Southend-on-Sea City Council is to propose a scaled back number of new additions to the capital investment programme that is realistic and deliverable during the current challenging financial climate.
However, despite the scaled back plans, the council’s ambition to improve the lives of residents is undiminished. The capital investment programme from 2023/24 to 2027/28 still represents a significant investment on the part of the council in the Southend area of over £169m, which includes the additional items set out below. Further schemes could also be added during the following years subject to viable business cases being approved.
It is proposed that a small addition of £3.64m is made to the council’s capital investment programme with £1m for sea wall refurbishment and access improvements. A further £5.55m will be allocated subject to viable business cases, including £1.5m to tackle the impacts of climate change and £1m for playground improvements. It is also proposed that £12.475m is added from the separate Housing Revenue Account to continue the Decent Homes programme.
Sea wall investments would see improved access steps in Thorpe Bay and Shoebury Common with more durable glass reinforced polymer steps requiring minimal maintenance over time. Concrete steps at Chalkwell Esplanade will also be significantly refurbished.
The sea wall at East Beach would also be refurbished by replacing the gabion baskets and installing additional ones that can be easily replaced without affecting the rest of the structure.
A £1.7m investment is proposed over the next two years to improve the online experience for residents by replacing the My Southend portal which would see streamlined processes, more services and reporting moved online, and a better customer experience.
The council would also push ahead with its technology modernisation programme with a proposed £940,000 earmarked to continue to provide core Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services to the council, including fast-track migration to Cloud services and mitigating disaster recovery risk. This would result in significant cost savings over time as there will no longer be the need to replace ICT infrastructure.
Cllr Paul Collins, cabinet member for asset management and inward investment, said: “Due to the current financial climate, our additional investment in this budget round is scaled back to reflect the challenges we face like many other local authorities across the country.
“The programme is based on some key investment areas, including sea defence projects, climate change, playground improvements. and completely replacing and enhancing our My Southend customer portal which is not currently fit for purpose. A new customer portal will enable local people to report more things to us online, improve the customer experience, and save us money over the longer term.
“I believe that although these additions to the capital investment programme are smaller than in previous years, it is realistic and, more importantly, will enable a deliverable programme, and will bring a multitude of benefits to our residents over the next five years. It has been carefully thought out and will complement the ongoing improvement and regeneration projects across the city.”
A total of £1.5m is also proposed for the delivery of suitable projects aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change within the council and across the city, supporting the council’s ambition to achieve net zero carbon by 2030.
Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture and tourism, said: “Climate change is a key priority for the council and this capital programme demonstrates our commitment to making Southend a green city and becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
“We know that prioritising carbon mitigation, climate adaptation and climate engagement with residents and businesses will benefit our city socially, economically, and environmentally – a true win-win for all who live in, work in and visit Southend-on-Sea.”
The draft budget will be considered by the council’s cabinet on Thursday 12 January, the council’s policy and resource scrutiny committee on Thursday 2 February, with the final budget to be discussed and approved at full council on Thursday 23 February.