COUNCIL leaders in Essex have narrowly voted against an elected mayor which would have had authority over south Essex – including Southend and Thurrock.

The 15 leaders of the county, district, and unitary authorities met to discuss the devolution packages being offered by the Government which would give combined councils more powers currently held by Whitehall.

Among the options discussed were a combined Essex authority, including Southend and Thurrock which are currently not under Essex County Council, headed by a mayor elected by all the people of the county.

However the leaders voted eight to seven against the proposals, which Thurrock Council leader Rob Gledhill said was in the best interests of the borough and south Essex generally.

He said: “I voted against a pan-Essex, Mayoral based, devolution deal but in favour of continuing to look at alternative devolution models.

“This has been the stance of Thurrock since these discussions started and will remain so.

“Thurrock has a great deal to offer, but working with councils along the Thames corridor could unlock even more potential in the way of skills, employment, highway infrastructure improvements and funding opportunities.

“It was encouraging to see that a great deal of cross borough work, on skills for employment example, had taken place so it is clear the appetite and ability for more closer cross boundary clearly exists.

“As Essex Leaders we now just need to work out which model will work best.”

However Essex County Council leader David Finch said, despite the vote, Essex could still adopt an elected mayor system and council leaders had written to the Government to ask for further clarity over what such a mayor’s role would be – as these have varied depending on the authority.

But such a system could not be imposed on unitary authorities like Thurrock by the county council, as the borough council would need to vote to join any “Greater Essex” authority.

Independent councillor Ron Woodley, who resigned as Southend Council leader following the local elections last month, said he the borough could exercise devolved powers alone.

He said: “We have most of the powers already, apart from health which is one area where we need to work together, and I think the 14 district authorities would be better off working together as a board to cover areas like health and highways, with an accountability board beneath that.”