Leader's Blog - 24 March 2023

With the local elections fast approaching, Cllr Stephen George reflects on a year of leadership and the voting process.

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

To say that the past ten months has gone quickly would be an understatement. Since becoming leader of Southend-on-Sea City Council following last year’s elections, so much has happened.

As a country, we’ve dealt with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the also sad passing of Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, a cost-of-living crisis, and ripple effect consequences of a global pandemic, with rising bills, challenges to the healthcare sector and threats to business. Locally, this has translated into the council setting the most challenging budget seen in decades to deal with the financial pressures on the council, the setting up of the cost-of-living web pages and leaflet so residents can access the support they need, and developing a tackling poverty strategy, with a strong focus and reliance on community.

I’ve spoken many times in this blog about how I admire the way that as a City, the people of Southend-on-Sea pull together at the best and worst of times, to celebrate and support one another. We saw it with the Queen’s death and I’m sure we’ll see it again with the coronation of King Charles III. It makes me proud, and regardless of what happens in May, I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have worked so hard for this wonderful City.

I say wonderful, because there has been some national spotlight shone on our corner of the country over the past few weeks. From a negative article in the national tabloids that doesn’t bear repeating, through to an article in The Guardian summing up the challenges we face as a new city. I think most people who live and work in our City are proud to be associated with it. Yes, we have challenges, but isn’t that the same everywhere? We’re a young City and whilst we’ve still got a lot of work to do, I firmly believe that there are many more wonderful things going on that not.

Crucial to that work are the 51 councillors who make up Southend-on-Sea City Council and represent the views and opinions of the residents in their ward.

As the local elections approach us on Thursday 4 May, I urge you all to have your say and exercise your right to vote.

As you should be aware through local and national campaigns and those of you who are regular readers of this blog, there are national changes being made to the way in which we vote in person this year. You will need to take photo ID with you 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 also means that with the notice of election being published on Monday 27 March, we are in what is known as ‘pre-election period’ when most formal council meetings stop and candidates go through the nomination process and there are restrictions around council publicity. There will therefore now be a six week break from this blog ahead of the election.

Don’t forget the clocks go forward this weekend - we might lose an hour of sleep but the extra hour of daylight makes it worthwhile in my book.

I hope to speak with you again soon.

Take care - and remember to vote!

Published: 24th March 2023

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