Southend-on-Sea City Council
Stephen Habermel,
since 11 May 2023
Tony Cox,
since 18 May 2023
Colin Ansell
since 5 February 2024
Seats51 councillors
Southend Council 2023
Political groups
  Conservative (22)
  Labour (16)
  Liberal Democrats (4)
  Independent (8)
  Green (1)
Last election
4 May 2023
Next election
Meeting place
Civic Centre, Victoria Avenue, Southend-on-Sea, SS2 6ER

Southend-on-Sea City Council is the local authority of the Southend-on-Sea district in Essex, England. It is a unitary authority, having the powers of a non-metropolitan county and district council combined. It is a member of the East of England Local Government Association. It is based at Southend Civic Centre in Southend-on-Sea.[1]


Southend's first elected council was a local board, which held its first meeting on 29 August 1866.[2] Prior to that the town was administered by the vestry for the wider parish of Prittlewell. The local board district was enlarged in 1877 to cover the whole parish of Prittlewell.[3]

In 1892 the town was made a municipal borough governed by a corporation, also known as a town council. It was then elevated to county borough status in 1914, making it independent from Essex County Council.[4] The powers of the council were substantially reformed in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972, when Southend-on-Sea was made a non-metropolitan district with Essex County Council once more providing county-level services. Southend regained its independence from Essex County Council on 1 April 1998 when it was made a unitary authority.[5]

On 26 January 2022 letters patent were issued granting city status to the borough, allowing the council to change its name to Southend-on-Sea City Council.[6]

Political control

The council has been under no overall control since 2019. Following the 2023 election a Conservative minority administration formed to run the council.

The first elections to the borough council as reformed under the Local Government Act 1972 were held in 1973, initially acting as a shadow authority until the new arrangements took effect on 1 April 1974. Political control of the council since 1974 has been as follows:[7][8]

Non-metropolitan district

Party in control Years
No overall control 1974–1976
Conservative 1976–1987
No overall control 1987–1990
Conservative 1990–1994
No overall control 1994–1998

Unitary authority

Party in control Years
No overall control 1998–2000
Conservative 2000–2012
No overall control 2012–2013
Conservative 2013–2014
No overall control 2014–2017
Conservative 2017–2019
No overall control 2019–present


The role of mayor is largely ceremonial in Southend-on-Sea, usually being held by a different councillor each year. Political leadership is instead provided by the leader of the council. The leaders since 2003 have been:[9]

Councillor Party From To
Howard Briggs Conservative 20 Feb 2003 12 May 2005
Anna Waite Conservative 12 May 2005 7 May 2006
Murray Foster Conservative 18 May 2006 6 May 2007
Nigel Holdcroft Conservative 17 May 2007 25 May 2014
Ron Woodley Independent 5 Jun 2014 19 May 2016
John Lamb Conservative 19 May 2016 9 May 2019
Tony Cox Conservative 9 May 2019 3 Jun 2019
Ian Gilbert Labour 3 Jun 2019 May 2022
Stephen George Labour 19 May 2022 18 May 2023
Tony Cox Conservative 18 May 2023


Following the 2023 election and one subsequent change of allegiance later in May 2023, the council comprises members from four political parties plus eight independent councillors who do not belong to any party:[10][11]

Party Councillors
Conservative 22
Labour 16
Independent 8
Liberal Democrats 4
Green 1
Total 51

Of the independent councillors, three form the "Independent Group", three form the "Residents First" group and the other two are not aligned to any group.[12]

The next election is due in 2024.

The council has been run by a Conservative minority administration since May 2023. Prior to this it was run by a rainbow coalition of Labour, Independent Group and Liberal Democrat councillors since June 2019.[13] The council had previously been run by the same coalition between May 2014 and May 2016.[14] Apart from these occasions, since the 2000 election the council had been run by a Conservative administration.


See also: Southend-on-Sea local elections

Seventeen wards each return three councillors, a total of 51. Councillors serve four years and one third of the council is elected each year, followed by one year without election.


The council is based at Southend Civic Centre on Victoria Avenue. The building was designed by borough architect, Patrick Burridge, and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother on 31 October 1967.[15]


In 2007, Southend Borough Council was criticised as one of the worst financially managed local authorities in England by the Audit Commission report for 2006/7, one of three to gain only one of four stars, the others being Liverpool and the Isles of Scilly.[16]

In March 2012, Southend Borough Council was awarded the title of 'Council of the Year 2012' by the Local Government Chronicle.[17]


Coat of arms of Southend-on-Sea City Council
Originally granted to Southend-on-Sea County Borough Council on 1 & 2 January 1915. Transferred to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council on 21 May 1974.[18]
Issuant out of a mural crown Gules the mast of a ship proper flying therefrom a flag Argent charged with a cross throughout Gules.
Azure on a pile Argent between on the dexter an anchor erect on the sinister a grid-iron and in base a trefoil slipped Or a flower vase issuing therefrom a spray of lilies Proper.
On the dexter side a mediaeval fisherman holding a net with his exterior hand all Proper and on the sinister side a Cluniac monk Proper holding in the dexter hand a book Gules and in the exterior hand a staff also Proper.
Per Mare Per Ecclesiam (Through The Sea Through The Church)


  1. ^ "Contact us". Southend-on-Sea City Council. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  2. ^ "Southend". Chelmsford Chronicle. 31 August 1866. p. 5. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  3. ^ Yearsley, Ian (2016). Southend in 50 buildings. Stroud: Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445651897. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  4. ^ "Southend on Sea Municipal Borough / County Borough". A Vision of Britain through Time. GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  5. ^ "The Essex (Boroughs of Colchester, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock and District of Tendring) (Structural, Boundary and Electoral Changes) Order 1996",, The National Archives, SI 1996/1875, retrieved 26 May 2023
  6. ^ "Southend: Prince Charles presents city status document to Essex resort". BBC News. 1 March 2022. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  7. ^ "Compositions calculator". The Elections Centre. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  8. ^ "Southend-On-Sea". BBC News Online. 19 April 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  9. ^ "Council minutes". Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. Retrieved 10 June 2022.
  10. ^ "Election results 2023 – Election results – Southend-on-Sea City Counc…". 5 May 2023. Archived from the original on 5 May 2023.
  11. ^ Sexton, Christine (17 May 2023). "Southend Labour councillor now sitting as non-aligned". Southend Echo. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  12. ^ "Your councillors by party". Southend-on-Sea City Council. Retrieved 26 May 2023.
  13. ^ Shaw, Steve. "Southend Council elects first ever Labour leader Ian Gilbert". Southend Echo. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Who will be running Southend Council? Take a look at your new cabinet members". Southend: Echo. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Southend Civic Centre". Modern Mooch. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  16. ^ Laura Smith (30 January 2008). "Echo News - Official: Council is wasting our cash". Retrieved 21 July 2008.
  17. ^ Uncited (14 March 2012). "Southend Council wins council of the year at Local Government Chronicle awards". Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  18. ^ "East of England Region". Civic Heraldry of England. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
Awards and achievements Preceded byBlackburn with Darwen LGC Council of the Year 2012 Succeeded byGreenwich