Leader’s blog - 29 July 2022

In this weeks blog, the Leader of the Council talks about our leisure services, City of Culture and our wonderful parks and open spaces.

Cllr Stephen George, leader of the council sat in a chair with our coat of arms behind him.

With the weather cooling a little, the main focus this week was a meeting of Cabinet held on Tuesday morning.

My colleagues and I discussed a number of important items and agreed a recommendation to start a procurement exercise to appoint a provider to be the council’s leisure operator. This follows a decision made by cabinet earlier this year not to extend the contract of our existing leisure operator, Fusion Lifestyle beyond 2025.

We will be looking for a long-term contract with a leisure provider which builds on the council’s health and wellbeing strategy, provides investment into our facilities, and offers potential of increased revenue, whilst providing an excellent service for residents. Our approach could also give relevant schools the opportunity to bid and operate their own facilities.

The benefits of our city status has been much talked about in recent months, as has a proposed bid to become City of Culture for 2029. Since becoming a City, a committee of council, commercial and cultural members, plus our MP’s meet regularly and has been generally supportive of making a bid for City of Culture. However, as the deputy leader Cllr Carole Mulroney said last week, we must consider the costs of a bid against the cost-of-living crisis which is deepening, and increasingly detrimentally affecting more of our residents and placing ever growing pressure on public finances too. While there are many clear and tangible benefits should we win, this is taxpayers’ money that we would need to invest into the bid and we therefore need to consider value for money. We agreed that further research is undertaken to better understand the costs and benefits, particularly for those areas that were unsuccessful, and that we also do some resident engagement, because we need our residents to be behind any potential bid too.

COVID highlighted the importance and value that people place on our local parks, and we are very lucky in Southend-on-Sea to have so many wonderfully kept open and green spaces that local people and visitors value. Next week is Love Parks week and we have lots of family-themed events taking over the City’s parks as part of this national campaign to showcase the best parks and open spaces across the UK. I hope you and your family can get along. Please visit our event page for more information. Whilst on the subject of parks, a number of ours have been nominated to become the UK’s favourite. There are a few weeks left, so please do get your vote in via the Fields in Trust website.

Have a great weekend,

Cllr Stephen George.

Published: 29th July 2022

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