Firstly, an apology. I never wrote up the last meeting of Full Council, which I think is a first. I decided to wait for the audio recording to go on the website, as it makes it much easier for me to do the write-up but, low and behold, the Council’s audio-recording system failed again and, by the time I found out, it hardly seemed worth the bother trying to write it up from memory. Now we have more pressing matters at hand – for, once again, elections are upon us.
We have fourteen seats on Basildon Borough Council up for grabs to determine who will take charge of the council, which has been hung since 2014. The Council is presently led by a minority Tory Administration and we are hoping to take the Council out of No Overall Control. There are 42 seats on Basildon Council, of which currently 18 are Conservative, 9 Labour, 7 UKIP, 3 Wickford Independents, 2 Independence from EU, 1 Liberal Democrat, 1 Green (these latter two sit together in a single group called ‘the Lib Dem-Green Group’), and 1 vacancy arising from the resignation, earlier in the year, of Trevor Malsbury (U, Lee Chapel North). The magic number here is 23 – this is the number of seats a party needs to command a majority on the Council. So, for the Tories, we will need to retain all our current seats and win four more to be able to form a majority administration. Here are the runners and riders locally.
- McCAFFERY, Susan (UKIP)
- REID, Patricia (Labour)
- SULLIVAN, Stuart (Conservative)*
I am not expecting any big surprises in my own ward, where my ward colleague Stuart Sullivan is seeking re-election. Stuart is currently the Cabinet Member for Resources, whose firm and steady stewardship of the Borough’s finances has earned him the sobriquet “The Iron Chancellor of Basildon” (mainly from me). Mrs Reid – wife of long-serving Labour election agent Malcolm Reid – has been the perennial Labour candidate here since time immemorial. This year also sees the return of Miss McCaffery, until recently the lone ‘Kipper on Billericay Town Council. She had always previously stood in Billericay East but the last couple of years has stood in the West Ward instead. She recently decided not to stand for re-election to BTC. Stuart was last re-elected to Basildon Council in 2012 with 58% of the vote and a majority of 1,093. For the first time in memory, as a sad marker of that party’s decline, there is no Lib Dem candidate in Billericay East.
- FERGUSON, Jack (Labour)
- HAMMANS, Cliff (UKIP)
- TURNER, Philip (Conservative)*
Likewise, I doubt we will see any political earthquakes in neighbouring West ward, where our glorious Leader, Phil Turner, is seeking re-election. Phil has been Leader of Basildon Council since 2014, having previously served as Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing. Mr Ferguson is a first-time candidate for Labour, whereas Mr Hammans stood unsuccessfully for UKIP in Fryerns last year and Crouch the year before that. Phil is defending a majority of 1,074 (57% share of the vote in 2012). As with East, there is no Lib Dem candidate.
- KIRKMAN, David (Labour)
- MOORE, Richard (Conservative)*
- PIPER, Kevin (UKIP)
Dr Richard Moore is seeking re-election and is currently Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Planning. Mr Kirkman, son of former Labour council leader Paul Kirkman and himself a former councillor for Fryerns, is standing here for Labour for the second year running. Mr Piper is a first-time candidate for UKIP. Richard is defending a majority of 1,121 (63%). There is no Lib Dem candidate here either.
- ALLEN, Stuart (Conservative)*
- MUYLDERS, Sally (Labour)
- PETCHEY, Richard (UKIP)
Stuart Allen is seeking re-election and is currently Chairman of the Joint Standards Committee. He is also Chairman of the Conservative Group (a sort of presiding officer at Group meetings). Miss Muylders is another first-time candidate for Labour, as is Mr Petchey standing for UKIP. Stuart is defending a majority of 582 (61%) in this two-member ward but it is worth noting that when his Tory ward colleague Terri Sargent was re-elected in 2014, it was with a significantly reduced majority, so we are taking nothing for granted in Crouch. In common with all the Billericay seats, there is no Lib Dem candidate.
- BROWN, Adele (Labour)*
- LOW, Tony (Conservative)
- WAINE, Rhyan (UKIP)
Adele Brown, currently Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, is defending this traditionally staunch Labour seat in Basildon New Town. She recently made her maiden speech at Full Council, after four years as a councillor, which was a source of some mirth to those of us who are accustomed to her penchant for interrupting other people’s speeches but, having served alongside her on the Planning Committee for the last couple of years, I will be the first to admit that she is an extremely hard-working, intelligent politician and (truth be told) I like her a great deal. But we are in the business of competitive politics and our candidate Tony Low will be seeking to give her a run for her money. She will not have much to worry about, as her Labour ward colleague Allan Davies was comfortably returned last year but that was a General Election year and in 2014 UKIP’s David Sheppard won the seat from the late Labour stalwart Bill Archibald. As with so many of their candidates this year, Mr Waine is a first-time candidate. Councillor Brown is defending a majority of 698 (55%), which she won in 2012.
- BLANEY, Lewis (Labour)
- GREEN, Hazel (UKIP)
- MAYLIN, Gary (Conservative)
- RACKLEY, Phil (Green)
- RICHARDS, Alan (Liberal Democrat)
Labour’s John Scarola took this seat in 2012, when he unseated Tory incumbent Frank Tomlin, but Councillor Scarola has chosen not to seek re-election. First-time candidate Mr Blaney will be seeking to retain the seat for Labour and defend their 176-vote majority. Gary Maylin, meanwhile, will be seeking to repeat last year’s success, when Andy Barnes successfully retained the seat for the Tories. On that occasion, UKIP came second and Miss Green, another first-time candidate, will be hoping to make a breakthrough but she will have her work cut out for her, as Gary (also fighting his first election) has proven to be a prodigious and formidable candidate. Phil Rackley is a sitting councillor in St Martin’s Ward, where he was elected for Labour in 2012. Shortly thereafter, he had a falling out with the Labour Group, of which he had hitherto been Deputy Leader, and after a period sitting as ‘Independent Labour’, he has latterly sat as our lone Green councillor. Councillor Rackley has chosen not to seek re-election in St Martin’s but to chance his arm instead in Laindon Park, where he lives, as one of only three Green candidates in this election. Finally, we also have a Lib Dem! Mr Richards is standing for the beleaguered party here, having stood last year in Billericay West and the year before in Langdon Hills.
- DRUMMOND, John (Green)
- GIBBS, Philip (UKIP)
- GRANT, Liz (Liberal Democrat)
- HARRISON, Alex (Labour)
- HILLIER, Stephen (Conservative)*
Steve Hillier is seeking re-election and is currently Chairman of the Planning Committee, on which I have the pleasure to serve. As a two-member ward, there were no elections in Langdon Hills last year but in 2014, Steve’s wife Sandra lost her seat to UKIP’s Linda Allport-Hodge (now Leader of the UKIP Group). Hoping to repeat her success will be Dr Gibbs, another first-time candidate but a man with a not inconsiderable profile locally as a campaigner against Dunton Garden Suburb. Also standing will be first-time candidates Mr Harrison for Labour and Mr Drummond for the Greens, along with Mrs Grant, a Lib Dem veteran of local elections going back to at least 2010, who stood in St Martin’s last year. Steve will be defending his 228 majority (43%) from 2012.
Lee Chapel North
- GORDON, Andrew (Labour)
- JAMES, Arthur John (UKIP)
- YATES, Stephen (Conservative)
- ZWENGUNDE, Clarence (Independent)
Oddly, not for the first time, Lee Chapel North is the subject of a councillor resignation (in 2014, this was the seat from which former Labour leader Lynda Gordon resigned). Trevor Malsbury, who won the seat for UKIP that year by a very slim margin, resigned from the Council last year. He would have been up for re-election this year anyway and previous candidate Mr James is seeking to retain the seat for UKIP. This seat was, however, comfortably retained by Labour’s Alan Bennett last year and Mr Gordon, Labour Councillor for Nethermayne from 2011 to 2015 (and a nephew of Lynda Gordon), is seeking to make a comeback in this customary Labour stronghold. Our candidate, Steve Yates, will seek to throw a spanner in the works. We also have a wildcard in the form of Independent candidate, Clarence Zwengunde, about whom I’m afraid I know absolutely nothing. Mrs Gordon, as I say, if she hadn’t resigned, would have been defending a majority of 689 (54%) when she was re-elected (she was the Leader of the Labour Group) and Mr Malsbury, if he hadn’t also since resigned, would have been defending a majority of just 2!
- ALLEN, Chris (Conservative)
- FELLOWES, Derrick (UKIP)
- HALL, Dean (Green)
- HERBING, Graham (Labour)
- KETTLE, Pauline (Independent)
- WILLIAMS, Ben (Liberal Democrat)
Geoff Williams MBE is the incumbent Lib Dem councillor in this previously staunch Liberal fortress. ‘Uncle Geoff’, as he’s affectionately known, is also the longest-serving councillor on Basildon Council (some 30 odd years, I gather) but is standing down, having retired with his wife Linda to Cornwall. Nethermayne is not just a traditional Lib Dem stronghold, it was at one point effectively the personal fiefdom of the Williams family – with all three seats being held by Geoff, Linda, and their son, Ben. Williams the Younger vacated his seat in 2010 shortly after the formation of the Coalition Government following the hung parliament at the 2010 General Election, when he went to work for Nick Clegg. Mrs Williams lost her seat to UKIP in 2014 and with Williams the Elder standing down, it falls to Mr Williams Jnr. to seek to maintain the family’s honour in Nethermayne. He will have a tough task in what has become a rather marginal seat. Although a Lib Dem colleague, Phil Jenkins, retained the seat in the 2010 bye-election, he lost it to Labour’s Andrew Gordon the following year. Following Mrs Williams’ defeat in 2014, Mr Gordon himself lost his seat last year to UKIP’s Stephen Hodge (husband of Linda Allport-Hodge). Mr Fellowes – like his colleague in Langdon Hills, Dr Philip Gibbs – is a prominent anti-development campaigner and also a first-time UKIP candidate (though not, interestingly, a first-time candidate, as he stood as an Independent in Langdon Hills in 2002) and will be seeking to repeat past UKIP successes, whilst Mr Herbing (also a first-timer) will be hoping to revive Labour’s fortunes. Last year, the Conservative candidate came within a little over 20 votes of winning, so our candidate Chris Allen (also a first-time candidate) will be seeking to go that extra mile. Mr Hall makes the final of our three new Green candidates. Also standing for the second time is Independent candidate Miss Kettle, who is affiliated to former UKIP leader Kerry Smith, who now sits on the Council as a party of two with his mother, Pitsea North-West councillor Imelda Clancy, calling themselves ‘Independence from the EU’. Mr Williams Jnr. will be defending his father’s majority of 321 (36%), which he won in 2012 when the Tory candidate was some prize plonker named Schrader, who came a dismal fourth (I wonder whatever happened to that drongo!).
- BLAKE, Jacqueline Ann (Conservative)
- CALLAGHAN, Gavin (Labour)*
- REGAN, Michelle (UKIP)
The incumbent Labour councillor defending this seat is none other than Little Gavin Callaghan, Leader of the Labour Group. He is pretty vulnerable here, as UKIP took the seat in both 2014 and 2015 and, from what I have heard, Councillor Callaghan has pretty much conceded that he is likely to lose his seat to UKIP’s Miss Regan, a first time candidate for the party. Our candidate, former Pitsea councillor Ann Blake, is seeking to upset the apple cart by making a comeback. Councillor Callaghan is defending a majority 368 (49%) but last year his former ward colleague, Keith Bobbin, lost the seat to UKIP’s Gary Canham, who won a majority of 120. I do not think it is any secret to regular readers that Councillor Callaghan is not my favourite person, who even if this is won by Miss Regan rather than my preferred choice of Mrs Blake, would be one UKIP gain I’d personally cheer to the rafters. As with the Billericay wards, there are no Lib Dem candidates in either of the two Pitsea wards.
- ADENIRAN, Olukayode (Labour)
- CARRION, Jose (UKIP)
- DWYER, Ian (Conservative)
Mr Adeniran, another new face, is defending this seat for Labour, as the sitting councillor, Aidan McGurran, is standing down. I always found Councillor McGurran personable enough in my dealings with him when he served on the Planning Committee but I can honestly say that in the three years I have been on the Council I can scarcely recall an occasion when he opened his mouth and I agreed with a single word that came out. He was often a tedious, foul-mouthed, blowhard at Council meetings as well and, whilst I wish him well, sincerity does not permit me to try and pretend he’ll be missed. Amanda Arnold held this seat for the Tories last year, so we have high hopes that our candidate Ian Dwyer will also win it. Looking to sneak through the middle will be Mr Carrion for UKIP, who stood here last year as well and came second. Mr Adeniran will be defending Councillor McGurran’s slim majority of just 9 votes but when Amanda won the seat for us last year, she achieved a majority of 204 (36%). As previously mentioned, there is no Lib Dem candidate.
- ALLPORT, Leslie (UKIP)
- BURTON-SAMPSON, David (Labour)
- HENRY, Jeff (Conservative)
The current incumbent is the Council’s lone Green councillor, Phil Rackley, who has chosen to contest Laindon Park Ward instead of St Martin’s. Councillor Rackley won the seat for Labour in 2012, however, so Mr Burton-Sampson will nominally be defending the seat. Having twice failed to get elected in Pitsea South-East, when there was probably an expectation on his part that he would win (in 2014 Pitsea SE was won by UKIP as part of their near-total sweep of the board that year and, last year, Amanda Arnold retained the seat for the Tories as part of the general shock surge in Tory support that saw us win an absolute majority at the General Election). Clearly frustrated in his attempts in Pitsea and disinclined to go for ‘third time’s a charm’, he has switched to St Martin’s, which on the face of it is a safe Labour seat. Andrew Buxton retained the seat last year with a majority of 438 (42%) but I will keep my fingers crossed that the ‘Curse of Burton-Sampson’ strikes again, as I would absolutely love Jeff Henry to win. He’s a great guy and is fighting a vigorous campaign in a ward that is close to my heart, as I stood there myself in my first ever election back in 2011 (when I got absolutely trounced by Pat Rackley). When UKIP stood here last year it was a bit of an innovation, as there had never been a UKIP candidate in St Martin’s before but they didn’t make much of an impact. Although their candidate, Andrew Morris, did come second. Mr Allport (whom I gather is the father of UKIP Group Leader Linda Allport-Hodge) is a first-time candidate and will clearly hope to improve on this. Again, there is no Lib Dem. Mr Burton-Sampson will be hoping to replicate Councillor Rackley’s 501 majority and 58% of the vote.
- BLOCK, Kayte (Labour)
- LATCHFORD, Terry (UKIP)
- RAINFORD, Tamara (Conservative)
Again, the Labour incumbent, former Leader of the Labour Group Byron Taylor, has decided not to seek re-election, so his seat will be defended by first-timer Miss Block. When Melissa McGeorge took the seat for Labour last year, she secured a majority of 153 votes over her UKIP rival. This year’s contender, Mr Latchford (first timer), will be seeking to make the breakthrough. This is not a particularly likely seat for a Tory to win, though Luke Mackenzie did represent the seat from 2008 to 2012 and the very lovely Tamara Rainford will be hoping to repeat that feat. Miss Block is nominally defending Councillor Taylor’s 2012 majority of 599 (59%). Although Councillor McGeorge was elected on a substantially reduced majority, this area is likely to remain Labour barring a miracle.
- BROCKMAN, Eunice (Wickford Independent)
- McGURRAN, Dolores (Labour)
- MORRIS, Carole (Conservative)*
- RADLEY, David (Liberal Democrat)
Carole Morris is the incumbent councillor defending the only Wickford seat up this year (there are no elections in either Wickford Castledon or Wickford Park). She is currently Chairman of the Licensing Committee and wife of His Worship the Mayor of Basildon, Cllr Don Morris (so technically our Mayoress). This seat, along with all the Wickford seats, was dramatically lost to UKIP in 2014 – a loss made all the more traumatic by the fact that it was our then leader, Tony Ball, who lost it. All three Wickford seats returned Tories last year during the local elections that coincided with the General Election. In something of a twist, Mrs Brockman, who stood for UKIP last year, is standing this year as a Wickford Independent. She does not want to create an ‘Independent Republic of Wickford’, as the name might imply (at least I don’t think she does), and she is distinct from an actual ‘Independent’, as she is a member of a group of people, albeit a group who pride themselves on ‘not being a political party’ but who have recently applied to the Electoral Commission for registration…as a political party. Anyway, the Wickford Independents came about as a result of the sitting Wickford members of the UKIP Group breaking away – for a variety of baffling reasons, making it clear that the actual reason was that they simply could not stand one another – and briefly formed ‘Wickford UKIP’ (or ‘Wookip’, as I started calling them). This led to them being expelled by UKIP nationally, so they became the Wickford Independents (though I still sometimes refer to them as ‘the Wookies’). In a further twist, there will be no UKIP candidate in Wickford North, as their would-be candidate Anne-Marie Waters failed to submit a valid nomination paper and was disqualified. Conversely, there will be a Lib Dem candidate, Mr Radley, both a first time candidate and the first time the Lib Dems have fielded any candidates in Wickford for some years. Mrs McGurran (wife of outgoing Pitsea councillor Aidan McGurran) will be standing for Labour, also as a first time candidate.
Last year, I finished off with some interesting factoids about the candidates, the first of which was the number of husband and wife teams we had standing last year, of which there were three. This year we have none. This is more unusual than it sounds. We also don’t have as many spouses of sitting councillors standing as normal. Last year there were six (including my own). This year there is only one: Mrs Blake, wife of Deputy Leader of the Council Kevin Blake (Mrs S didn’t fancy it this year); two if you include Mrs McGurran (though her husband is standing down). Two candidates are the sons of former councillors: David Kirkman, Labour candidate in Burstead, is the son of former Paul Kirkman, a former Labour Leader of the Council; and Ben Williams is directly seeking to succeed his own father in Nethermayne. Andrew Gordon, the Labour candidate in Lee Chapel North, is a nephew of former Labour Chairman of the Council, Lynda Gordon. Messrs Kirkman, Williams and Gordon are also the only three ex-councillors seeking to re-join the Council this year. Last year there were eight former councillors on the ballot, so this again is unusual.
We have no less than 21 candidates who are standing for election for the first time. Without looking back at past elections I cannot be sure but that feels like a lot. I don’t know if it’s a record but local politics is usually quite ‘incestuous’ (if that’s the right word), so I’m quite surprised by all the new faces, none of whom – on the face of it – seem to have any familial connexion to existing councillors, with the exception of Leslie Allport in St Martin’s, who is the father of UKIP leader Linda Allport-Hodge. This may be the first time the parent of a sitting councillor has stood as a candidate.
There are also five retiring councillors this year – Cllrs John Scarola (Lab, Laindon Park), Geoff Williams MBE (Lib Dem, Nethermayne), Aidan McGurran (Lab, Pitsea South-East), and Byron Taylor (Lab, Vange), and of course Trevor Malsbury (UKIP, Lee Chapel North), who has already resigned from the Council. The retirement of Councillor Williams brings to an end his more than three decades of service on Basildon Council, for which he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty the Queen last year.
Only the Tories and Labour are fielding candidates in all fourteen seats. UKIP are contesting thirteen but have no candidate in Wickford North. The Lib Dems are fielding just four candidates – in Laindon Park, Langdon Hills, Nethermayne and Wickford North – which is only one more than the Greens, who are contesting elections in Basildon for the first time that I can remember – in Laindon Park, Langdon Hills and Nethermayne. We also have two ‘Independents’ (one in Lee Chapel North and another in Nethermayne) and one ‘Wickford Independent’ in Wickford North.