Leader's Blog - 24 February 2023

Cllr Stephen George, leader of Southend-on-Sea City Council talks about the approval of the councils’ budget for 2023/24 and supporting Ukrainian refugees.

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

Last night, we approved the council’s budget for 2023/24. You will have heard me say many times already that this has been the toughest budget setting process for a decade. The scale of challenge that local councils all around the country face is severe.

However, we have approved a robust, sustainable, and balanced budget that protects services for the most vulnerable and continues to invest in our wonderful city where it is appropriate and prudent to do so.

The fact that we have a balanced budget is thanks to the financial management and prudency that this council has shown over many years, and a strong and capable finance team who were deservedly recognised in our recent corporate peer challenge.

And it is despite over 12 years of central Government cuts which have cut local authority finances to the bone. Although our main grant has risen this year, from £6.5m to £7.1m, just over a decade ago our main grant was over £60m, so we have seen a reduction in that period of austerity of over 90%. It is not hard to see how that kind of financial reduction alone would affect any large organisation, and this is one factor why we unfortunately have to raise council tax by 4.99%.

Whilst the budget proposes savings in many areas, we have resisted the need to cut back on many universal services that our residents value and rely on and in fact invest in the areas that are key to protecting our most vulnerable residents.

The budget delivers significant revenue investment of over £10m into both children’s and adult services and we retain an ambitious but realistic capital investment programme that will see £169m invested into key projects over the next five years, including our roads and pavements, the beloved Pier, a new customer portal, sea defences and climate change to name but a few.

Today marks the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and I am pleased that we can show our support in a small way by raising the Ukrainian flag at Porters Civic House, along with lighting City Beach, Porters and the Civic Centre blue and yellow. Perhaps more substantially the council and community have been able to support the arrival of Ukrainian refugees, with residents opening their homes and hearts up to those less fortunate than us, and the council providing the necessary support and guidance with help from partners like Welcome to the UK.

Next week is also the anniversary of Southend-on-Sea becoming a City. What a day that was - more on that next week.

Have a good weekend.

Published: 24th February 2023

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