Leader's blog - 8 September 2023

Council leader Cllr Tony Cox reassures residents about crumbling concrete and hails the arrival of the Cycling Tour of Britain.

Cllr Tony Cox wearing a navy blue suit jacket, white shirt and a pink, blue and white flowery tie. He is sitting in front of the Council Coat of Arms.

There has been intense national and international media focus on Southend-on-Sea this past week due to crumbling concrete.

News has also emerged recently of the closure of the Dixon Studio, which is an extension of The Palace Theatre, due to the presence of RAAC.

Although the national issue with RAAC has affected the opening of more than 100 schools for the new academic year, Southend's proximity to London and the fact Kingsdown is a special school, meant the national press has been relentless in their pursuit of the story. There have even been media enquiries from as far flung as New York and Switzerland.

Truth is there isn't much to it. The Department for Education (DfE) issued a warning on 31 August and the school complied, closing the main building and delaying the opening of the school for the new academic year until mitigations can be arranged.

Thanks to the school staff's herculean efforts, the school will open on Monday 11 September and I am sure they cannot wait to welcome the students back.

The safety of our children is the utmost priority. And while their education comes a close second, I think I can speak on behalf of the school and say that not a single member of staff would ever dream of putting the children's lives in danger and take the risk of using the building.

The staff have been amazing, as in between fielding calls from the national press, they personally called every parent to explain the situation, answering questions and allaying their fears. In turn, parents have been incredibly understanding and supportive, especially given the disruptive nature of the news.

The children can return to lessons in a safe way, thanks in part to neighbouring Eastwood Primary School and other organisations and individuals, who have shown true community spirit, rallying around and helping wherever possible. Early years settings have also played their part and carried on caring for children who were due to start in reception.

Families have been supported by the council's social services team, who have been able to put childcare in place and support those families who needed it, for the unexpected extra week of school summer holidays.

I'm so proud of how our City comes together to support and care for one another when needed.

I am also proud that as you're reading this, the 6th stage of the Tour of Britain cycling race will have started (11:45) from Western Esplanade with some of the world's best cyclists racing along Marine Parade, Thorpe Esplanade and through my patch in Shoeburyness as they head out of the City and towards the finish line in Harlow .

Having such a prestigious national race choose Southend as one of the stage hosts is a big honour and a huge lift for our City, as it puts us on the international stage, and we benefit from the economic boost this type of event brings.

Thanks to residents for supporting the event and those affected by the road closures, including the temporary ones, thank you for your patience.

We have a lot to be proud of.

Enjoy your weekend.

Cllr Tony Cox, leader of the council

Published: 8th September 2023

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