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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.

Following the 2016 election results, the composition of the council is: The Southend-on-Sea Borough Council was controlled by the Conservative Party after they gained control in the 2000 election.

They maintained a minority administration after the 2012 local elections, however the council has been run by a coalition of Lib Dems, Labour and Independents since June 2014.

In 1914 the enlarged Southend gained the status of county borough, exempt from county council control and a single-tier of local government.

The county borough was enlarged in 1933 by the former area of Shoeburyness Urban District and part of Rochford Rural District.

Southend became the home of the Access credit card, due to it having one of the UK's first electronic telephone exchanges (it is still home to RBS Card Services – one of the former members of Access), with offices based in the former EKCO factory, Maitland House (Keddies), Victoria Circus and Southchurch Road. An annual seafront airshow, started in 1986 when it featured a flypast by Concorde whilst on a passenger charter flight, used to take place each May and became one of Europe's largest free airshows.Due to the bad transportation links between Southend and London, there was not rapid development during the Georgian Era like Brighton.It was the coming of the railways in the 19th Century and the visit of Princess Caroline of Brunswick that Southend's status of a seaside resort grew.In 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, Southend became a district of Essex with borough status.However, in 1998 it again became the single tier of local government when it became a unitary authority.

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