Thurrock Council leader John Kent sets record straight on “Coalition” story

THE LEADER of Thurrock Council, cllr John Kent has gone on the record to put the record straight regarding reports of a coalition between the Thurrock Labour group and the Thurrock Conservatives.

The story published by the Thurrock Gazette, became the subject of national scrutiny as many wondered whether there was to be some form of “Grand Coalition” that would be formed in order to repel the new power of Ukip, who have six councillors in Thurrock.

Cllr Kent said: “Following inaccurate and misleading stories in the Thurrock Gazette and allegations on social media, I feel I should put my comments in writing – that way my statements cannot be twisted by those who seem hell-bent on ruining any chance Thurrock Council has of continuing the borough’s moves toward a better future.

I received a request from a senior Conservative member on Tuesday asking for a meeting. I was not prepared to meet until after I had the opportunity to properly consider what we, as a Labour group, wanted to see but was – initially – happy to agree to a meeting on Friday afternoon.

However then the Gazette published its first story online and in my conversation with the reporter I was told it came from a senior Conservative source – I still don’t know if it was a councillor or an MP. Following that I thought it best if I cancelled my planned meeting as the inaccuracies and innuendo in that first story – the one they plastered over their front page – made it impossible for any constructive discussions to take place for some days.

Then came the Twitter rubbish when the editor of the Gazette effectively accused me of lying, further stirring up the mud at the bottom of the pool.

On Friday – while I was at a meeting of the Local Enterprise Partnership – I answered a call from the Gazette where I tried to explain the above. Unfortunately the reporter obviously has his own agenda and again he refused to accept the simple answer and decided instead to believe in a complex conspiracy.

The simple truth is that Labour is the largest party in Thurrock Council with 23 of the 49 seats. The logical thing is for us to put our proposals for the coming year to the annual meeting; for the second largest party – the Conservatives with 18 seats – to do the same; make the argument and then sit and watch where the votes of the two minor groups UKIP (six) and independents (two) go.

Yes we will all talk – it would be stupid and petulant not to do so – but I don’t think deals, covert or overt, are necessary. Working together irrespective of who is in charge is the only way Thurrock Council can continue to encourage private businesses to invest in our borough, bringing new jobs and new hope.

I have no doubt all 49 councillors want the best for Thurrock and its people, unfortunately, those who feel the need to make up stories for a one day headline, obviously do not have the borough’s best interests at heart – or at best are unable to see the possible catastrophic consequences of their action.

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