Leader's blog - 3 March 2023

Cllr George talks about a busy week that has included the one-year anniversary for City Status, the teacher’s strike and national offer day for secondary school places.

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

As leader of the council you are used to busy weeks. But it has been exceptionally busy this week for Southend-on-Sea, not only as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of becoming a City. I wrote a dedicated blog to this special occasion, which you can read if you missed it.

Although our status as a City was bittersweet following the murder of Sir David Amess, it stands as a long-lasting tribute to his legacy. It has been a year of events, historic moments and the community pulling together, through the death of Her Majesty the Queen and the current cost of living crisis. The way as a community we come together and support one another, means we have much to be proud of as a City.

The first anniversary of City Status wasn’t the only key event to happen this week. Wednesday also saw the second of the teacher’s national strikes. As I have said before, regardless of your views of the strikes, I think we can all agree that teachers work hard and anyone who was home-schooling during the pandemic can attest to that!

Wednesday was also national offer day for secondary schools, with 98% of children getting one of their top three preferred schools. It can be an anxious time for parents as they wait to see where their children continue their education and I hope everyone is happy with their offer.

On Tuesday the official figures for the rough sleeper count were released by the Government and Southend’s number has risen from 10 in 2021, to 16 in 2022. The count takes place with teams of people physically going out in the early hours of a set day in November 2022. It provides a snapshot of one single night of rough sleeping across the country. Nationally, the figures have gone up everywhere, but it’s a perfect example of how rising costs, stagnated wages and a lack of available housing is creating a perfect storm.

Rough sleeping is the extreme end of homelessness but the figure is a good indicator for the other issues affecting homelessness and housing in Southend-on-Sea. We take the issue very seriously and our teams work closely with other agencies, including homeless charities such as HARP, to make sure there is joined up approach to tackling the issues in the City. You can read the press release about the count.

Finally, you may have seen that Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have announced an SEND Area inspection, which started on Thursday 2 March. This is an inspection of all areas of SEND, including health, social services, primary care, education, charities and support groups.

A lot of work has been carried out to improve SEND services in Southend and while we know there is still a lot more to do, this independent assessment will comment on what we’re doing well and where we need to focus our efforts.

Have a great weekend.

Take care.

Published: 3rd March 2023

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