Leader's blog - 10 March 2023

Cllr Stephen George talks about new law that will require voters to take photo ID to a polling station, and the importance of addressing issues before they become serious problems.

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

The countdown to the local elections is most definitely underway with only a handful of council meetings left now until the notice of election is published on Monday 27 March. This starts what is known as the ‘pre-election period’ when most formal council meetings stop and candidates go through the nomination process. This is required before they can stand for election and seek your vote.

Regarding elections, let me take this opportunity to remind you that you will need to take photo ID with you in order to vote in a polling station on 4 May. You won’t need photo ID to vote by post.

This is a new law introduced by the Government and it is important local people are aware of the changes. If you don’t have a recognisable form of photo ID, then please apply for a voter authority certificate (VAC) by 25 April. You can find out more about voter ID and anything else relating to the elections on our webpages.

This week also saw International Women’s Day (IWD) and whilst we have been talking about elections, it is worth remembering that women died and were imprisoned as they fought for their right to vote in the early 1900’s. I am therefore pleased that a range of events took place both internally and externally to mark IWD. The Mayor raised a flag at Porters to commemorate the WASPI campaign as part of this. The WASPI Campaign is fighting for justice for women born in the 1950s affected by the changes to the state pension age.

You may have seen the photographs of the blocked culvert that runs underneath the City, directing our overflowing water from excessive rainfall to the coastline. If you haven’t, you can see them here. I was shocked to see the extent of the blockage in the photos. While it is clear there is always a problem during autumn from fallen leaves, dead tree branches and other debris from natural sources as the seasons change, the trolley mattresses and other rubbish cleared from the blockage, exacerbated the problem.

There really is no excuse for not disposing of waste correctly and if you see rubbish or a tree branch or anything which could cause a blockage in the Prittlewell Brook or anywhere else, please report it to MySouthend as soon as possible. Our clean-up teams rely on the eyes and ears of the residents to alert us to possible issues, so we can correct them before they turn into bigger problems.

This approach has also worked well as it was announced that housing standards have got safer following the issue of more than 3,000 selective licences to specific areas within four wards of Southend-on-Sea. It was introduced to anti-social behaviour, poor property conditions, and high levels of deprivation and crime.

A total of 3,223 licences are now live, although initially 1,835 failed the compliance application for not having the correct certificates, documentation, and provided incorrect information, which has led to 77 withdrawn or revoked licences.

While it received criticism at the time, it has proved that the scheme was a necessary addition to the council’s existing powers. As we move into the enforcement stage, we can offer tenants that added peace of mind knowing their property will be of a safe and high quality standard. It is hoped that this in turn, will promote a sense of pride in tenants and improve the overall neighbourhood as a result.

You can find out more about the success of the scheme on our news centre.

Looking forward, it is National Commonwealth Day on Monday 13 March and the Worshipful the Mayor Cllr Kevin Robinson and council representatives shall be joining other councils across the country in a flag-raising to mark the occasion. We also have the last round of scrutiny meetings ahead of the election so I expect there will be a lot of, hopefully civil and respectful, debate.

Have a great weekend.

Published: 10th March 2023

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