Leigh On Sea News: Political Viewpoint – By Coun Martin Terry Leader of the Independent Group on Southend City Council – Carry On up the council.
THE producers reviving the “Carry On” series of movies must be eyeing up Leigh Town Council for inspiration on a theme of “Carry On Up The Council”.
By sleight of hand and a lack of democratic engagement the jewel in the crown of Leigh is under serious threat. A national political party has taken over the non-political Council through the back door flying in the face of the original intentions of the Councils founder and first Chair, former Leigh elder statesman, Mike King.
To add insult to injury the local Conservative Party leadership then started crowing about how they had taken over, but forget to mention that their majority were not elected, but took over by default in uncontested elections.
It may be legal, but goes against the ethos and founding principles of founder, Mike King, for Leigh Town Council.
Were it not for Mike’s love of Leigh and determination to protect it, Old Leigh, the Cockle sheds and the Cinder Path would not even exist now.
Years ago, the then Tory led Southend Borough Council was determined to flatten Leigh Old Town with the “road to the west”. Mike campaigned to stop this, not only would the Old Town have been bulldozed, but we would have also lost the cinder path. The only sea frontage we have in the whole of our city, without a road. He also led on stopping another development on Leigh Cliffs adjacent to Leigh station. Additionally, he also led on the Endeavour Trust, the Dunkirk fishing boat, preserved from Operation Dynamo, for all to see.
In comparison to Mike King, several of the Leigh Town Councillors could easily be described as carpetbaggers, they do not understand or want to engage in Leigh Town Council for Leigh’s sake, but use their status for party political purposes. Leigh does not run in their veins; it is the Tory Party.
A local Town Council really is not the place for party politics.
It is essential for the residents of Leigh to understand the historical background to my concerns and the threat to Leigh Town Council and thereby local democracy itself.
Mike King undertook a statutory referendum to establish Leigh Town Council when Southend Council became a Unitary Authority. Mike’s lived experience was that Leigh had a unique community within the Borough and it was not prioritised by Southend Council. He strongly felt that the Town Council, at its local level, dealing with very local issues, should not be party politically dominated. He saw little point in a second level of politicians at Leigh or, indeed a group of yes men from the same party in charge of the City, running Leigh Town Council.
It must be borne in mind that Mike’s entire and only interest was Leigh, protecting Leigh and making it work well for its resident and businesses. Only today it has been publicised that Leigh is the 11th happiest place to live in Great Britain, in a study undertaken by Rightmove.
This did not happen by accident, Leigh Town Council and the community of residents and businesses in Leigh have worked together to deliver this outcome. For my part I was Chair of Leigh Residents Association, I took over the Chair when Mike King stood down to campaign for starting an Independent Leigh Town Council.
Breaking the facts down there are 16 elected Councillor’s at Leigh Town Council. Councillor’s can be shoe-horned in if seats become available unopposed. 9 of the current 16 Councillors became Leigh Town Councillors without a vote being cast, including the Chairman.
There has always been one or two-party political Councillors, but they always left their allegiances at the door. The only views heard now are those of the Tories. It’s all very Vicar of Dibley. Of the 9 majority, 6 of them live as couples. Attendance at committee and full Council meetings is very low and Statutory Training has not been undertaken, leaving Leigh without a voice on the Licensing Committee, a very serious issue for Leigh.
Serious issues have been raised on key topics; public questions are arrogantly not answered. Accounts and minutes not published, CEO suspended on groundless allegations (costing thousands of £), events not happening and inaccuracies published on the Leigh Town Council website.
The suspension of the CEO was discussed on Twitter by the Tories before they took over with evidence of this previously published in Leigh News!
It does leave me to question who and what lays behind this situation. Rumours abound that the fingerprints of more senior Tories are involved. The normally photogenic and vociferous Anna Firth MP is silent on this?
My message to Leigh is get involved or lose the Leigh you know and love. Apathy is the enemy here; it is time to stand up and save Leigh Town Council from party politics.
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