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Political Viewpoint by Blenheim Park Ward’s 'Truly Independent' Coun Keith Evans.

Political Viewpoint by Blenheim Park Ward’s ‘Truly Independent’ Coun Keith Evans.

Political Viewpoint by Blenheim Park Ward’s 'Truly Independent' Coun Keith Evans.

Political Viewpoint by Blenheim Park Ward’s ‘Truly Independent’ Coun Keith Evans.

I, ALONG with many residents, welcomed the good news regarding the launch of the Leigh on Sea News and from a personal perspective I was equally pleased to be asked to contribute to this column.

Looking back on my previous articles it seems as though it could be groundhog day, on both the national and on the local political front.

We have just been through the budget process in Southend and I would like to assure residents that only one budget was passed, although if you use social media, you could be confused that there were two with the various political groups putting their own subjective opinion on the decisions.

Whilst I’m not interested in the  ‘he said she said’ politics, what does worry me is the processes and the way things are relayed and portrayed.

It had been widely publicised that this year’s budget was going to be challenging due to the economic climate, and I think this came as no surprise to anyone. We have a cost of living crisis ,soaring energy costs, inflation running into double figures, which has led to residents struggling with everyday essentials.

At a council meeting an offer was made by the major opposition party to work together with the administration on the budget, but this was rejected.

I cannot comment on the sincerity of the offer, but if it had been taken up and there had been some prior collaboration it may have saved a lot of mudslinging, political point scoring and prevented the usual toxic atmosphere at the budget meeting.

As a ‘Truly’ Independent councillor with no political group or party membership I had managed to get one amendment through before the final budget was presented at the meeting. However, at the meeting another 4 amendments were tabled, but all were rejected.

When the ruling political parties have an agreement in place to vote on block, then I believe these amendments would never have got through.

I would question whether this practise is in the best interest of the residents, as some of the amendments would have benefited the residents in the wards that they represent.

I do also note that it has recently been reported that in a neighbouring council that Party representatives have resigned from their Political Party with one citing that “we are whipped to vote in the same way, and I can no longer support everything they are putting forward”. She goes on to say, “I can now vote in the best interests of the residents I represent.”

This once again backs up my belief and view that local democracy should be free of political parties.

The debate has started once again regarding the current election process that we have in Southend, where one of the three seats in the seventeen wards in Southend will be contested, rather than holding a full election every four years. I do not want to focus too much on this, but one of the disadvantages of a full election every four years is the populist measures that can be taken just before the election.

On the flip side, it could be said that an advantage with our current system is that it leads to higher accountability and, if the administration is not performing there is the opportunity for the electorate to make their feelings known rather than having to wait four years for change.

Over the next couple of months candidates, myself included, along with their supporters will be soliciting support and trying to convince you to give them your vote, if they haven’t already.

As we move into this election period It should be recognised that we are facing many major challenges in Southend and as we receive the election material, or see the social media posts, we need to ‘fact check’ it, rather than just read the headlines.

On a  recent social media post a local resident writes, “having received my first piece of election literature and reading various posts and tweets, I do not hold much hope of a non toxic local election season. I wish local parties were forbidden to mention the opposition. Tell us the good you would do for the city”.

With the involvement of political parties and the tribalism that comes with it, I am not holding out too much hope either.

We need to ensure we make it about the residents, that’s who we represent and it’s what they deserve.

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