Tendring District Council - full council election

Clacton's Memorial Gardens on the town's seafront in full bloom. Pic: Tendring District Concil.

Clacton's Memorial Gardens on the town's seafront in full bloom. Pic: Tendring District Concil. - Credit: Archant

Led by Labour there have been calls for a stronger campaign against Essex County Council’s part-night lighting policy, where street lights except those in town centres or at dangerous road junctions are turned off now between 1am and 5am.

However, says Will Lodge, the Conservatives at Tendring have been treading a fine line between local calls and the Tory policy from County Hall, and following a consultation agreed to try to open negotiations with the county council about the policy.

This may well take some of the sting out of the debate, but it could prove more decisive in urban areas of the district.

Although the council has gone to great efforts to make drawing up of its new Local Plan, outlining a blueprint of growth across the district for the next 15 years, non-political, it will undoubtedly be a core issue for residents in the areas most affected.

Among the proposals in the current draft of the plan are garden village developments on the border with Colchester, closest to the villages of Elmstead Market and Great Bromley, and a large-scale development around Weeley.

Candidates in these areas may therefore pledge to fight the plans – although their ability to do so may be extremely limited unless they can find solid planning grounds to oppose them.

Another issue outside of the district council’s remit but which may draw manifesto pledges along the lines of “I will campaign for...” will be better transport links into the district.

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This can come in the form of railway improvements between Harwich and Manningtree and Clacton to Colchester, a faster train service along the mainline to London, and works to the A120 including safety measures such as a roundabout around Little Bentley and even dualling it to Harwich.

Parties may try to appeal to business owners by pledging to boost the district’s economy, particularly around offshore industries based in Harwich and Brightlingsea – both areas granted Assisted Area Status and Centre for Offshore Renewable Engineering status by the government – and improved tourism in Clacton.

Tendring has possibly seen more give-aways than other councils in the surrounding area, such as the current administration’s policy of free parking permits for council tax payers.

Offers such as this, which may take a small amount out of the budget, could be potential vote winners in a tight race.

As Tendring has all-out elections, it is theoretically possible to see a complete change in the authority’s political composition after May 7 – though barring a massive swing wholesale changes are unlikely.

However, the Conservative majority is extremely thin at the moment and if they lose just two of the seats they currently hold there could be some interesting discussions as to who would take control.

Both a Tory minority, propped up by some independents or even UKIP, or a rainbow ABC (anything but Conservative) coalition – which has run the council in the past – could bid to be the next administration.

Council officials have confirmed that unlike the Parliamentary wrangling that went on after 2010, which requires the nominal approval of the Queen to form a government, there is no such process at the local authority level.

Instead the authority is effectively run by whoever commands votes in the council chamber, so it is a case of wait-and-see as to who walks through the doors of the Town Hall and make things work, if the election led to a hung council with no one party having overall control.

However people should not be worried – the council will still run business-as-usual while any political wrangling goes on and the chief executive has legal powers to take control in the event of an emergency.

The success or otherwise of UKIP may be a key factor in the overall outcome of the council elections.

There are currently three UKIP councillors on the authority in a group which has been created since August last year, in the wake of Clacton MP Douglas Carswell’s shock defection from the Conservative Party to UKIP.

But none of them have yet been tested in an election, so it will be interesting to see what traction – if any – UKIP make in the district.

Much of it may come down to the national campaign.

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