Leader’s blog - 4 November 2022

This week the leader talks about the reports due to be discussed at cabinet next week, including our budget, a possible move of Civic offices and changes to the way South Essex Homes bills for energy.

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

Now the clocks have gone back it is starting to feel like winter and once Bonfire Night happens this weekend, I’m sure many of your thoughts are turning to the next big holiday - Christmas.

Your thoughts may also be turning to the costs of Christmas and I just wanted to remind you that you can find out about grant schemes and benefits you are eligible for on our website at www.southend.gov.uk/costofliving.

The collective mind of the council is also firmly on costs at the moment and at cabinet next week we will discussing multiple reports aimed at looking at ways in which the council could save some money, not least by looking at the budget.

Our forecast £14.6million overspend has now dropped to just over £12million, and this has been achieved partly by closing the top five floors of the civic for storage, introducing a recruitment freeze at the Council and reviewing capital spend. It is a step in the right direction but there is still much more to do

One proposal to be discussed at cabinet is relocating our headquarters from the Civic Centre in Victoria Avenue, to the Victoria Centre. This would release the Civic campus for redevelopment and give a welcome boost to the City centre with council officers providing footfall for shops and businesses.

South Essex Homes (SEH) is also bringing a report to cabinet to request a change to the way bills are calculated for sheltered housing and hostel tenants. At the moment bills are calculated five to 17 months after the time the energy has been used. But with the rise in energy costs and the Government giving financial aid to families now, SEH want to bill tenants for the energy they use now, to avoid getting into financial difficulty themselves.

It makes sense when you think about the Government help available at the moment, and the fact SEH has set up a hardship fund to help those families most in need.

These reports, and others, will be discussed by cabinet on Tuesday 8 November.

As Christmas approaches it’s also time to think about others and we have now launched our annual Toy Drive, where we collect donated new presents for children, wrap them and distribute them to those most in need. Toy stores are the most magical places at Christmas so if you are in Argosy Toys or Toys and Tuck you can buy an extra little something and donate it to the Drive. Or if you’re an internet shopper, just head to their website; www.argosytoys.co.uk or www.toysntuck.co.uk.  

It's nice to think that some children, who won’t be expecting a gift this year, will have their Christmas Day brightened by a kind act from someone in the Southend community. It’s what Christmas is all about.

I hope you can forgive me for mentioning Christmas at the beginning of November!

I wish you all a lovely weekend.

Published: 4th November 2022

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