Leader's Blog - 6 January 2023

Cllr Stephen George, leader of Southend-on-Sea City Council, wishes a Happy New Year to residents and outlines the main points in the budget for 2023/24.

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

May I start off by wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Some people like to party into the small hours and others prefer to go to bed early and wake up in the new year – but either way I hope you had a nice time saying goodbye to 2022 and hello to 2023.

As we step into a new year, at the council our thoughts immediately turn back to announcing the budget for 2023/34 and as I have mentioned many times in this blog and through the media, there have been some very tough decisions to make this year.

You may have already seen some of our social media posts or local press around the draft budget, but this is our toughest budget in over a decade and its primarily due to the rise in demand for services, against the rise in the cost of living.

Under the proposals which will be discussed at cabinet on 12 January, we suggest raising council tax by 4.99% overall, 2% of which will go directly to adult social care to help support the demand on the service.

We need to raise the cost of council tax to keep delivering the services our residents expect, need and want. The proposed rise of £1.32 a week for a Band C home (99p for Band A, £1.16 for Band B and £1.49 for Band D) will help protect frontline services. Within that it is proposed to tackle pressures around independent children’s placements and children transitioning into adult services, while investing almost £5m into sustaining a living wage. This will ensure the council continues to look after the most vulnerable people in our City, from the young to old.

However, to help with the costs we will need to raise the charges for certain services, including a 10% increase to parking charges which is in line with inflation. We realise this is going to be contentious, but the money will be reinvested back into the highways and pathways improvement programme.

No councillor wants to raise council tax and fees and charges, or make savings, but councils are in the unenviable position of needing to do both. The Government expects us to raise council tax by 4.99% and I am afraid that is what we must do. I am thankful that we have been financially well managed and are in the top 25% of councils for this and are therefore in a better position than many to deal with the financial challenge, but it is a major challenge nonetheless.

As I said in my blog just last week, life is made of highs and lows and whatever your individual circumstances and challenges for the coming year, there is always help available and, as a community, we know how to pull together and show that true Southend spirit when it truly counts.

We’ve plenty of events and highlights for the coming year, with LuminoCity, Horror-on-Sea and many other community events to look forward to.

Have a nice weekend.

Published: 6th January 2023

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