Leader's blog - 1 March 2023

The past year has flown by and Cllr Stephen George, leader of Southend-on-Sea City Council reflects on Southend’s first year as a City.

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

For most of the people who were there to see our now King, Charles III and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, bestow the letters patent and officially turn Southend from a town into a City it was a day they will never forget.

And while the March sunshine escaped our corner of the world on that day, thousands of people still lined the streets for a chance to glimpse the Royal visit and be part of a historic day in Southend-on-Sea’s history.

Of course we must never forget the tragic circumstances that led to us becoming a City, with the awful murder of Sir David Amess. Sir David led the campaign to be awarded city status and his legacy is rightly secured and will never be forgotten. And not long after becoming a City we once again found ourselves mourning along with the nation, as Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II died.

With a public moment of reflection to remember the Queen and the traditional and historic proclamation of King Charles III, as a community Southend once again joined together and showed a strength that as the City’s leader, makes me proud. We had also already shown that togetherness when the community came together to fittingly mark the one-year anniversary of Sir David’s murderwith a tree planting at Chalkwell Park in October 2022.

And we have repeated that community kindness over the past year, with the arrival of Ukrainian refugees and resident’s opening their homes up to strangers. And with the cost-of-living crisis putting a strain on every household as bills and costs rise, there are a number of organisations, community groups, and charities pulling together to make sure those who need help, get access to it. All the information is on our cost of living page.

The community has also come together to celebrate the good too with events like LuminoCity, Southend City Jam, the Halloween Parade and taking part in the Hampton Court Flower Show. Then we’ve had a record-breaking year for visitor numbers to the Pier, the running of the new pier trains, one aptly named after Sir David Amess, the opening of the popular Ironworks, and numerous exhibitions and gallery showing at Focal Point Gallery and our Museums.

Looking back on the last year from a council perspective, Priory Park won a national Love Parks award, our housing team was shortlisted for regional housing awards for innovative and sustainable building projects, while our safety team has been shortlisted for a national security award. We have also been awarded seven green flags for our excellent parks, five blue flags for our excellent beaches and a purple flag for our safe and vibrant night-time economy.

1 March 2022 will definitely go down in the history books as an important and emotional day for Southend, but what I love about this City and its people is that we just keep making it better, being innovative, trying new things, doing more and going above and beyond to make Southend the place where people want to live, work and play.

Thanks to everyone reading, for your part in our City’s story.

Published: 1st March 2023

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