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Chris Hogg
"A third of the seats are being contested."
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banner Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Reporting from Southend

The Conservatives will be looking to Southend on Sea Borough Council as evidence of any revival in their fortunes, reports the BBC's Chris Hogg.

It is eight years since the Conservatives ran Southend.

Last year they came just one seat short of the number needed to form an administration here.


Council history
1992: Con
1994: No Overall Control
1995: NOC
1996: NOC
1997: NOC
1999: NOC
This year they are determined to wrest back power from the Liberal Democrat Labour coalition.

A third of the seats are being contested.

Just a small improvement in their share of the vote would give the Tories a good chance of taking three wards, and with that overall control.

The party will be hoping that William Hague's comments on immigration will find favour with the voters in this seaside town which some believe has taken more than its fair share of asylum seekers.

The council puts the number in Southend at more than 500, although officials admit the true figure could be nearly double that.

Male unemployment levels here are among the highest in the country.

Southend has some of the most deprived wards in England - side by side with more affluent areas.

But it already returns two Tory MPs, so if as expected, the party takes back the borough that will not necessarily mean it has been successful in attracting new voters.

The turnout for the local election in 1996 was 65%.

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