strange experience with protocols ruling far too much and in my view stopping some very worthwhile changes, like the Mayoralty reaching out deeper in to the Borough and it's people.

Southend Borough Council has changed and I would say, not for the better. Even highway issues are branded by some non-Conservative members as the only solutions and then attempts are made to a very unsubtle manoeuvre the agenda, so that Conservative members are made to look incompetent or not interested by not being at a meeting they are not a member of!!

The worst gerrymandering of a meeting, was in an election campaign where a Labour candidate told residents he had invited us, but the truth was we knew nothing about it!

It's not all about complaining! All the utter nonsense of the Council drove me to recruit a brilliant social media secretary (Volunteer) and this means the wayward others can be monitored and local media alerted.

The crowning inglorious moment is discovering the Chief Executive naming a member in a formal complaint and then having an independent officer appointed to investigate the complaint and counter complaint!! This background is worse than "The Casual Vacancy" by JK Rowling, okay there was a murder but who knows!!!

So why, I hear you say, seek re-election? Well apart from the Mayoralty issue, I have worked hard with my colleagues and have met some very decent councillors on all sides but this neurotic and turbulent officer/member toxic atmosphere is a killer, of ideas, of creativity, of the very basic principle to serve the residents. I'm certainly no different to many of you but our circumstances at this council leave me sometimes, utterly perturbed at finding solutions to simple problems, that don't involve another leaflet and survey that gets ignored because the branding is blue and from a group that happens to be in opposition.

At one stage we trailblazed, having the first HIV Champion in the local government network when the HIV rate was rocketing, but with government long listening we are 71% down on new instances. Someone tried, as another sort of champion, to tell people on a market what to do - lead balloon time and 2 years of hard work stopped (for me).

Standards Board and how member enquiries are dealt with are a current and on-going process but after the Standards Board had met, a Labour member on social media berated other members and accused me of "hate". The item was rejected by the monitoring officer on the grounds that freedom meant there was that much more leeway!!

From election in 2004 and obviously some re-election, I have reached a civic pinnacle that is about to get dirty with a Labour colleague ready to step in to the Mayoralty if I fail on 7th May to be returned in my ward of St Laurence.

So, just some reflections and thoughts shared across a Tory family who are welcome to give their thoughts!!!

Cllr Mark Flewitt, Deputy Mayor, Southend Borough Council